Practical Application of Behavioral Principles in Dog Training

Behaviorist’s Perspective

– “Behavior is simply a response to environmental stimuli.”


Classical Conditioning:

Marker Systems

-Marker starts as a neutral stimulus (NS)

-Marker is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) that is know to produce an   unconditioned response (UCR) of value in training.

-Marker takes on the power of the UCS and becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) and      has the power to elicit a UCR (CR when prompted by CS) from the subject.  

-NS must predict UCS in order to become CS

-CS can now be used as a consequence in operant model


-Reward markers

-Clicker, verbal, collar tone, etc

-“Non reward markers

-Popular amongst “r+ only crowd

-Blurred lines between P- and non reinforcement 

-Pain marker 

-“No” is a common example.  I often predicts pain.


Remember this about classical conditioning:

-A neutral stimulus predicts an unconditioned stimulus and elicits a predictable,   reflexive response repeatedly until the NS gains the power of the UCS

Operant Conditioning 


– A response from the environment (a consequence of a behavior)


Positive Reinforcement (R+)

-Examples are everywhere (Frameworks)

-Lure and reward


-Often combined with formal marker sx

-Mark must predict reinforcer




-Timing of mark is tough

-Shot bird “retrieve”


Negative Punishment (P-)

-Removal of or withholding favorable stimulus to make behavior less likely to occur.

-Taking away child’s TV privileges example


-Engaged over food reward example

-Bird flying away upon motion from bird dog

-Blurred lines with R+ (non reinforcement)

-Engagement, break engagement, reengage 

-Dog should be solicitous 

-Bird flies away, but is also stimulating  


Negative Reinforcement (R-)

– Escape -> Avoidance (Frameworks)

-Action alleviates 

-Pain, discomfort, annoyance

-Learning to escape in the present leads to learning to avoid in the future

-FF example (Continuous “pressure”, to abbreviated “pressure” (nick), to   no pressure.



-Collars (Mechanical advantage)

-Healing stick



-Leash “pressure” intro w place

-Leash healing 

-Collar conditioning 



Positive Punishment (P+)

-Aversive Correction 

-Pain is the consequence of an undesirable behavior

-Often marked with “No”

-“Singular learning event” -Sean Siggins

-Snake aversion

-Trash breaking hounds

-Blurred Lines with R-

-Fighting away from aversive stim (snake aversion)

-Stepping off “place” initiates “pressure”, stepping on alleviates 


“The opposite of reinforcement is not punishment, Its non-reinforcement” – Michael Ellis

None of the quadrants is an island and operant conditioning is not a method.  


Drive and Drive Manipulation 

Drive – Increased arousal and internal motivation to reach a particular goal. 

Primary vs Secondary Drives


-Directly tied to survival


-Acquired drives


Drive Building 

-Frustration and opposition reflex

-Increasing value

-Rag play

-Drag to bird

-Developing resilience

-Increasing distractions in drive

-“pain loading”

-Capturing triggers or catalysts for drive

-Context (stepping on the field)


-“Making Monsters” -Jerry Bradshaw


Drive Capping 

-“Controlled chase”

-Harnessing drive


-Premack’s Principle

-May not be the perfect place to discuss.  Behavior of high probability reinforces   behavior of lower probability.  

-“Exercise control now, and I’ll give you the super high value behavior”

-Bites for obedience

-Controlled chase …retrieve on cue

-Release to field

-“Releasing” to the high value (reinforcing) behavior

-I don’t command to track, bite, or hunt. I release to those   behaviors


Drive neutrality

-Neutralizing triggers

-Putting the shot out of order

-un-pair conditioned triggers from unconditioned triggers 

-Gunshot = falling bird, predicted by flush

-Decoy + clatter and yell doesn’t equal bite

-Sometimes passivity does

-Sometimes behaviors directly following triggers are punished



“You can’t push a rope” – Unknown

You can’t force a dog to hunt.