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Most of us have taken dog training courses, or at least heard about them. Many of the dog training terms they use can be confusing to us, almost as if they were spoken in a different language. Don’t worry; they are easier to understand than you might think!   Temperament This term is a bit self […]

The post 15 Dog Training Terms You Need to Know Now appeared first on Sit Boo Boo | TrainerHQ.

15 Dog Training Terms You Need to Know Now

Most of us have taken dog training courses, or at least heard about them. Many of the dog training terms they use can be confusing to us, almost as if they were spoken in a different language. Don’t worry; they are easier to understand than you might think!


  1. Temperament

This term is a bit self explanatory. Activity level, mood, attention span, curiosity, drives, social tendencies, ‘fight or flight’ responses are all common representations of a dog’s temperament. A dog’s temperament, in general, represents both behavior and responses to dog training.

Bulldog on his back

  1. Personality

A combination of behavioral, temperamental, emotional and mental traits & reactions fr/of an individual. Breed similarities can be compared to an extent. For example, Jack Russells were selectively bred to chase small game, so many will have a tendency to chase small animals. Breeds like Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs were bred to assist in herding livestock; many owners reported their dogs tend to ‘nip’ the heels of small children and other animals in an attempt to ‘drive them’.

  1. Dominance Theory

Cesar Millan made this controversial term popular among millions of pet owners across both the country and the world with his program ‘the Dog Whisperer’. The ‘Dominance Theory’ was once very popular among dog trainers, even long before Millan’s program aired.

The whole idea behind the dominance theory and dominance dog training was based upon a rather old zoological study observing the behavior of captive wolves. Like poorly conducted marketing research, the behavior of this one group of captive wolves was not only supposed to represent the entire wolf population of the world, domesticated or wild, the entire dog population as well.

We simply had very little evidence or knowledge of natural Canine behavior to work with at the time. Today, trainers are better prepared, now that biological knowledge in the area has advanced. The old ‘dominance theory’ dog training ideology is no longer nearly as popular as it once was.

Evidence has shown that wild wolves behave closer to that of a human family unit, as opposed to the hierarchal view of the past. The popular theory today is- Make the dog want to behave for you using positive, enjoyable methods, rather than fear the outcome if it doesn’t.


  1. Socialization:

This is exactly what the word implies- developing good social skills. Expose your puppy to as many variables the world has to offer as possible, let him learn the appropriate way to behave around those variables.

Good socialization is very important to help prevent overly anxious, fearful or defensive behavior. Dogs normally, if not separated too young by an irresponsible breeder, develop social skills among their littermates at puppyhood, normally during their first 8 weeks.

It is the responsibility of every pet owner to continue that socialization dog training with humans, other animals, and especially- children. It’s vastly important that the dog develops positive, enjoyable experiences with all of the above!


  1. Conditioning:

Trainers condition a behavior, causing the likelihood it will occur the way they want, by repeating their training methods multiple times.


  1. Classical Conditioning:

First developed by popular psychiatrist Ivan Pavlov, classical conditioning refers to a dog’s unconscious reaction to repeated stimuli. For example- the bell rings whenever the dog is about to receive food. The dog eventually learns the bell means he is about to receive food, and begins to salivate when the bell is rung, even before his food comes.


  1. Operant Conditioning:

This dog training terms is the strength of a behavior is consciously reinforced by the outcomes/responses it generates.

For example, the dog comes when you call it, so you offer a valuable reward. Once the connection between the reward and behavior (recall) is made, the dog is more likely to repeat it next time (come when called). The dog jumps through a hoop, so you offer a treat. The dog is more likely to want to jump through that hoop next time.


  1. Counter- Conditioning:

The trainer is building an emotional response to something in an environment, often to diminish a naturally occurring response already achieved. For example, it often takes some careful counter-conditioning to socialize an aggressive adult dog; this is a more advanced concept behaviorists (not all trainers are capable) use.

In its’ simplest terms, this is done by pairing something the dog dislikes with something he enjoys, until he no longer dislikes that thing because it means he will receive a reward.


  1. Desensitization:

This entails exposing the dog to something in low amounts, so low that the dog doesn’t consciously notice, and gradually increasing the exposure.

An example could be teaching a dog that dislikes water to swim by very gradually exposing it to water. ‘The boy threw the stuck just in front of him at first, but gradually further out into the water over time, until the dog had to swim out in order to retrieve it. The process was so gradual that the dog didn’t even notice the difference’.


10. Shaping

Gradually building a behavior, or ‘shaping it’ over time.

For example, agility trainers don’t start out with their dogs being able to compete at a world class level; they must start very small, and build difficulty over time, building the dog’s confidence as they show it what is desired of it.

The trainer starts by ‘luring’ the dog to walk over a pole on the ground, rewarding it for its’ efforts (reinforcing the behavior, see below), long before the dog is expected to leap over several hurdles standing five feet in the air.


  1. Reinforcement:

This dog training term is when a trainer reinforces the likelihood a behavior either will or won’t occur based on the training methods they use.

  1. Positive Reinforcement:

In the strictest sense, this dog training term means the occurrence a behavior is reinforced with the addition of a stimulus. Positive reinforcement dog training often refers to the addition of an enjoyable stimulus to reinforce a behavior.


  1. Negative Reinforcement

This is commonly misrepresented as indicating something unenjoyable, uncomfortable or painful for the dog; that isn’t at all what it means. Negative reinforcement dog training simply refers to the subtraction of something to reinforce the occurrence of a behavior.


  1. Positive Punishment:

Is a dog training term that means an undesirable or uncomfortable stimulus is applied to decrease the likelihood a dog’s behavior will occur. Examples- yelling, the ‘zap’ from an electric collar, the tightening of a slip collar (‘choke chain’), etc.


  1. Negative Punishment:

Taking something away from a dog to discourage behavior is considered negative punishment. This isn’t often used today because dogs, unlike human children, don’t easily understand the concept; it isn’t instinctual like the others above.


  1. Consistency:

Achieving the same response from a dog every time. The whole idea behind every form of dog training today is to achieve consistency in some aspect or another. Trainers should also practice consistency, being consistent in their methods; doing the exact same thing every time, or they risk causing confusion.

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