HOW DOGS LEARN

Phoenix Dog Trainer Operant condition dog behavior science of how dogs are trained

HOW DOGS LEARN

HOW DOGS LEARN

OPERANT CONDITIONING THE SCIENCE BEHIND DOG TRAINING: HOW DOGS LEARN AND ARE TRAINED

how dogs learn operant conditioningHow dogs learn might be the most important question you could ask.  At Phoenix Dog Training, our  approach to dog obedience training is based on years of study. As one of the foremost students of dog behavior, our Phoenix Dog Behaviorist has seen firsthand the effect of a combination of Operant Conditioning, Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement, and has made these techniques the centerpieces of his training philosophy, which specializes in the elimination of aggression, fears, anxieties and phobias in dogs.

HOW DOGS LEARN 

At Phoenix Dog Training we use about 90% positive reinforcement and about 10% negative reinforcement.  I also use negative punishment which is the removal of something the dog wants to decrease or stop unwanted behavior.  An example of negative punishment is to take away your kids WiFi password until they do their homework.  You are trying to stop or decrease the child’s procrastination.  With a dog it might be removing a treat or a toy.  This is one of the many ways how dogs learn.

I personally do not use positive punishment because I do not believe that how dogs learn has to be to experience fear, pain and intimidation to be taught. But I do use negative reinforcement, but in a unique way.

This being the case, Here at Phoenix Dog Training we are always eager to counteract the flashing red lights some people see when they hear the word “negative reinforcement.” Don’t let the term scare you, because in truth it isn’t negative at all! In fact it is non-aversive, as we don’t believe any dog should be trained with fear, pain or intimidation. As an example consider the following:

  • I am walking a dog and want to turn right
  • The dog wants to continue going straight
  • I tap the dog on the shoulder to get its attention so it can turn with me
  • I stop tapping on the dog’s shoulder when the dog performs the wanted behavior.

HOW DOGS LEARN 

That is all there is to negative reinforcement!  People often confuse negative reinforcement with punishment.  the two are not the same.  Negative reinforcement increases and or strengthens behavior.  Punishment stops or decreases a behavior.

Traditionally, how dogs learn and the use of negative reinforcement has been to apply an unpleasant stimulus to the dog, and then help the dog to do the behavior in order to remove the unpleasantness.  The dog works to turn off the unpleasant stimulus, or to avoid it all together.  Different trainers will use negative reinforcement differently.  How unpleasant the stimulus is varies from trainer to trainer.

My experience and work with how dogs learn has shown me that negative reinforcement really does not need to be a true aversive.  To me when I think aversive, I think pain or unpleasant.  In fact, here is the dictionary definition of aversive:

” aversive. adjective. Causing avoidance of a thing, situation, or behavior by using an unpleasant or punishing stimulus, as in techniques of behavior modification.”

I have personally developed a system based on how dogs learn and the use of negative reinforcement that uses a non aversive tactile or touch sensation that is nuetral.  The tactile or touch sensation is not unpleasent, demonstrated by the dog’s behavior, there is no avoidance.  The tactile or touch stimulus becomes a tactile cue, prompt, or command that is paired with both auditory and visual cues, adding another layer of communication to both verbal commands and hand signals.  I use multiple modalities of communication with dogs for more complete understanding and clarity of communication. 

What the dog experiences is very light non aversive tapping on its neck while being given a verbal command along with a visual command (hand signal.) When the dog does the behavior, the light tapping stops.  Rather than being an aversive, it is neutral touch, or a non painful tactile touch.

I have seen mothers speaking to their children who did not respond to them, touch the child on the shoulder to get the child’s attention with light touch and to get them to follow through on what the mother was asking.  That is non aversive negative reinforcement.

Another example of non aversive negative reinforcement that people experience is the seat-belt indicator.  If you don’t put your seat-belt on, there will be a sound going off or a light going off until you fasten the belt.  Once you do the behavior, the sound goes away.  There was no pain, at most it was an annoyance.  

HOW DOGS LEARN 

There are total positive reinforcement only trainers that can not conceive of non aversive negative reinforcement.  They like to say their way of training is scientific, but they fail to discuss ALL of the science.  The total positive reinforcement trainers want to claim how dogs learn is only with positive reinforcement.  They refuse to correct a dog. One of the reasons they can not conceive of non aversive humane negative reinforcement is because they have ZERO experience with it. They are giving their opinion on something that they have never done.

By combining all of the aforementioned aspects of how dogs learn, Phoenix Dog Training Dog Trainers are able to make their intentions clear to puppies and dogs. By opening the lines of communication Phoenix Dog Training is able to provide a low stress atmosphere for puppy training and canine training while getting lasting results in a fraction of the time of other Phoenix dog trainers.

We are committed to how dogs learn and providing dog training in Phoenix that offer the least amount of stress and the quickest results. Remember, we are training you as well as your dog, and the knowledge and insight you’ll gain into your dog’s mind and regarding the techniques with which to communicate your wishes will result in lasting good behavior and a more balanced home life. 

Thanks for reading and hopefully you have learned a little something about how dogs learn.

Phoenix Dog Training are the best dog trainers we have found in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Their Dog Behaviorist has personally helped us with our dogs as we had a tough case. Our dogs are doing great and we would never go to anyone else to train our dogs. The people, service and knowledge of training dogs is the best we have seen by far! I would recommend them to all my friends and family! Thank you!– Greg and Jody Fossen


Keri Grunert
Keri Grunert
05:11 18 Jan 18
Phoenix Dog Training is Phenomenal!! From the very beginning we knew we were in good hands. They worked so well with our whole family. Getting the kids involved in the training was brilliant. We would definitely recommend this company.
Tyler Thompson
Tyler Thompson
15:37 30 Nov 17
I recently called Phoenix dog training to train my out of control hyper Australian Shepherd. The training was excellent and the service was A+ all the way. I have used two trainers before that could not help with the pulling on walks when any dog came by and jumping on guests. Now "Molly" knows to go to her "Place" when the door bell rings. Walks are now enjoyable. I can even take her off leash and she stays right with me. I can not thank you enough.Tyler Thompson
Jose Rivas
Jose Rivas
21:11 25 Jul 17
My wife and I highly recommend Phoenix Dog Training. Our dog, a Labrador Retriever/German Shepard Mix, (Mr. Pickles) was trained last summer and we could not be more happy with the results. Mr. Pickles has been an excellent dog ever since his training. Everyone that comes in contact with our dog is amazed by his obedience and uncanny maturity even though he is not even three years old. He has acted perfectly on an international flight in-cabin, in the grocery store, restaurants and practically any situation one can imagine. My wife and I have Phoenix Dog Training to thank for training our dog to be the most well behaved dog we have ever seen or met. Phoenix Dog Training understands dog behavior and knows how to train a dog to meet the needs of their owners. Phoenix Dog Training utilizes empathetic, efficient, and effective methodologies in training dogs and we give them an emphatic recommendation!
Charles F Frost
Charles F Frost
20:30 21 Sep 17
I was referred to Phoenix Dog Training by our Veterinarian because of our Boxer Max, and his aggression.Phoenix Dog Training and their Harvard schooled Animal Behaviorist did an incredible job helping myself and my family bring Max under control. We realize we will need to manage Max's behavior for as long as he is with us, but now we have the skills and the tools to keep Max and everyone happy and safe. Thank you for all the great training help and support with our dog Max.
The German Star Lord
The German Star Lord
06:53 20 Sep 17
I have always trained all of my dogs myself. I have never had a dog I could not train. My current dog Jasper is the exception. I truly thought my dog had a mental problem. Thanks to Phoenix Dog Training I no longer think Jasper is mental. Jasper just needed his owner trained. I would recommend Phoenix Dog Training to anyone needing professional dog training.
B B
B B
03:45 17 Sep 17
I am so grateful I found Phoenix Dog Training. I live up in North Scottsdale and have a large yard. We get a lot of wild animals that come onto our property. Coyotes, Havelina, Bob Cats Mountain Lion, you name it. The problem I was having was my dog Skip would not come when called. No matter what we did he would not come when called. He would call me when there were no distractions. He would come when nothing was going on. But up another dog or another person or another animal is there, he will not come for anything! I have tried several other dog trainers in Scottsdale. They all promised me they could get my dog to come, and they did a great job getting my dog to listen to me when there were no distractions. But if there's another animal, they were not able to get my dog to come when called. Out of frustration and skeptical, I called Phoenix dog training. They said they had a money back guarantee. I figured if there was ever a time they would have to honor their money back guarantee it would be with myself and my dog Skip. To my absolute amazement, the dog trainer from Phoenix Dog Training was able to get Skip to come with the distraction of another dog he brought with him within about 3 minutes! It was absolutely crazy!!! No one had been able to produce any results, and here they have skip coming when called with another dog around, skip would normally go crazy. But this time he was coming when called! I would definitely recommend Phoenix Dog Training!!! They saved my dog from being eaten from a Mountain Lion I'm sure!!!
Paras Dhankecha
Paras Dhankecha
06:03 19 Sep 17
I really want to thank you guys. Phoenix Dog Training has made my dogs life and my life so much better. I get to finally enjoy my dog. Walks are now a pleasure. She sits and stays when I tell her. When I call her to me, now she comes. I love the "place" command and that seems to be her favorite command too. I'm looking forward to the Polishing and Maintenance classes that Phoenix Dog Training offers after our completion of our private at home dog training lessons. Thank you again.
Numb Brrr
Numb Brrr
21:45 20 Sep 17
Phoenix Dog Training is AMAZING! They rehabilitated my aggressive PitBull when 3 other trainers failed and told me the only option was to euthanize my dog. Boy am I glad I did not listen to the other trainers and hired a real Dog Behaviorist. It is very different working with a professional Dog Behaviorist than just a Dog Trainer. It was worth the money and the time to save my dogs life. Definitely hire Phoenix Dog Training.
Linda Shoemaker
Linda Shoemaker
00:20 23 May 18
My husband, our Great Dane Misty, and I are so glad we signed up for training. We so appreciate all the training we received to help us better manage our girl. So much better but still a ways to go and now we have the knowledge and help we needed. We also know that anytime we have a question or issue that Bill will be there to help. Highly recommend. Jack, Linda, and Misty Shoemaker
Melinda McClean
Melinda McClean
01:12 05 Jun 18
My wife and I are more than happy with the work that Bill did for us, and our dog. We reached out to him for one-on-one training, frustrated and concerned about her reactive behavior. His knowledge of dog behavior is extensive, and his ability to impart that knowledge was exceptional. We learned more in one day, than we did in 6 months of group training with another organisation. Bill guided us through the training, and explained how we should progress through to maintenance, so that our dog's progress could continue. We've received many positive comments about our dog's improved behavior and we highly recommend Bill. He's given us the knowledge and confidence that we need to work with our dog.
Amanda Szolnok
Amanda Szolnok
18:18 27 Aug 18
I greatly appreciate Bill's help and support as my dog was going through some severe separation anxiety (barking loudly and whining anytime I left) after moving to a new apartment. I tried many different tips from multiple articles that I read online but nothing seemed to help. His barking was very loud for an apartment complex so I would need to keep him in doggy day care during the day while I worked as he couldn't be left alone in the apartment due to the noise level. It was a brand new behavior for my dog and I was pretty lost as to what steps to take. It seemed like a hopeless situation however Bill was very helpful and provided great insight and guidance in the situation. My dog is now doing great and is fine to be left alone while I go to work. He is very comfortable in the apartment and is back to being happy and playful. I really appreciate Phoenix Dog Training.
See All Reviews