A dog learns from interactions it has with its environment. This can be through classical conditioning, where it forms an association between two stimuli; non-associative learning, where its behavior is modified through habituation or sensitisation; and operant conditioning, where it forms an association between an antecedent and its consequence.
Punishment is operationally defined as an event that lowers the probability of the behavior that it follows. It is not "punishment" in the common sense of the word, and does not mean physical or psychological harm and most certainly does not mean abuse. Punishment simply involves the presentation of an undesired consequence (positive punishment) when the wrong behavior is performed, such as a snap of the leash, or the removal of a desired consequence (negative punishment) when the wrong behavior is performed, such as the trainer eating the cheese that would have been the reward. A behavior that has previously been developed may cease if reinforcement stops; this is called extinction. A dog that paws its owner for attention will eventually stop if it no longer receives attention.
Dogs don’t speak English, and just because we might yell at our dog as we catch him in the middle of peeing on the floor and then rush him outside where he finishes it off… doesn’t mean we did an effective job at telling him that outside was where he was supposed to go. We are usually too focused on getting him NOT to go inside, instead of going outside.
Classical conditioning (or Pavlovian conditioning) is a form of learning in which one stimulus, the conditioned stimulus, comes to signal the occurrence of a second stimulus, the unconditioned stimulus. Classical conditioning is when a dog learns to associate things in its environment, or discovers some things just go together. A dog may become afraid of rain through an association with thunder and lightning, or it may respond to the owner putting on a particular pair of shoes by fetching its leash. Classical conditioning is used in dog training to help a dog make specific associations with a particular stimulus, particularly in overcoming fear of people and situations.
The term "observational learning" encompasses several closely related concepts: allelomimetic behavior or mimicking where, for example, puppies follow or copy others of their kind; social facilitation where the presence of another dog causes an increase in the intensity of a behavior; and local enhancement which includes pieces of social facilitation, mimicking, and trial-and-error learning, but is different from true observational learning in that the dog actively participates in the behavior in the presence of the other dog and/or other environmental cues. Four necessary conditions for observational learning are: attention, retention, motivation, and production. That is, the dog must pay attention to the dog or person performing the modelled behavior; retain the information gathered about the behavior during the observation; be motivated to reproduce the behavior in a time and place removed from the original; and finally, produce the behavior, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.
Observational learning is the learning that occurs through observing the behavior of others. This form of learning does not need reinforcement to occur; instead, a model animal is required. While the model may not be intentionally trying to instill any particular behavior, many behaviors that are observed are remembered and imitated. The domestic dog is a social species and its social dependency makes it aware of the behavior of others, which contributes to its own behavior and learning abilities. There is, however, ongoing discussion about how much, and how, dogs can learn by interacting with each other and with people.
Don't allow your puppy freedom outside of his room or pen unless you know absolutely for sure that his bladder and bowels are completely empty. When you do let him out, don't let him out of your sight. It is a good idea to have him on leash when he is exploring your home. He can't get into trouble if you are attached to the other end of the leash. Never, ever tie the puppy's leash to something and leave the puppy unattended.
Changing behavior takes time. You need to have realistic expectations about changing your dog’s behavior as well as how long it will take to change behaviors that you don’t like. Often behaviors which are “normal” doggie behaviors will take the most time such as barking, digging and jumping. You also need to consider how long your dog has rehearsed the behavior. For example, if you didn’t mind that your dog jumped up on people to say hi for the last seven years and now you decide that you don’t want him to do that anymore, that behavior will take a much longer time to undo than if you had addressed it when he was a pup. Remember it’s never too late to change the behavior some will just take longer than others.
Be sure to go with him and watch him and calmly praise him when he goes. Don’t go crazy praising him, or he is liable to stop, just calmly let him know that he is good! It doesn’t matter if it is 100 degrees or 10 below zero; raining or snowing, if you don’t go outside and monitor your puppy, you will not know if or when he is going potty outside which means he is likely to come back inside and go potty.
Feed your dog a high-quality diet with appropriate amounts of protein. If your dog spends most of his days lounging in your condo, don’t feed him food with a protein level that is ideal for dogs who herd sheep all day. The money that you will spend on feeding an appropriate quality food will often be money that you save in vet bills later on. I recommend you always check with your veterinarian for the right diet for your dog.
The 21st century has seen the proliferation of television programs and accompanying books that feature dog training and rehabilitation, including Joel Silverman's Good Dog U, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, It's Me or the Dog featuring Victoria Stillwell, The Underdog Show, Dogs in the City, and SuperFetch. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers advises that television programs are produced primarily for entertainment, and while all programs will have good and not-so-good points, the viewer should critically evaluate the information before deciding which training tips to adopt.
Dogs thrive on a predictable schedule, and setting one up for your new puppy will make life easier for both of you. Feed your puppy at the same times each day to help you predict and schedule bathroom breaks. Schedule post-meal walks, as well as hourly trips outside during the initial stages of potty training. Always take your puppy out after crating, even if was only for a short time, and remember that vigorous play should always be interrupted for potty breaks.
Crate training is a vital part of potty training success. As den animals, dogs can appreciate crates as a safe space, and as clean creatures, they’ll often want to keep that sleep space clean. A crate of the proper size is important, as one that is too large may convince the pup they have space to both sleep and eliminate. Puppy pads give dogs the option of relieving themselves in an approved spot indoors. However, these can be tricky to train with if you’re ultimate goal is to get the pup to only potty outside eventually.
Prior to the 1980s, Karen Pryor was a marine-mammal trainer who used Skinner's operant principles to teach dolphins and develop marine-mammal shows. In 1984, she published her book, Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training, an explanation of operant-conditioning procedures written for the general public. In the book Pryor explains why punishment as a way to get people to change often fails, and describes specific positive methods for changing the behaviour of husbands, children and pets. Pryor's dog training materials and seminars showed how operant procedures can be used to provide training based on positive reinforcement of good behavior. Pryor and Gary Wilkes introduced clicker training to dog trainers with a series of seminars in 1992 and 1993. Wilkes used aversives as well as rewards, and the philosophical differences soon ended the partnership.
The idea of using treats to train is often equated with bribery. Truthfully, dogs do what works. If using treats gets them to do what you want, then why not? You can also use the world around you as a reinforcement. Every interaction you have with your dog is a learning opportunity, so when you think about it, you probably don’t use food very often except during active training sessions. So why does your dog continue to hang out? Because you reinforce him with praise, touch, games and walks. Just remember, the behavior should produce the treat; the treat should not produce the behavior.
Training clubs that run the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme - the largest dog training programme in the UK are a sensible place to begin. Here you will learn about every aspect of dog ownership from the Puppy Foundation Courses through to Bronze, Silver and Gold award levels. Go to GCDS Training Clubs in your County to find one near to you or email the GCDS Team ([email protected]) or call 0207 518 1011.