Dog Training Methods
I am often asked by dog owners and prospective clients what methods and tools I use when training dogs, or helping to modify unwanted behaviours. This article will provide you with most of the answers.
Your dog dictates the methods and process we utilise during training and behaviour modification. Not an ideology or methodology. In most cases, we need to work through the relationship between the dog and its owners, as this is usually where most unwanted behaviours stem from. This is due to the relationship becoming unbalanced, causing conflict in the relationship, and therefore confusion in the dog.
Dogs just like humans and every other species on the planet learn from consequences. When we are teaching a dog or modifying behaviours, we use the principles of operant conditioning. Mother nature utilises all 4 quadrants of operant conditioning for all life on the planet. Without all 4 quadrants, no animal could have survived. If man could magically remove any one of the 4 quadrants from nature, life would instantly fall into chaos, and all life would very quickly cease to exist.
The 4 quadrants of operant conditioning.
- Positive Reinforcement (R+) – Giving the dog something to encourage a behaviour to be repeated, such as praise, treat, toy, play
- Negative Reinforcement (R-) – Taking something away from the dog to encourage a behaviour to be repeated. For example, we can remove something uncomfortable when the dog displays the required behaviour, such as leash pressure
- Positive Punishment (P+) – Giving something to discourage a behaviour being repeated. For example, we can give a leash correction paired with the unwanted behaviour
- Negative Punishment (P-) – Taking something away to discourage a behaviour, for example removing attention when the dog displays unwanted behaviour
My preference (and the preference of all dog trainers that have a balanced approach to training) is to utilise all 4 quadrants, as required. The majority of training incorporates positive reinforcement, after all, we are usually teaching a dog behaviours that are desirable. You cannot encourage desired behaviours unless your dog understands it produces a pleasant or desirable consequence.