Are you teaching your dog what you think you are?

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

To train dogs effectively, it is important that we first understand the science behind learning. In this post I will introduce you two basic foundational models for learning, however it is important to note that this is only a small portion of the vast science that is learning theory. By understanding how it is that all living beings learn, from worms to elephants to humans, we can establish the most effective methods of teaching and modifying target behaviors across species.

Evidence-based in my opinion is not merely about keeping up with the science of learning theory as a whole, and remaining current with the ever-increasing body of research. It is also about thinking critically about the strategies used in each and every case, and using data to back the choices we make with each dog, to inform the process and increase the chances of success.

What is Operant Conditioning?

Around 1938, a psychologist named B.F. Skinner developed a more detailed process for changing behavior, known today as operant conditioning. Operant conditioning basically says, that an organism changes its behavior based on the effect the behavior has on the environment. Skinner outlined 4 consequences that affect behavior, with two main categories:

Reinforcement - is anything that increases the chances of a behavior happening again.