Welcome to IDTE dog training guide
Dog training is difficult because there are many pieces that are interlocked and effect one another but are independent from one another. The whole picture matters, but dog can only focus learning one piece at a time. Think about dog training like patting your head and rubbing your belly. You can do one or the other, but when you try to do both at the same time it becomes very difficult and stressful.
The diagram below shows what I think are the main pieces that interlock and effect your dog training. You as the person have many pieces that you bring into the training including things like your handling skills, your training ability, the relationship you have with your dog and the affection that you show them, the structure that you provide your dog, your mood when you are training them, how focused you are during training, how consistent you are in your training, and how meaningful you are to your dog.
Then there are many pieces that your dog brings into training including things like if they have had enough exercise both mental and physical, how obedient are they or what have they not learned, how do they behave and why do they behave this way, what emotions do they show and why?
When you are training you have to think about socialization including has your dog been socialized in the environment, how social is your dog around dogs, and how social is your dog around people?
As you can see in the below diagram all of these things interlock and connect. Your dog cannot possibly learn everything all at once. Each arrow is one piece of the whole dog training puzzle. Dog training is like putting a puzzle together. You build a puzzle by linking two matching pieces together. You cannot connect two pieces at one time, but you can connect one then connect another and you can have several pieces that you know link together, but you must connect one to another then you can link another to that one and so on. You can also put two pieces together, then put two separate pieces together, then link the two groups together. You must take this same approach with dog training. Dogs are associative learners. They learn by linking two things together just how two puzzle pieces link together, but they cannot link more than two pieces together at one time. It is your job to make sure the pieces are being linked together one to another until all the pieces are linked the correct way to build happy and stable dog that is trained. Puzzles take time, and so does dog training. You need patience and you need to look at all the pieces but focus on one at one or two pieces at a time. Sometimes, the pieces don't fit together immediately, and you have to build around the pieces because as the picture comes together you will see how the pieces connect. Also, every puzzle has a frame. A puzzle is easier to build if you build the frame first then work within the frame. Dog training needs a training foundation. If you build your training foundation first then the pieces will come together easier.
When you look at the above diagram it looks intimidating, confusing, and overwhelming. Dog training can be intimidating, confusing, and overwhelming as well. Lets break things down into small individual pieces. Lets focus on the dog first. The better you know your dog, the better you can train them. Unfortunately, dogs are individuals and it can be hard to get to know a dog especially since they are so easily influenced by others. The dog in the above diagram is one of my dogs, Spirit. She was actually a clients dog. After getting to know Spirit I realized she was not the right dog for her owner. I offered to train and rehome her. Through the training process Spirit and I developed an unbreakable relationship so I became her new owner. I want to show you a diagram that explains spirt before and after her training and then we will talk about dog training.
As you can see I had a lot of work to do. Training her took about two years. The first year was all foundation training and socialization. The second year was focused on obedience training. I could have gotten her trained quicker but I didn't train her everyday and I taught her a lot of advance training.
Lets talk about dog training and how to build a solid dog training foundation. When you are training your dog and you are building a training foundation, do not work on your dog obeying you. That will come organically. What is more important is that your dog is learning and their overall behaviors are improving.
Classical conditioning is a learning process where two stimuli are repeatedly paired: a response that is elicited by the second stimuli is elicited by the first.
Behaviors sever two purposes. 1. to get something 2. to avoid something
Dogs and humans are associative learners. We behave the way we do because we have either learned our behavior gets us something we want or our behavior helps us avoid something we don't want. These two consequences are Reinforcement (getting what we want) and Punishments (things we want to avoid). We learn to associate our behaviors with these rewards and punishments in different situations, relationships, and within the environment.
If a behavior happens and what immediately follows is something the learner wanted then this behavior is reinforced. Behaviors that are reinforced are strengthened and more likely to be repeated in the future.
If a behavior happens and what immediately follows is something the learner doesn't want then this behavior is punished. Behaviors that are punished are weakened and less likely to be repeated in the future.
When we are training dogs about their behavior choices we must think in terms of reinforcement and punishments. Reinforcement simply means to strengthen a behavior by adding something they want immediately following the behavior (R+), or by immediately removing something they don't want immediately following a behavior (R-). Punishment simply means to weaken a behavior by adding something they don't want immediately following a behavior (P+), or by immediately removing something they do want immediately following a behavior (P-).
It is important you understand the four quadrants of Operant Conditioning because regardless if you understand it or not you are using it. If you use it incorrectly you train your dog wrong, but if you use it correctly you train them right. Unfortunately, as simple as that sounds it gets very complicated but the more you learn the easier some of it will get. Lets start with a basic understanding of dog behavior and how operant conditioning works. I'm going to break down each quadrant (R+, R-,P+, P- and how they are most commonly misused and how to fix that. We are going to discuss the most common behaviors leash pulling, sit, barking, jumping, and running away.
Welcome to IDTE dog training. I do not have a program that I teach people. I am a ones stop shop dog trainer. I teach my clients everything they need to know to train their dog. I do not have one category that I teach. I have worked very hard to learn it all. I love teaching and I want you to fall in love with dog training. I won't lie, it is hard. But things that are hard to learn are worth learning, right?
I have learned obedience training, behavior modification training, socialization training, human training, and I train all breeds of dogs. I spent six years training unadoptable shelter dogs due to behavior problems and helped them become adoptable, I have worked with abused dogs, neglected dogs, untrained dogs, and I have worked with the worst of the worst including fighting pit bulls, laboratory dogs used for experiments, and dogs taken from hoarding cases and abusive situations. I traveled for 3 years training people how to train dogs and how to socialize shelter dogs.
My experience has taught me just how difficult dog training is. Yes, it can be simplified, but it is that simplifying approach that has increased the need for animal shelters and euthanasia because our lives are anything but simple for the dogs we love, so how can we make training seem simple when it isn't for the dog?
Training is not something you do to your dog. It is something you do with them. Dogs are highly intelligent animals. Dogs want to be smart. Dogs want to do well. Dogs want to be awesome for you. It is your job to learn how to train them to be smart, do well, and be awesome. Dog training should not make a dog stop thinking, feel bad, or
Positive Reinforcement Training (R+)
Reinforcement (R), in training means to strengthen a behavior.
Positive (+), in training means to add something that they want.
Therefore, Positive Reinforcement (R+) automatically happens any time a dog does a behavior and the behavior is followed by them receiving or gaining access to something that they wanted.
Regardless if you want a behavior to be strengthened or not any time a dog receives something they want following a behavior the dog is being positively reinforced and learning is occurring, so that behavior will automatically be repeated more often.
Examples of the wrong use of R+
Leash pulling (behavior). If the dog wants to walk forward and starts pulling (behavior) and you walk forward (+/add forward movement (Reinforcement)) you will strengthen leash pulling. Therefore, the dog will pull more often.
Correct use of R+
Leash pulling (behavior). If the dog walks to walk forward and starts pulling stop walking and wait for the dog to stop pulling (new behavior) and then start walking immediately after the dog stops pulling (R+ for not pulling). This technique works but I must admit it takes a long time to teach it this way but this would be better than the wrong way.
If your dog sits (behavior) and you go to feed them a cookie but before they eat the cookie they stand up (new behavior) then the dog behavior that is positively reinforced is the standing up and not the sit because the new behavior happened before immediately before the reinforcement was added. Therefore, in the future when you offer a cookie your dog will stand up. If the dog wants more cookies they will sit again just so they can stand up again to get another cookie. This complicates things a bit because you think they are sitting because they like to sit, but really they like to stand up from the sit more than they like to sit.
Correct use of R+
If your dog sits (behavior) have a treat ready and quickly hand it to them while they are still sitting. If they stand up to get the treat simply close your hand so that they cannot get the treat and wait until they sit back down then give them the treat while they are sitting down. If they don't sit back down, either ask them to sit again (not recommended if you want your dog to listen to the first command) or walk away and give it a tray at another time.
If your dog jumps up on you (behavior) and you pet them (R+) and then push them off. The jumping was positively reinforced because the petting happened immediately following the jumping. Therefore, your dog will jump on you more often. If the dog was satisfied with the petting then the jumping will stop, but if they want more petting they will do more jumping unless the pushing them off was unpleasant and they want to avoid that happening again.
Correct use of R+
If you can, pet your dog before their feet jump on you (not jumping new behavior) and petting is +/added and feet staying on the ground is reinforced. If your dog jumps on you (behavior) ignore them until they put their feet back on the floor (new behavior) and immediately pet them (+/add) while their feet are still on the floor (feet on the floor is reinforced). Unfortunately this will not work for all dogs because for some dogs jumping is it's own reinforcement and for other dogs their jumping is too overwhelming to ignore. Don't worry we will get to other solutions.
If your dog barks (behavior) and you tell them its ok (R+ because you added positive attention). Your dog will bark more often because the positive attention came immediately after the barking. If the dog was satisfied with the attention the barking will stop but if it wants more them more barking will happen to get more petting.
If your dog runs away from you (behavior) and you run after them (R+ because most dogs love to be chased). Your dog will run away from you more often because the fun game of chase came immediately after the running away. They will play this fun game of catch me if you can until they are done playing with you.
Obviously, the above examples are behaviors that we don't want from our dog, but I used them as examples because these are the mistake that people make and why these behaviors are so common in dogs because in the dogs mind, they are all positively reinforced therefore, they are strengthened and repeated more often. These are examples of the improper use of R+. The behavior that is strengthened is the behavior that happened 1 second after the behavior. Therefore, if pulling happened 1 second before the walking forward motion then pulling is strengthened, if standing happened 1 second before the standing happened then standing is strengthened, if jumping happened 1 second before the the petting then jumping is strengthened, and if running away happened 1 second before the chasing happened then running away is strengthened. Pulling, standing, jumping, and running away were all positively reinforced 1 second before something happened that the dog wanted.
Positive Reinforcement has to happen 1 second after a behavior for the dog to understand that the thing they want is for that behavior. It is unlikely, we can positively reinforce a dog 1 second after a behavior because dogs change behaviors very quickly. Marker Training is the solution.
Marker Training (YES)
For humans, Pay = money and work = pay (money) This is a concept that you learned. At some point in your life, someone said I have a job for you to do and if you do it I will pay you. You were told the job and then you were told the pay that you will get. After you completed the job, you got the pay you earned. Therefore we all have learned that
Work = pay = Money or something else we agree to that we want. As humans, we want to know what the job is, how much it pays, and when will we get paid. Dogs are no different. When you train your dog, you have to tell them what the job is that they must do, how much it pays, and when they will get paid and they must agree to this contract. If they don't agree you must negotiate with them until you get what you want. Dogs are great at negotiating. Because their is a language barrier we must speak to dogs in terms that they can understand. Lucky for us, dogs are bilingual and they want to learn our language because they like to communicate with is. But you will need to learn their language as well so that you can also understand them.
We cannot say hey dog I have a job for you and this is what I am going to pay you and when I will pay you. But through marker training that is basically what we can say to them. Dogs are associative learns therefore we can build an association between a word that means pay and their reward. Then we just need to help them learn when they will be paid. If I say paycheck you automatically understand that means money because you have learned to associate paycheck with money. We will use that same principle except instead of saying principle we will say yes. You always hear paycheck then get your money therefore paycheck stays reinforced as money.
Yes = reward, Rewards = pay, Work = behavior, therefore work = yes = reward (pay). A reward is anything that the dog wants. This is a concept you must teach your dog.
Positive marker training is used to help your dog identify the exact behavior that they did that earned them the access to the reward they wanted. Dogs are associative learners. They learn by associating their behaviors to positive and negative results. To reinforce a dogs behavior you only have 1 second to connect the reward with the behavior. Most of the time, you cannot get a reward to a dog within 1 second. Let me make this more clear for you. If you ask your dog to sit, and they sit and then you go to give them a treat or you go to pet them and your dog stands up and you follow through with giving them the treat or petting them, in your mind you rewarded the sit. In your dogs mind you rewarded them for standing up because the reward came one second after they stood up. Most people struggle to teach their dog a stay because they are rewarding the dog for breaking the stay. If you teach your dog marker training, the moment your dog sits you can ark that behavior with a YES and then regardless if your dog stands up to get the treat or not the dog will have a clear understanding the reward was because of the sit and not because of the stand. Of course this understanding only comes after properly marker training them. Marker training also makes training at a distance easier , training around distractions easer, and training with duration easier.
Let me make it more clear for you. Lets say I told you I was going to pay you to do something for me. And I told you if you repeat the work I will continue to pay you for the work. If I asked you to to help me walk the dogs and I walked the dogs with you the first day then I paid you. Then the next day you came out and walked the dogs but you didn't walk the dogs in the same order I showed you so I didn't pay you the next day then you are going to be very mad because I didn't make it clear to you that the order you walked them was part of the job. If you ask your dog to sit then you pay them (reward) when they stand up then you are not making it clear to them that standing up is not part of the job. They will think that sit means sit then stand to get your treat because that is what you taught them. If when teaching you how to walk the dogs, I told you that you must walk them in the same order I am showing you then you would understand that if you didn't remember that you won't be paid. If when training your dog you make it clear the them that their butt being on the ground is what you are paying them for then they will put their butt on the ground more often (reinforcement) but if they don't understand the reinforcement is for the butt on the ground then you will strengthen the dog jumping out of the sit because the dog thought that is what you were reinforcing.
Reinforcement must happen 1 second after the behavior.
Pay = money, this is a concept that you learned. At some point in your life someone said I will pay you to do something then they reinforced the word pay by giving you money after you did the work. Work = pay = Money, we all have learned this.
Yes = reward, this is a concept you must teach your dog.