Dog Training Methods & Psychology

Dog Training & Behavior

Classical Conditioning & Positive Reinforcement

Classical  or forced conditioning has long been used to train dogs. In the past  two decades many dog training professionals have criticized Pavlov’s  theory as out dated and inhumane. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian in the  1920's and 1930's who experimented with respondent conditioning.  Respondent conditioning is a learning process, in which an innate  response to a potent stimulus comes to be elicited in response to a  previously neutral stimulus; this is achieved by repeated pairings of  the neutral stimulus with the potent stimulus.  Many critics say a dog  experiencing a repeated negative response will achieve a negative  result. I think this is stating the obvious. Any species that gets a  negative response backed with a neutral response will eventually become  less willing to work.


Dog language 

The  desire to work in a happy manner comes from love and interaction  through play with dogs. Pavlovian theory was never meant to be a  sophisticated dog behavior training method. However, using all methods  of forced training is not a negative. Dogs do use forced training  methods to train each other. This is seen in any group of dogs, wild or  domesticated. We cannot criticize dogs for communicating like dogs.  Nature made the animals long before the know-it-all critics told dogs  what humane treatment is by definition.


Dogs correct one another in specific locations of the  body. Depending on the location of the bite, strength of bite or push to  bump the dog off balance, the correction can be a different message.  Corrections can be threats or a warning. Different levels of fear exist  in all species. Some levels of fear are good and push all species to  learn or survive.  

Balanced Training

Only  the delusional dog handlers believe life is a controlled, pain free and  fear free environment. Dogs, when correcting each other, make a  specific controlled bite or push to communicate. Each level of force is  like an adjective describing the importance of the correction. Dogs play  bite and push with high levels of force. The force depends on the  relationship of the two dogs or the dog and handler. Confidence in hard  play is from a good understanding of the two dogs or handler knowing  each other’s tolerance levels. Similar to human contact sports rules  which involve controlled force (e.g. soccer, football), this confidence  and understanding are generated from experience playing the game. 

Classical/forced  conditioning can create a lifeless dog that is obedient because the  correction is used incorrectly, in a point of contact on the dog’s body  that is not used for correction, but a direct threat. The body language  of the dog or handler, in combination with level of force, can make a  correction become a threat with intent to create severe harm to the  animal. Knowing what is a normal challenge for leadership or respect for  personal space comes with experience. Mature, organized dog packs learn  each personality of the other dogs and what is acceptable behavior. Dog  handlers must learn the body language, force of correction, personality  of the dog and point of correction to be a good handler.  


Having  a dog respond to a correction, followed by a neutral response, is not a  good training method. Ivan Pavlov was only proving that dogs can be  conditioned to a bell at feeding time and salivate. This is one example  of many. A specific dog (innate response) correction using body  language, location of correction, intensity of the bite/push or vocal  tone, with an understanding of the dog’s personality, must be followed  by positive reinforcement, with no delay in the positive response. The  positive response must be in a method innate to the dog, such as voice  tone, touching and body language. When the dog has a positive response  to an immediate positive behavior, such as body language, voice or  physical movement, the personality of the dog is not suppressed or  damaged, and will not reduce the dogs motivation to work. Positive  reinforcement must be equal or greater than the corrections. The ratio  can be 1/1 or 7/1. Positive reinforcement should always be greater or  equal to the correction. The higher the positive ratio to the correction  the better result. Corrections are not a negative; a correction to an  unwanted behavior, when combined with a positive reinforcement without  delay, will result in a positive result.  

Relationship with a dog

Dog  communication is not hit and miss conditioning, but an innate teaching  method. The dog must have a direct relationship with the handler. The  innate reaction and response on the part of the dog, must be duplicated  by the handler as dogs understand, not by human logic. When a shock  collar, food/treat, spray bottle or noise is used for a positive or  negative reinforcement, the dog is responding to something other than  the handler. This is not innate in dogs and will separate the dog from a  direct communication with the handler. This is the exact opposite of  what you want to achieve for maximum safety and reliability for your  dog.  

Facts about dog training

If  you interview a dog trainer and ask what they do when a dog jumps on  them, and the trainer says “turn their back” and “ignore the dog”, do  not work with this trainer. The  body language of turning your back is being subservient and allowing  the dog to take control. 

If your dog trainer says their training method  used is all positive reinforcement, do not work with the trainer. Strong  minded, stubborn dogs will not cooperate with you because you spoil the  dog, or give the dog a time-out in a crate. Dogs don’t understand  avoidance as a learning exercise. The problem will still exist when the  dog is out of the crate.  If your trainer believes domestic dogs  do not form a pack. Walk away. Domestic dogs are seen in packs when  raised together and the behavior is very much like their canine ancestor  wild dog. When a dog trainer believes that they have the new modern  method of dog training, do not work with the trainer. Nature is not out  dated. Scientific studies have proven that very little DNA, genetic  code, has changed in the past 100 million years. Your dog has the  instinct to hunt a rabbit, squirrel, lizard or large deer. Your dog does  not have the enzyme to digest cellulose, the prime fiber in vegetables.  Your dog has all sharp teeth without molars to chew vegetables. The  domestic dog does not have a long intestinal track like an omnivore or  vegetarian to break down vegetables. Dogs have a short intestine. Your  dogs genetics are not adapting and changing because you force your dog  to eat kibble. Yes, your dog is a carnivore.  

If your dog trainer  says the words “alpha” or “dominant” are more a pop-culture and are  outdated, debunked theory, do not work with the trainer. Watch any  animal nature show and observe the fights over food, mate and shelter.  Nature is not kind among same species when competition is involved.  Humans also have “alpha”. Tell the judge or police what to do and argue.  See the result of alpha in our society when reactions become results.  Companies have leaders or they become failures. Sports teams have  coaches and team captains. Alpha and dominance is a part of every-day  life.  

If your dog trainer says your dog cannot become  non-aggressive, walk away. Millions of dogs are killed at shelters  because dog trainers are not experienced or educated correctly to solve  aggression. Dogs can change to become safe with the correct owner. Most  vocational schools and colleges have no idea how to educate a trainer on  how to fix aggression in dogs. Dog certifications from well known  groups are an opinion and nothing more. If you ask your dog  trainer to take their personal dog off leash and command the dog to walk  at their side, perform commands close and at a far distance, with other  dogs and animals as a distraction, without food manipulation or an  E-collar (Shock collar) and they are able to succeed in these tasks,  then hire that trainer. It is important the dog is displaying a  willingness to work with enthusiasm and not intimidation.  

References Supporting Article

Navy Seal's Dog Tips Click here for article

Police K-9 Training No Treats Click here for article

Dogs Are Carnivores Click here for article

Dogs Prefer Praise to Treats Click here for article

Training Myths Click here for article

Training Methods Click here for article

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