We are always on the lookout for the most successful and innovative trainers, and one of our favorites is Or Nessim of K9 Pack Training in SoCal. A former dog handler in the Israeli Army, Or is highly personal and focused on positive reinforcement. He trains for everything from pet obedience and behavioral modification, to dog sport activities and service dog training.
How Can I Communicate Desired Behaviors To My Dog?
When trying to understand dogs and how we can communicate with them, it is important to understand classical and operant conditioning.
By definition, classical conditioning is a process that involves pairing an automatic conditioned response with a specific stimulus while operant conditioning focuses on using either reinforcement or punishment to increase or decrease a behavior.
In simpler terms, operant conditioning is a process where an association is formed between the behavior and the consequence of that behavior.
On the other hand, classical conditioning is two acts that are linked together to create a new response - think of Pavlov's dogs!
These two conditioning techniques are ways that us, humans, can communicate with our dogs and let them know what behavior we are looking for from them during training.
For example, each time your dog hears his leash, he runs to the door because an association has been created between going on a walk and the sound of the leash. The dog is reacting to a signal and over time he will associate that signal with the event. This learning by association is called classical conditioning.
These are typically involuntary responses that your dog will react with by repeatedly seeing or hearing the same signal. Does your dog start to get upset about you leaving before you've even walked out the door? This is all because of classical conditioning! Putting on your shoes, grabbing your keys - this are all signals that tell your dog to react because they know what the end result is.
The second approach is rewarding your dog with a walk when they are calmly sitting by the door - only then will the leash be taken out. This learning by reinforcement to increase a behavior is called operant conditioning. Practice will dramatically improve the dogs understanding of the behavior you are trying to have him achieve.
In dog training, you can use operant conditioning to teach your dog new tricks and commands by rewarding, or reinforcing, specific actions with treats! They will only receive the treat or reward when they perform the action you're asking of them.