KC Dawgz - Dog Training Philosophy
Four Stages of Learning
Acquisition (acquiring) –the first phase of learning where the dog acquires knowledge of a particular behavior.
Reflexive(automatic)-the second phase of learning where the dog essentially becomes “fluent” in the new behavior. In this phase, it is as if the behavior becomes a fluid response – behaviors become rhythmic an automatic.
Generalization(application)-in the third phase of learning the dog learns that behaviors are relevant in a wide variety of situations.
Maintenance(always)-in the fourth and final phase of learning, the dog learns to incorporate behavior into its permanent behavior vocabulary.
Conscious form of learning where a dog learns that his behavior has consequences. Sometimes referred to as “instrumental learning,” “behavior modification,” “reinforcement theory,” “behaviorism,” “behavioral psychology,” “behavior analysis,” “Skinnerian conditioning,” and “operant conditioning,” it is literally the “conditioning of operants.” Conditioning simply means “strengthening” and an operant can be thought of as a category of behaviors such as obedience, detection or other behaviors.
Operants become stronger through conditioning, in the same way, that you condition a muscle with physical conditioning. Scientifically speaking, when you are conditioning an operant, you are making it stronger by raising the likelihood or probability of it being repeated through reinforcement.
Training is something we do to increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. It doesn’t simply implant knowledge into the dog. A dog’s behavior is controlled by the consequences experienced as a result of a particular behavior. Because of this, in training, it is necessary to deliberately manipulate various consequences so that we can control and mold the dog’s behavior.
Also known as “Pavlovian conditioning” and “associative learning”, classical conditioning is an unconscious form of learning that is all about anticipation. Something that previously had no importance to the dog is paired with something of great importance. When learning associations, the dog learns that certain things go together; when one event happens, another event will follow shortly after. When we pair two particular events, we are creating a predictable relationship and the dog learns to respond to the first event by anticipating the event that will follow.
Our dog training system is a reward-based training program built on the creation of productive levels of motivation, and our training is only as good as our dogs desire for the reward. Motivation is created and maintained in dog training fostering “the reward an event,” using restraint to build drive/motivation, proper play techniques (tugging and retrieving games), individual play styles, the use of “food as a toy,” and channeling dogs energy during development. We practice and promote proper play and engagement techniques when developing useful obsessions while avoiding unproductive ones? Offend we seek to promote balance between motivation and functional doggy manners.
Physical Health and Nutrition
A balanced diet is essential for your dog’s health and will promote healthy muscles, teeth, and bones and optimize their lifespan. It takes a special combination of nutrients to meet a dog’s needs. Pet food manufacturers work to create a formula that balances a dog’s need for protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Protein is a source of energy and is important for their muscles. Fats—including a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids—are a source of energy, support brain function, and keep skin healthy and coats shiny. Carbohydrates allow dogs to be active and energetic. Vitamins and minerals help to prevent disease and also support the muscles and nerves. Adequate nutrition provides everything your dog needs for physical and cognitive functions.
Proper nutrition prepares a dog for physical activity. Exercise is important for your dog’s physical health and to stimulate his mind. The amount and type of exercise that your dog needs may vary based on breed, age, and health. Walking, running or playing games with your dog can help prevent destructive or dangerous behaviors like digging in the yard, chewing on furniture and chasing cars or animals.
Proper nutrition prepares a dog for physical activity. Exercise is important for their physical health and it also stimulates their mind. The amount and type of exercise that a dog needs may vary based on breed, age, and health. Walking, running or playing games with your dog can help prevent destructive or dangerous behaviors like digging in the yard, chewing on furniture and chasing cars or animals.
Historically, dog training was dedicated solely on consequences of behavior – reward the good, punish the bad. But research has shown that all behavior is triggered by something. That trigger is called an antecedent. An antecedent is a stimulus that cues when an animal performs a behavior. As the name implies, it precedes an occurrence, cause or event.
Take for example Bailey, a Goldendoodle that we trained in Leawood, Kansas. Bailey had a problematic behavior of running to the door and hysterically barking. This behavior wasn’t random or without cause. The barking was triggered by someone knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell. The knocking at the door is the antecedent. By learning to recognize the antecedents to our dogs’ unwanted behavior(s), we can plan ahead, making arrangements that prevent problems until we have had time to teach our dog a more desirable behavior they can reliably perform in that situation. This is called antecedent arrangement.
An example of antecedent arrangements to walk a dog-reactive dog during times when it is unlikely to encounter other dogs. There are a few office parks in my area of Overland Park, Kansas, which have lovely landscaping, fountains, duck ponds, and walking paths. Walking in those areas while building good leash manners and attention around distractions gives the dog both mental and physical exercise while preventing him or her from practicing reactive behavior. Once we have those skills in place, we can then focus on practicing around dogs at gradually decreasing distances and increasing intensity.
Every behavior has an antecedent. When a family comes to us with a problem behavior they would like to stop, our system seeks to first identify the antecedent. Knowing the goal you are pursuing is the only way to effectively train dogs.
The positive reinforcement concept in dog training involves rewarding what you like in a dog’s behavior in hopes of seeing it again. This is the foundation of “The System,” our training program at KC Dawgz. At KC Dawgz we utilize a variable reinforcement schedule, seeking to maintain the dog’s hope of obtaining the reinforcer.
There are many things that can be done to reduce or eliminate problem or interfering behaviors. Researchers have examined alternative procedures for addressing problematic behaviors in an ethical and humane manner. Differential reinforcementis a positive reductive technique that emphasizes the use of reinforcement to increase the occurrence of more adaptive or desirable behaviors and, at the same time, uses extinction or elimination of triggers which helps to decrease or eliminate disruptive behaviors.
At KC Dawgz our behavior modification training foundation is differential reinforcement. The goal of differential reinforcement programs is to reinforce target behaviors that are more adaptive than the interfering behavior. This encourages the dog to use the more appropriate alternative behavior while reducing, or altogether eliminating, the disruptive or interfering behavior.
Four procedures that incorporate reinforcement to address and treat disruptive behaviors are differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI), differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA), differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO), and differential reinforcement of low rates of responding (DRL).
Differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI) delivers reinforcement upon the occurrence of a behavior that is physically incompatible with, or cannot be exhibited at the same time as, the inappropriate behavior. If the interfering behavior is the inability to pay attention, then an incompatible behavior would be the ability to pay attention.
Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior(DRA) is similar to DRI in that both reinforce the occurrence of a behavior that is an alternative to the behavior selected for reduction. However, the target behavior selected in DRA is not necessarily incompatible with the unwanted behavior. For example, a dog who frequently barks excessively for attention will be taught to sit nicely to gain the family’s attention. In this procedure, sitting nicely and excessive barking can be done at the same time. However, it is likely that the dog will make fewer outbursts and instead engage in a more appropriate attention-seeking behavior (e.g., sitting nicely) if the target behavior is strengthened.
In both DRI and DRA procedures, it is important to select an incompatible or alternative behavior that already exists or is present in the dog’s repertoire of responses. A behavior or skill that the dog exhibits regularly will facilitate additional skill-building opportunities that will be supported in the dog’s natural environment after the intervention program has ended.
Differential reinforcement of other behavior(DRO) delivers reinforcement for any appropriate behavior whenever an undesirable behavior is not emitted during a specific period of time. A broad range of appropriate behaviors may be reinforced, as long as the behavior selected for reduction does not occur. To apply the DRO procedure, an interval of time is selected and any appropriate behavior exhibited at the end of that interval is reinforced, as long as the unwanted behavior did not occur. If the unwanted behavior occurs, the reinforcer is not delivered and the interval is reset to try to bring out an appropriate behavior in a new interval of time.
Most applications of DRO involve a fixed DRO schedule of reinforcement in which the interval of time remains the same across trials. For example, a fixed DRO of one minute means that reinforcement is delivered every one minute and contingently upon the absence of the unwanted behavior. Alternatively, a variable DRO schedule of reinforcement may be used, in which the interval of time is set to vary across trials. For example, a variable DRO schedule might consist of 15, 30, 45, 60, and 90 seconds, arranged to occur in a random order.
Differential reinforcement of low rates of responding(DRL) aims to decrease, but not eliminate, the problem behavior. The rationale for using this approach is that the behavior itself is not a problem, rather its frequency (how often it occurs) and/or duration(how long it lasts) is difficult to tolerate. The most common way to use this approach is to establish a criterion limit for what is considered an acceptable rate or duration for the problem behavior. The dog is reinforced for not exceeding the limit. For example, if the dog engages in eight acts of barking during a 20-minute interval in which the criterion is set at no more than 5 times, then the dog does not receive reinforcement.
Negative Reinforcement (-R) & Negative Punishment (-P)
This is an area of dog training in which a handler can provide direct feedback to the dog on their perception of the dog’s behavior. This area of training helps make behavior more accurate, while simultaneously decreasing inaccuracy.
Positive Punishment (P+)
Positive Punishment is the opposite of reinforcement since it is designed to weaken or eliminate a response rather than increase it a dog’s designer to conduct subject behavior. It is an aversive event that decreases the behavior that it follows. Positive punishment is only effective and humane if the subject dog is able to make the behavior link between their behaviors is the production of positive punishment. Positive punishment is a method to help teach a dog what not to do in our system this is only present when a balanced approach with positive reinforcement is present.
Recommended Reading List
Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas
Help! My Dog has an Attitude by Gwen Bohnenkamp
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Young Readers Edition by Angela Duckworth
Behave by Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky
The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle
Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior (Scribner Classics)by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson
Grit: The Power of Passion and PerseveranceBy Angela Duckworth