The Most Important Dog Training Advice I Ever Got

There’s a plethora of dog training manuals and gurus available online. This is why it can be laborious to choose any specific style. “Clicker training” and “alpha dog” are some of the terminologies in the subject of dog training. Obedience training for dogs can be a rewarding experience, though.

A dog trainer feels a sense of accomplishment after a successful dog training spell. The mental stimulation and the emotional benefits for our dogs are undeniable.

As dog owners, most people believe that a dog’s training process should follow a definite structure. It has to be rigid and generally inflexible. Seeking professional dog training services is a way to reinforce that notion.

Obedience is a crucial part of any dog’s training journey. Experts agree that positive reinforcement molds a dog’s behavior, particularly concerning obedience. Most training methods involve a mix of the reinforcement method and punishment.

Operant Conditioning

Instrumental conditioning, or operant conditioning, was introduced in the early 20th century to deepen the understanding of dog behavior. This was introduced due to classical conditioning appearing too simplistic, which had gained considerable acceptance at the time. This was due to the work of Ivan Pavlov years earlier.

Operant conditioning aims to ensure that reinforcement follows a particular course of action. This tends to encourage the said action in the future. This theory expounded on the famous experiment that Pavlov carried out with dogs. It states that a neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus. This then prompts a conditioned response.

Operant conditioning has been at the heart of dog training for decades. I never questioned any aspect of it until now.

Improved Style

Prompting an action and then reinforcing it is the typical style in dog training manuals. However, I believe there’s a better and more efficient way of doing this.

In her book Plenty in Life is Free, Kathy Sdao mentions an intriguing yet slightly varied iteration. She looks at the typical reinforcement of behavior. Something that I believe to be more productive in the long term.

Seeing, marking, and rewarding are the basics of what Kathy talks about. Her focus concerns behavioral conditioning.

The observations from this book can be an eye-opening experience, given that this new way of seeing things has implications for our dogs’ behavior and how we view our interactions. 

Seeing, which involves keen observation, is the first crucial step. To see the positive behavior, to mark the behavior, and to reward it, is the best way to encourage such behavior in the future. 

The sheer simplicity of this method is the real reason why most of us overlook it. A paradigm shift is needed for us to change our ways concerning dog training. Most of us have difficulty recognizing the early signs of unwanted behavior. Until the culmination of such behavior. 

Imagine, for example, a Chihuahua that tends to go quiet when we’re busy preparing meals. That’s usually not a cause for concern until we discover that the reason for its calm disposition is because it was chewing our favorite couch cushion.

Our propensity for ignoring good behavior until things go wrong explains many mishaps in our lives. We are more inclined to dispense corrections than rewards.

We can help our dogs become better-adjusted companions. This can be done by clarifying what actions and behaviors constitute “good.”

It’s often challenging for us to quantify any behavior if there is no objective measurement. Mostly observing any changes to those behaviors.

Eye contact, belly on the ground, walking by our side, etc., are things that we can objectively observe. After clearly defining the desirable behaviors we like, it’s time to reward such behaviors consistently. Every time our dog wags its tail and puts its belly on the ground, we can dole out snacks to reinforce such behavior. Consistency and patience are key.

Put aside dog treats for the express purpose of rewarding the desirable behaviors. Maintaining the integrity of this exercise is vital to the overall process of reinforcement. This way, our dog knows what to do to get rewarded.

In a nutshell, it’s our responsibility as dog owners to cultivate the kind of relationships we wish to have with them. Encouraging our dogs to do more of what we desire without explicitly prompting them is the best way to nurture their obedience. Some dogs regress and become more subdued due to harsh punishment routines. Rewarding their positive behaviors can enable the healing process that they need to become friendlier pets.