Electronic training involves the use of an electric shock as an aversive. Common forms are collars which can be triggered remotely, or that are triggered by barking, fencing that delivers a shock when a dog wearing a special collar crosses a buried wire, and mats that can be placed on furniture to deliver a shock. Some aids deliver an aversive such as a spray of citronella when triggered. The use of electric shock aversives for training dogs is the subject of considerable controversy. Supporters claim that the use of electronic devices allows training at a distance and the potential to eliminate self-rewarding behaviour, and point out that properly used, they have less risk of stress and injury than mechanical devices, such as choke chains. Opponents cite the risks of physical and psychological trauma associated with incorrect or abusive use.
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.
Operant conditioning (or instrumental conditioning) is a form of learning in which an individual's behavior is modified by its consequences. Two complementary motivations drive instrumental learning: the maximization of positive outcomes and minimization of aversive ones. There are two ways in which behavior is reinforced or strengthened: positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is strengthened by producing some desirable consequence; negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior is strengthened by avoiding some undesirable consequence. There are two ways in which behavior is decreased or weakened: negative punishment occurs when a behavior is weakened by not producing a reinforcing consequence; and positive punishment occurs when a behavior is weakened by producing a consequence that is a disincentive. In combination, these basic reinforcing and punishing contingencies provide four ways for modifying behavior. Reinforcement increases the relative probability or frequency of the behavior it follows, while punishment decreases the relative probability or frequency of the behaviour it follows.
While indoor elimination solutions like potty pads and litter boxes have their place, using them can actually slow the process down if you plan to eventually have your dog eliminate exclusively outside. Teaching your puppy to potty inside sometimes and outside others can be confusing because you will eventually have to teach your dog that at some point the indoor option is no longer allowed. Potty pads work best for people who can’t get their puppy outside quickly, like those who live in high-rise apartments or have limited mobility.
If you’re like me and have trouble keeping up with your pup at all times try using a tether. You can buy a tether from the pet store or simply do what I did and use a long lead or leash. If tethering your pup to you at all times is what it takes to make sure they’re not sneaking off then go for it. If you’re not keen on keeping your dog tethered you can use baby gates or closed doors to restrict your dogs access to the whole house.
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.