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Science behind Dog Training: The Process Based on Operant Conditioning

As we learn more and more about the ways dogs interpret and react to stimuli, we are starting to see just how important it is to use positive reinforcement in their training. Failing to use that positive reinforcement can stunt your pet’s learning and make it harder for them to internalize your lessons.

The dog training method known as operant conditioning relies heavily on positive reinforcement to deliver desirable results. Interestingly, it also utilizes some form of deprivation to correct unwanted behavior. You can learn more about operant conditioning and what it could do for your dog or puppy by continuing below.

What Is Operant Conditioning?

The fundamental idea behind operant conditioning is simple. Through repetition, dogs can learn that specific actions lead to specific consequences. The idea behind operant conditioning is to teach dogs to either perform certain commands or refrain from exhibiting unwanted behavior so they can claim their desired rewards.

According to the Kentucky Humane Society, there are three basic elements of operant conditioning. These are the antecedent, the behavior, and the consequence.

The antecedent is the command you issue. It could be a verbal cue telling your dog to sit or a request asking them to stay off the couch.

Meanwhile, the behavior is what your pet contributes to the equation. They can either follow the antecedent or disregard it and follow through with the action they want to commit.

Lastly, the consequence is contingent on your pet’s behavior. If your pet follows your command, they can receive something desirable. Failing to follow your command can lead to something they don’t enjoy.

Operant conditioning also relies on the four quadrants of consequence to train pets. We can talk more about that in the next section.

The Four Quadrants of Consequence

The four quadrants of consequence break down into positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, and negative punishment. When it comes to dog training, you don’t necessarily want to use all four quadrants. Instead, you want to focus on positive reinforcement and negative punishment.

Starting with positive reinforcement, you want to utilize this tool whenever your dog or puppy follows a command. If you ask them to roll over and they execute the command properly, give them something they enjoy like a treat or a belly rub.

Positive reinforcement should be the tool you use the most during dog training because it helps your pet recognize the benefit of following the commands you want them to follow. It teaches them to understand a cue and perform a task based on it.

Negative punishment admittedly sounds bad, but it won’t necessarily harm your pet. This quadrant of consequence is about taking away something your pet likes whenever they exhibit undesirable behavior. If your dog hops up on the couch after you told them to stop, simply ignore them. Wait until they go back to the ground before giving them attention once more.

Operant conditioning works well for training as long as you remember to rely on positive reinforcement and negative punishment. As long as you utilize those tools consistently, your pet will get the message sooner rather than later.

If you’d like to learn more about the process based on operant conditioning, our dog trainer Cathy would be more than happy to help. Schedule a complimentary call today: https://app.10to8.com/book/zxznlfrciytyebkoug/. To learn more about her dog training approach, watch the short video on our dog training page.



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