Training Methods to Use

Introduction

This List will be updated occasionally to cover the most current dog training methods.

There will also be further explanations for dog training concepts in the future.

Overall Methods to Use

Positive reinforcement training – rewarding dogs for desirable behavior in order to increase the probability they will perform that behavior again.

Reward-based training – this refers to using primarily positive reinforcement, but also takes into account trainers may remove rewards or opportunities to perform a behavior for incorrect responses.

When training in this manner dogs learn very quickly via discrimination learning. They get rewards for correct responses, and no rewards for incorrect responses. It’s not aversive or harmful to dogs and it actually speeds up learning when they get some incorrect responses as it allows them to pinpoint what was correct.

Desensitization – exposing a dog to stimuli (things/events) at a level below his fear or upset-threshold, and increasing access or intensity towards the stimulus always under-threshold as the dog becomes comfortable at the current level.

Counter-conditioning – training a dog to accept something he has a negative view of by pairing the scary thing with rewards to create a positive association or emotional response towards it.

DRI (differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior) – this is a concept for teaching a dog with rewards to perform a behavior that is incompatible with an unwanted behavior. Some examples include:

  • Sit-stay at the front door, instead of rushing through it.
  • Pick up and hold a toy, instead of barking.
  • Walk calmly on leash, instead of pulling.
  • Stand next to people, instead of jumping on them.

Specific Training Techniques to Use

Each of these are positive reinforcement methods:

  • Luring (or lure-reward training) – holding a treat (or a toy) to lure the dog into positions like sitting, lying down, standing, etc. Lures are usually faded or removed, so they are not required to do the behavior at the end of the process.
  • Capturing – marking a behavior correct as the dog does it (with a clicker or other marker) and giving a reward. For example, a dog lies down, you mark it correct with a click, and reward with a treat.
  • Shaping – rewarding behaviors in small steps, gradually working towards the final behavior. If the dog won’t lie down all at once, for example, you can reward him for sitting, then sliding feet out, then feet further out, until he finally lies down completely. This can be used with prompting (luring or targeting) or as a free-shaping technique (where you simply mark as correct and reward behaviors until you get the final one without any prompting or encouraging the dog to do the behavior).
  • Targeting – teaching a dog to touch an object or thing, such as a target stick or your hand, which then can be used to teach other behaviors. Dogs will follow the target like a food lure. Targets are faded/removed so they are not required to do the behavior at the end of the process.

Types of Rewards and Equipment to Use

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Allowing dogs access to sniff something or
  • Greet another individual
  • Play with people or other dogs
  • Providing a chance to go outside
  • Walks
  • Praise
  • Gentle petting
  • Marker or clicker training – to time correct behaviors with the mark/click and follow up with a reward to positively reinforce the behavior
  • Using harnesses attached to leashes for walks – since these won’t (or are less likely) to damage the dog’s neck/trachea compared to other types of collars.
  • Teaching dogs with rewards to accept veterinary or body handling procedures and grooming, baths, etc.
  • Socializing puppies and dogs – pairing neutral or scary stimuli/things with treats to make them positive.
  • Etc.

By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS

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