Dog training is arguably the most effective application of behaviour analysis that employs the context of individual antecedent and result-oriented behaviour to change the dog’s behaviour, either to help it perform certain actions or undertake certain tasks, or to help it successfully engage effectively in modern domestic life. It can be used to help animals overcome specific behaviours such as barking, aggression, begging, jumping, chasing and other unwanted behaviour. It can also be used to help animals overcome difficult behaviours such as house-breaking, obedience issues and separation anxiety. The book is therefore a valuable text for anyone considering adopting a dog.
The book rightly shows that, if you wish to train your dog well, you should adopt a more individualistic approach, rather than attempt to generalize your commands and practices into something they will conform to regardless. This means being critical, rather than giving in to the demands of your dog. A critical and flexible attitude is essential. In dog training, it is important that a dog is treated not only as an animal that is to be exhibited but also as a unique individual with a wide range of humanlike qualities. The owner must ensure that the dog learns to respect the owner as an authority figure and to respect the owner’s authority figure as a superior.
The emphasis in classical conditioning is on using positive reinforcement to encourage the desired behaviour in the dog. For example, in the case of a dog that has mastered his bladder control by following a simple command such as “off,” the owner uses treats and praise to encourage this habit. In the case of aggressive behavior, the owner uses a clicker to reinforce the correct behaviour. Classical conditioning is also useful when dealing with difficult or challenging situations where an animal must learn to cope with sudden and undesired responses from a stimulus.
Another technique used in dog training sessions to encourage desired behavior is negative reinforcement. For example, a firm “no” can be followed by a short spray of water when the “no” is spoken. The dog understands that the “no” will mean punishment, and as a result, is likely to follow the same behavior. This type of reinforcement is best used when the desired behavior is not likely to be rewarded in some other way. This technique, though, should never be used on a dog that is ignoring commands or who shows no sign of compliance.
A more positive reinforcement method that is frequently used in dog training is contingent training. Contingent training involves rewarding dogs based on their performance. For example, if a dog is always barking when the family arrives at home, his reward may be a treat or a pat on the head. However, if he stays quiet during dinner, no treat will be given.
Some dog training books suggest that some dogs have learning problems because they are unable to remember commands. For this reason, dog obedience training teaching manuals often recommend teaching the dog simple commands at first, such as sit and lie down. You might also want to start your dog’s obedience training early so that your pet is familiar with basic commands and can quickly master them. If your pet does not immediately respond well to training, keep trying the commands until he becomes more comfortable with them.
Although operant conditioning is the most common dog training method, you may want to consider using a non-punitive method for your pet. A good place to learn about non-punishment methods is the library, where you will find hundreds of titles on a wide variety of topics. If you have access to the internet, search for a volume devoted to alternative punishment methods, including prong collars and choke collars. Though they may sound like a harsh and primitive form of conditioning, these methods are actually quite humane.
In dog sports, rewards may be awarded when your pet performs an undesired behavior or performs an appropriate behavior. To explain the concept of dog sports, the desirable behavior is the action that causes the reward, and the undesired behavior is the punishment (in this case, being thrown out of the game). If you throw a player out of a dog agility competition, he is not being punished for any act of aggression, but because he is performing an action that upsets the other participants. With dog sports, the trainers do not want the dogs to perform actions that will cause unnecessary stress to the other participants, so they use various types of physical discipline to disrupt the desired behavior. By disrupting a dog’s activities, they make it less likely that he will engage in that activity in the future.