BBS Training Tip #3: Training Methods Part 1
This week’s installment of BestBullySticks’ Training Tips is the first half of a two part series on Training Methods. As pet lovers, it’s our hope that this information will help owners make more informed decisions about how to train their pets. Let’s get to it!
Selecting a Method
Unfortunately, there is no universal “one size fits all” training system for dogs. Choosing the best training method for you and your dog takes a bit of research. Don’t sweat it, though. We’ve cut through the thick of it to bring you the skinny on what’s what in the world of dog training.
If you haven’t already, BestBullySticks recommends reading our previous post on How Dogs Learn to ensure you get the most from our explanation of these training methods and their key concepts. At the end of the day, the most important factor to consider when selecting a training method is how comfortable both dog and owner are using a system.
Despite the large number of training systems out there, in one way or another many utilize the same three key concepts.
Built on the ideas of classical and operant conditioning, Marker Training is a way to build association between a command (marker) and a desired result by immediately offering reinforcement the moment a desired action is completed. For example — if you’re teaching a dog to lay down on command, use the marker (in this case the words “lay down”) when the dog lays down on its own, then offer positive reinforcement such as a treat.
The brief time between marker and reinforcement will develop into an association through this repetitive conditioning process. You may then move towards using your marker when you simply have the dog’s attention. If he/she doesn't lay down on command, use a negative punishment such as withdrawing attention after using your marker. Repeatedly using a marker without immediate reinforcement or punishment will reduce it’s long-term effectiveness.
This method also relies on operant conditioning and with progress leads to Marker Training. Compulsion-Praise relies on physical manipulation followed by reinforcement. By moving a dog into a desired position or location and then offering praise in the form of positive or negative reinforcement an association is slowly built. Once established, this association can then be further refined through the use of Marker Training.
The most simplistic of the three, Lure-Reward is rooted in classical conditioning and is used to lead a dog into a desired location or position. Once the desired behavior is achieved, it is immediately followed by a reward.
Dogs are full of personality and sometimes their “bad behavior” is just unrestrained excitement. So while they might do silly or sometimes destructive things, this is usually a combination of personality and mood. Without a doubt, at some point or another your pup is going to act up. Bad behavior can be reshaped, though! The best way to curb these behaviors is to replace them with ones incompatible with the old.
For example — since standing and sitting are totally incompatible, train your dog to sit every time someone walks in your front door. This technique can be used in many ways to reshape undesirable behaviors.
While we do consider ourselves experts on all things dog — BestBullysticks.com still encourages all owners to consult a dog behavior specialist or certified trainer before starting a training regimen!
Contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) to find a certified trainer or behavior specialist in your area.
During next week’s installment of Training Tips, we’ll dive into specific training methods. In the meantime, BestBullySticks recommends our readers head over to the APDT’s e-learning website and take a peek at their free webinars on a variety of topics!
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