More about this Practical Dog Trainers Course
Dog training is often about teaching a dog to do something or perform a particular behaviour. We do this by using reinforcement. The dog’s behaviour makes something desirable happen – a treat, affection, so the dog is more likely to offer that behaviour. Sometimes we want to teach a dog to stop displaying a behaviour. Extinction is another operant procedure that can be used. Extinction occurs when a previously reinforced behaviour is no longer reinforced, making it less likely that the dog will perform the behaviour.
Dogs will eventually stop engaging in behaviours that no longer bring a reward (reinforcement). Sometimes we unintentionally cause extinction by ceasing to reward a particular behaviour. We can use it intentionally or unintentionally. Example: A puppy starts begging at the table, sitting and whining and staring at people as they eat. If someone gives the puppy some food, the behaviour will continue. If everyone ignores the puppy at every single meal, the puppy will stop coming to the table, particularly if the dog gets a food treat at the end of the meal.
A Dog Behaviourist or Dog Psychologist needs to understand the principles of dog training in order to apply these to solving problem behaviours. Dog training is often described as command – response or obedience training. If someone wants help to teach a dog a specific cue such as recall, a dog trainer would be able to deal with this. However, if the dog were exhibiting aggression towards humans, for example, a behaviourist would be required, as obedience training alone would not tackle the problem.
Dog training and obedience training alone will not solve many of the problem behaviours exhibited by a dog, as there are often many causes. We need to consider the natural behaviours of different breeds so we can encourage the performance of naturally occurring behaviours and the discontinuance of undesirable behaviours. Typically, behaviourists work one-on-one with the dog and the owner(s). They will record a full behavioural history to find out antecedents, frequency, duration etc. The behaviour consultation is often carried out in the home or the area where the dog is showing behavioural problems.