Dog Training and Obedience: For those of you who are having problems in teaching your pet dog obedience and aggression training and for those of you who have face problems of barking and unnecessary aggression, and for those of you whose pet is still a puppy but has developed aggressive behaviors, I want to tell you something.
Aggression training, as with many other types of training, comes down to two things; positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.
I first encountered this concept when I was working with police dogs. One of the trainers explained to me that when training a dog, the “process” has to be turned into a game in order to divert the dog’s attention and energy.
You see, when a dog is taught a command and done correctly, there is a time in which the dog is “charged up” and when that happens, the negative reinforcement (without screaming or hitting) has to take effect.
I wanted to make sure that this concept brought some clarity to those who may not have been familiar with the way conditioning works in the world of dog training.
So, how does this all work?
Well, the general process goes as follows:
- The trainers use a “clicker” (I like the sound of it) and click it at the precise moment that the dog performs the desired activity2. The dog is rewarded with a treat or praise when the click sounds3. The treat or praise is given immediately after the click4. The dog is taught that the click sound means he/she has performed the correct behavior
In this case, we are trying to achieve the dog to perform the “sit” command because the click sound is associated with the treat. The treat that we are going to use is very small, soft and digestible and the dog doesn’t get used to receiving treats or praises if it doesn’t complete the task that we are asking of it. Think of the click sound as a camera flash in which the dog sees and is met with a treat immediately after the click.
This is how the classical conditioning process is applied. The click sound is associated with a treat because the dog recognizes the click as meaning he/she performed the correct behavior and is being rewarded.
Once the dog understands the association of the click sound with the behavior, the treating can be phased out because the dog will now focus on the fact that he/she performed the correct behavior.
This is a good example of why positive reinforcement is so effective. It typically takes much longer to get the dog to associate the click sound with a treat than it does to reward intermittent clicks.
So, how does negative reinforcement work? So, after the dog understands the association of the click sound with the treat, the negative sound is introduced. Think of it as adenetratative command adopted by bikers when they want to stop someone from speeding. The negative sound is pitched in a deep, powerful tone that carries a lot of weight to the sound. This is similar to a policemen giving an alarm command and is enough to make anyone stop.
For dogs, the pitch is a bit lower, but it does carry a lot of weight. When you implement negative reinforcement, you essentially change the timing of the sound. Instead of the click landing when the dog does the correct behavior ( Loving his treat), the sound is introduced at the incorrect time, giving the opposite reinforcement.
The important concept is timing. It is not based on knowing the future (though it can make some progress toward such knowledge), but on knowing past futures. As you might imagine, this requires a different form of operant conditioning.
Negative Reinforcement: Pain
The classic example of using negative reinforcement to stop the dog from doing something is known as punishment. During basic dog training, it is common to use a “Paper swat” or a rolled up newspaper, when the dog does something that is incorrect or contrary to your wishes.
If you measure the degree of success you will have, both you and your pet will be happier and your relationship will be stronger if you reward your pet for doing something rather than punishing him/her when they do something wrong.
There is an underlining beauty to negative reinforcement as a form of training. If you use positive reinforcement, there will be an appreciation from your pet for doing more something in order to get a treat. But if you punish or use negative reinforcement, there is a good chance that you will create a desire for the dog to perform only when he/she knows that there is a reward following.
Negative Reinforcement as a Training Method
Negative reinforcement, as the name implies, does not involve punishment. Negative reinforcement involves making the dog understand that.
- An unpleasant event occurs.
- That event causes pain.
- Pain persists even after the event.
- The dog associates the pain with the activity.