The dog and you: Is this relationship healthy for you? Do you have any idea what makes dogs different from cats or other mammals? Most people have no idea about their animal friends and so they don’t know the answer to this question. Dogs are not rodents; they are not marsupials; they are not reptiles.
A dog is usually a domesticated wild carnivore of the genus Canidae. It’s the most common terrestrial carnivore, and is probably the most widespread terrestrial predator in the world. Domesticated dogs differ from other mammals in that they aren’t warm-blooded, instead they’re ectothermic, meaning that they require energy from an outside source to survive. Because dogs need to use energy to survive, they must learn to be more aware of their body temperature, which is a trait acquired from their ancestors’ ancestral origins of hunting and eating meat. This trait is the basis for operant conditioning or PPC.
Operant conditioning is simply a way of modifying a dog’s behavior through positive reinforcement or punishment. In microchipping, for instance, the trainer offers a small amount of money to the dog (microchip), and if the dog reaches or misses the mark on the lure within a certain time frame (the microchip being invisible to humans), the trainer will be rewarded with a larger monetary reward. With the dog consistently hitting or missing the lure, however, the trainer will often resort to physically punishing the dog through a variety of methods, such as vocalization or shaking the dog. Operant conditioning can also be implemented with negative reinforcers, which is essentially the reverse of rewards. If the dog does not respond correctly to a negative reinforcer, the dog is reinforced with a smaller amount of money, or sometimes nothing at all.
The reason that PPC is such a successful training method is because it is highly individualized and one dog may respond very well to one form of reinforcement while another may not. As mentioned earlier, each dog has an individual behavioral structure and as such is incapable of responding to a range of reinforcement. What one trainer may do with one dog may be very different than what another trainer would do with the same dog. However, as training methods have become more advanced, more refined techniques are being developed and being used by both dog trainers and researchers alike.
Clicker training relies on the use of a clicking device which is connected to the pulse of a dog’s dog collar, which can then be heard by the dog when his owner clicks the clicking device with his voice. Clicker training relies on the fact that a dog relies on his owner to provide him with the basic needs of food, attention, and exercise, which means that when these needs are not met the dog relies on the owner to provide this. Clicker training relies on the fact that a dog needs to learn that when you say “click” he must stop whatever he is doing and go to the location that is being cuesed by the clicking sound, and if you do not do this, then the dog will continue on his own path and correct his own behavior by making a sharp “click” noise with his teeth.
Con: This is probably the easiest form of dog training method to use, but it also results in the least desirable behavior of all. The motivation to please the owner who uses the clicking device and the dog do not mesh well, and when the desired behavior is not met, then the dog becomes upset, angry, and defensive. Con: It takes a trained dog owner to effectively use the clicker method. The sound of the click can be annoying to a puppy, and the constant clicking can eventually lead to anger and aggression toward his owners and other people. Con: This is the least desirable of all three training methods.