Hi! Welcome to the new Pawsitive Reinforcement dog training Philadelphia blog. I am going to start with my favorite topic in dog training, the ABCs. No matter what kind of pet you have, they are learning their ABCs from the moment they are born. It goes like this:
This is whatever happens before a behavior! It can be something intentional, like you saying the word “sit”. It can be something as scary as a firework or as simple as a nice smell drifting by. Frankly, anything in the world that happens can be an antecedent.
This is anything your pet does in response to the antecedent! Maybe your dog sits, or maybe your she cocks her head and stares at you adorably. Perhaps she barks after the mailperson walks by, or she whines and hides under the couch.
This is the big one, the one that is the easiest to manipulate to help get the desired behavior you want. The consequence is what happens after the behaviors. Perhaps she sat and she got a treat, she jumped on you and got scolded, or she pulled on the leash and got to sniff another Philadelphia dog. Training is all about managing these consequences, because whatever happens as a result of their behavior predicts whether or not your pup will do the same thing in reaction to the antecedent in the future.
So what does this mean for training? It means that when you want to see a behavior more often, make sure it has a fabulous consequence. The obvious example is A: you say “sit” B: your dog sits and C: your dog gets a treat. The consequence was awesome, so doggo is far more likely to sit next time you ask.
Let’s say your mailman walks by and your dog barks. Your mailman then walks away to go to the next house. In pupper’s head it went A: intruder approached B: I barked C: intruder went away. Next time they want the intruder to go away? More barking! So much barking! How do you stop your dog from barking?
Well, it’s time to change the consequence. Next time when the barking starts, the consequence could be shutting the blinds, they are asked to go their bed, they have to sit, they have to go in time out, etc. ** When the consequence no longer supports doing the behavior more, the behavior will slowly diminish. Even better is to reward the correct behavior. Set your dog up for success by getting them to focus on you and be doing something else while your mailman walks by. It’s a great time for a training sesh and you can reward your dog for doing other things like giving you her paw or rolling over. Train her that when the mailman comes by, instead of barking she should be running over to you to practice that cute new behavior and get rewards. Then it becomes A: Intruder shows up B: I run to mom/dad C: Treeeeeeats. For more on ABCs as it applies to dog training, check out S. G. Friedman’s article.
**It is NEVER a good idea to make the consequences something negative. Screaming at or hitting a dog may stop the behavior, but it will lead to other problems such as fear, unwillingness to participate, and aggression.