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Type: Training Techniques

Alpha Roll

A technique used by compulsion and rank-reduction based trainers as a form of punishment. The technique involves flipping the dog onto its back and holding it in that position, usually by the throat.

The alpha roll is said to mimic a behavior found in wolves, where dominant individuals force submissive ones onto their backs during contests, although this is disputed.

Avoidance Training

The process of training a dog to perform a desired behavior in order to escape or avoid an unpleasant, aversive consequence.

For example, a trainer might call out “Come!”, wait a couple of seconds, and then activate her dog’s e-collar.  After a number of repetitions, the dog will learn that the only way to avoid the shock is to run towards his owner when he hears the word “Come!”.

Board and Train

Dog training that involves the owner sending their dog away for a period of days or weeks, during which time the trainer works with the dog on his issues without the owner being present.  Sometimes the owner comes to the board and train facility during the dog’s stay so that the trainer can update them on their progress and teach them what the dog has learned.  Others provide this information after the board and train period is over.

Board and Train trainers can be employed for puppy housetraining, basic obedience, or more complex issues requiring behavior modification.

Capturing

A technique used in mark and reward training.  The trainer waits for the dog to naturally perform a desired behavior, and then marks and rewards the behavior, eventually putting it on cue.  For example, a clicker trainer might click and treat a dog for stretching in the morning in order to teach “take a bow”.

Chaining

A behavior chain is when more than one behavior is performed in response to a stimulus. For example, telling a dog to go to his bed and then telling him to lie down.  After enough repetitions, when the dog is told to go to his bed, he will automatically lie down without being told.

Chaining is the deliberate creation of a behavior chain.  Back chaining is a kind of chaining where the final behavior in a chain is taught first and given a very strong reinforcement history, so that the dog develops a CER+ to performing it.  Each behavior is reinforced by the opportunity to perform the next behavior in the chain.

Compulsion Training

Training techniques that aim at creating an environment where the dog only has the option to perform the behaviors the trainer desires him to and cannot – or would be very unlikely to – choose to do anything else.  Usually this is accompanied by heavy use of punishment to obtain compliance.

Constructional Aggression Treatment

CAT is a behavior modification technique developed by Dr Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Kellie Snyder. The technique involves exposing the dog to something that it is usually aggressive towards or frightened of at a distance where those reactions are not triggered, then waiting for the dog to offer a calming signal or appeasement behavior. When the dog offers the behavior, the trigger should be removed.

Correction

Giving a correction means administering a punishment to a dog as soon as he performs an undesirable behavior.

“Correction” can also refer to the aversive stimulus itself: e-collars are often advertised as having multiple “correction levels”, meaning different strengths of shock.

Crate and Rotate

A method of management for owners of multiple dogs with aggression issues towards one another.  When one dog is interacting with the owner in the household, the other dog is confined to a crate.  The owner’s time is split between all dogs.

Crate Training

The process of teaching a dog to enter a crate and spend periods of time confined to the crate.

Crate training can be used for:

  • Housetraining
  • Destructive or thieving tendencies when left alone
  • A safe place for a dog suffering from storm phobia

Desensitization

The gradual exposure to something that scares the dog, over a prolonged period of time. The exposure is started as at low a level as possible, so that the dog does not become frightened or aggressive.  As the dog demonstrates relaxation in the presence of the trigger at that level, the level is slowly increased.

For example, fear of a specific noise can be treated with desensitization  by making a recording of the noise and playing it at a very quiet volume, so that the dog barely notices it.  The volume is increased incrementally over several sessions, each time giving the dog a chance to become fully relaxed.

Desensitization is often paired with counter-conditioning in the acronym DS/CC, because they happen at the same time in a successful behavior modification setup.

Differential Reinforcement of an Alternative Behavior

In behavior modification, DRA is used to prevent a dog from performing undesirable behaviors, by reinforcing something else the dog does in the presence of the same stimulus.

For example, a dog might elicit attention when his owner is working at her desk by pawing at her, or by sitting at her feet.  If the dog’s owner gives her dog attention when he sits at her feet, but withholds attention when he paws at her, she is differentially reinforcing the sit.  It is expected that over time, the behavior of pawing would decrease and may disappear completely, and the behavior of sitting would increase.

Distance

For a behavior to be considered proofed, it has to be able to be performed at some distance, for a duration that the owner decides, and with some distractions.
When a dog can reliably perform a behavior on cue with the owner right next to him, the next step is often to give the cue at a very short distance away from the dog, and then gradually to increase the distance.  The amount of distance required depends on the behavior and the dog’s situation

Distraction

For a behavior to be considered proofed, it has to be able to be performed at some distance, for a duration that the owner decides, and with some distractions.
When a dog can reliably perform a behavior on cue, the owner can start asking for it when there are other interesting things in the environment.  For example, from teaching the dog to lie down in a quiet room, the owner could then ask for a down with another person present, or outside.

Do As I Do

A set of dog training techniques developed by Claudia Fugazza, based on modeling.  The idea is to teach the dog to copy his owner’s movements, which can then be used to teach him new behaviors and tricks.

Dominance down

The act of punishing a dog by holding him down, usually flat on the floor but sometimes on his back or side.  Similar to an alpha roll, and part of the same kind of dominance theory.  The major difference between the two is that in an alpha roll, the dog is moved onto his side or back – rolled – whilst on the ground, whereas in a dominance down the dog is not usually flipped over once he is already on the ground.  Both techniques involve forcibly holding the dog in position.

Duration

For a behavior to be considered proofed, it has to be able to be performed at some distance, for a duration that the owner decides, and with some distractions.
When a dog can reliably perform a behavior on cue, the owner can start gradually increasing the time the dog must stay in position before he is released.  How long the dog needs to be able to stay in position depends on the behavior and the needs of the owner.

Emergency U-Turn

A behavior taught to dogs to help them make a quick exit from potentially scary situations.  The dog is taught a cue to turn around and walk back the way he came.  This is considered especially important in the management of fearful and reactive dogs.

Free Shaping

A kind of shaping used by mark and reward trainers, with the aim of encouraging independent and creative thought. In a free shaping session, the trainer has no desired behavior in mind and does not prompt the dog to do anything. The dog offers behaviors by himself that the trainer can choose to reinforce and then take as the basis for further shaping.

Jerk

A method of punishing a dog. A short, sharp tug on the dog’s leash or collar with the aim of causing him some pain, which is aversive. Also called a “leash pop”.

Look At That (LAT)

A game, detailed in Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed, which uses operant conditioning as part of a behavior modification protocol.  The dog is marked and rewarded for looking at a trigger, which is far enough away that the dog does not feel anxious about it.  The behavior of looking at the trigger can then be put on cue; this is said to relieve some of the dog’s anxiety as the trigger is then perceived to be part of a trick.

Putting looking at the trigger on cue is said to be good for behavior modification because it allows the dog to automatically refocus on the handler, making him less likely to react to the trigger.

No-Reward Marker

A marker – usually a word like “Nope!” or a sound like “Uh-Uh” – that signifies to the dog that he will not be rewarded for performing a behavior because he has made an error.

For example, if an owner gives her dog the cue to sit, and he lies down instead, the owner could use a no-reward marker (NRM) instead of her usual reward marker.  The idea is that the dog would then understand that he should try something else.

No-Reward Markers are not used by all mark and reward trainers, and are never used in errorless learning scenarios or in free shaping.  There is some debate about whether NRMs cause frustration, and ought to be part of the Purely Positive Training philosophy.

 

Relaxation Protocol

A set of mat work exercises developed by Dr Karen Overall. The RP involves rewarding a dog for showing genuinely relaxed behavior on a mat, and gradually introduces various factors like distractions, distance from the handler, and duration. The aim is to teach the dog to remain relaxed even in changing and novel environments.

Release Word

A cue that signals to the dog that they can move from the position the trainer has them in. For example, a trainer might say “okay” to tell the dog he can get up from his down-stay.

Reliability

How often a dog performs a given behavior on cue. Clicker trainers look for around 80% reliability – the dog successfully performing the cued behavior eight times out of ten – before introducing more complexity, distraction, distance or duration to the behavior.

SATS

Syn Alia Training System, a set of animal training techniques developed by Kayce Cover.

SATS uses four main elements, which are:

  • Intermediate Bridges.  These are verbal markers that tell a dog that they are approximating the desired behavior but has not yet successfully completed it.
  • Target Training.  Targets are used to prompt the dog to perform a given behavior.  Shaping and luring are never used.
  • Conditioned relaxation.  Dogs are classically conditioned to relax on cue.
  • Perception modification, a set of behavioral modification protocols.

Scruff

The scruff is the loose skin on the back of a dog’s neck, which a mother will hold if she needs to carry her puppies.  Scruffing a dog is a kind of positive punishment, involving holding the dog by the scruff, making prolonged eye contact, and usually shaking him.

Shaping

A technique commonly used in clicker training, where a dog is reinforced for performing successive approximations of a desired behavior. As the dog gets closer to a perfect execution of the behavior, the trainer reinforces only the closest examples and stops reinforcing the less accurate ones. For example, a dog might be shaped to stand on a box by marking and rewarding him for moving toward the box; putting one foot on the box, then two feet, then standing on the box.

 

Successive Approximations

In shaping, trainers aim to reward when a dog performs a behavior that is close to the target behavior. For example, a trainer who is trying to teach a dog to put a toy in a basket might reward the dog for moving toward the basket with a toy, then dropping the toy near the basket, then only for dropping the toy right in the basket. The dog “homes in” on the right behavior as the trainer raises the criteria.

Targeting

When a dog is trained to touch a target – usually with his nose or paw – on cue. Targeting is a way to teach a dog to perform behaviors, for example a dog might be taught to lie on his bed by first being cued to target the trainer’s hand when it is held over the bed.

Training Levels

A system of positive reinforcement training developed by Sue Ailsby. The Levels lay out how to teach a set of foundation behaviors and gradually increase the difficulty of training so that that behaviors become reliable and proofed against distractions.

TTouch

Tellington TTouch is a system of body work and massage created by Linda Tellington-Jones and intended to work with all animals that can be handled.  There is no published research demonstrating the effect of TTouch in dogs, however practitioners claim that it can be used to relieve anxiety and other behavioral problems.