Dog Training Learning Theories

Classical/Operant Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov conducted many experiments with dogs in the early 1900's. He wanted to condition, or train, an automatic response by creating an association between a stimulus that normally wouldn't have an effect on an animal with one that would. He is a very good dog trainer and you can learn a lot of good dog training tips from him...

By presenting food to a group of dogs as to create a salivary response, Pavlov began ringing a bell before presenting the food. At first the dogs did not salivate until the food was present, but eventually, they began salivating when they heard the ringing of the bell.

Classical conditioning is very important when training animals because it can be hard to give the subject something that it normally likes or dislikes exactly when the behavior was preformed as to create an important consequence for the behavior. Teaching the animal to respond to a secondary stimulus, one that must be taught to be liked or disliked, such as a bell or clicker, helps to insure the behavior will occur again. The secondary stimulus is also called a bridge because it bridges the time between the behavior and the reward.

B. F. Skinner formed a theory about an animal's association between two stimuli, the behavior and the consequence, known as the response stimulus. He did this by creating a cage, the Skinner box, with a pedal or bar on one wall that, when pressed, causes a mechanism to release a food pellet or treat into the cage. Skinner spent fifty years studying rats, pigeons, children, and even adults, as to prove his theory correct.

Skinner's experiments resulted in Operant Conditioning where he concluded that a response can be altered by two consequences: positive or negative.

Operant Conditioning is the process of the subject "operating" the environment, but the stimulus must be immdiate, or clearly linked with the behavior allowing the animal to know what he has done is right. There are four consequences in operant conditioning: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.