Dog Training and Behavior Terms

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ABCs of Behavior.
One of the most important parts of behavior is learning. Learning is modification of behavior and activities through experience and training. The three determining aspects of behavior popularly known as the ABC of behavior are: A- Antecedents, B- Behavior and C- Consequences. They are the tiniest units of analysis in behavior and are the basic components in understanding learning and the resulting transformation in behavior. They are used to determine and understand behavioral patterns and problems not only in dogs, other pets but also in humans. Minute observation especially by trained professionals is required to get a good idea of ABC in humans or animals. ABC Article.
Attempt to do harm. Aggression is defined as threatening or harmful behavior directed toward another individual, including dog on dog aggression, aggression toward people, and aggression toward other animals.
Antecedent Stimulus.
The conditions or incidents that take place immediately before a particular behavior are called antecedents. These are the events which work to make the animal display a particular behavior. They are sort of triggers which if occur, will fortify that particular behavior which follows the events. If we want to change a particular behavior, we have to successfully identify and change the antecedent. ABC Blog.
Giving human characteristics to non-human objects.
Appeasement Gestures.
Observable behaviors a dog uses to ask for space or to present himself as nonthreatening (I come in peace). Appeasement gestures may include scratching, yawning, licking lips, play bows, turning head (averted gaze) or body away, sniffing the ground (also see displacement behaviors), lifting up a paw, slowing down movement, freezing or a submissive grin. These signals are a normal part of dog interaction, but in some situations, they may be signs of stress. Dogs use appeasement gestures when they are feeling stressed, uncomfortable, or fearful. Dogs may also use appeasement gestures, or calming signals, to buy themselves some time.
Applied Behavior Analysis.
The process of solving practical behavior problems by changing the environment.
Activation of the nervous system generally. Stimulates action, or even inaction. Blog on Arousal!
Attention Span.
In animal training, the length of time the learner works for what you have to offer.
Any circumstance or event that causes pain, fear, or emotional discomfort. Tending to avoid or causing avoidance of a noxious or punishing stimulus.
The transfer of control of a learned response from one cue to another cue that consistently occurs prior to the first cue.
Increasing the probability of getting the target behavior by showing the learning the reinforcer before the behavior. Also known as luring.
Behavior Analysis.
The study of the functional relations between behavior and environmental events.
Behavior Chain.
A series of behaviors linked together in a continuous sequence by cues, and maintained by a reinforcer at the end of the chain. Each cue serves as the marker and the reinforcer for the previous behavior, and the cue for the next behavior.
Anything an individual does, given certain conditions, which can be observed or measured.
Bite Threshold.
Level of stress or stimulation at which a dog resorts to biting.
A bridge is a stimulus that closes the gap in time between the release and presentation of the reinforcer.
Bridging Stimulus.
A secondary reinforcer that can be delivered with extremely precise contiguity, hypothesized to bridge the gap between the instant the target behavior is emitted and the delivery of a primary reinforcer.
Calming Signals.
Subtle behavior used by dogs to avoid or diffuse confrontation and aggression. It is said that a dog uses signals to either calm themselves down or used to calm another. Signals can be offered and returned. Calming signals are a set of body language skills which dogs use to maintain healthy relationships and resolve conflict without having to resort to aggressive behaviors.
Captured Behavior.
Reinforcing an animal in the act of performing the complete behavior. Capturing is good for adding a cue to a behavior your dog already offers naturally.
A series of individual behaviors in which an animal is trained to perform in sequence. Each behavior provides the cue for the next behavior, and only the last behavior in the chain results in delivery of a primary reinforcer.
Classical Conditioning.
Also known as Respondent Conditioning. The process of associating a neutral stimulus with an involuntary response until the stimulus elicits the response.
Clicker Training.
Use of a clicker that uses positive reinforcement in combination with an event marker.
Animal trainers use a clicker as an event marker to mark a desired response. The sound of the clicker is an excellent marker because it is unique, quick, and consistent.
The practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.
Conditioned Emotional Response. CER
Form of a learned response whereby emotional reactions such as fear, anger or joy are elicited. Phobias that are established through classical/Respondent conditioning - thunderstorms to rain. CER's are learned emotional reactions like anxiety or happiness that occur as a response to predictive cues.
Conditioned Reinforcer.
A reinforcer effective because it has been previously paired with an unconditioned reinforcer or an already established conditioned reinforcer. Also called a secondary reinforcer.
Conditioned Response (cr).
In classical conditioning, the conditioned response is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus.
Conditioned Stimulus (cs).
In classical conditioning, the conditioned stimulus is a previously neutral stimulus that, after becoming associated with the unconditioned stimulus, eventually comes to trigger a conditioned response.
A biological process by which behavior is changed as a result of experience. Learning!
The experiences, developments or stimuli which occur right after the behavior are consequences. They are like feedback for the behavior performed and act as catalyst for repeating/strengthening the same behavior in the future. Edward Lee Thorndike, the first important animal researcher observed through his research what is now known as the ‘law of effect’. It states that ‘any behavior which is accompanied by satisfying and agreeable consequences maybe repeated and those which are followed by undesirable consequences will most probably be terminated.’
BEHAVIOR WHAT It's NOT Hypothetical constructs - constructs are a particular kind of label that goes beyond simple description of observable behaviors into the realm of hypothetical (one would say pseudo - science) explanations for why an animal behaves as it does. The cause of behavior is found in CONTEXTS, not in animals. There are always conditions on which behavior depends. Therefore changing conditions changes behavior. A concept "construct/label" cannot cause behavior because it has no tangible form. Cannot be measured.
Contiguity which states that things that occur near each other in time or space are readily associated. Time between a behavior and consequence. For learning to take place, the response must occur in the presence of or very soon after a stimulus is presented, or an association will not occur. In reality, this is a behaviorist view based on the idea that learning will occur only if events occur relatively close together in time.
The if/then relationship between a behavior and its controlling environmental variables (consequences).
Continuous Reinforcement. CRF
When a target behavior is reinforced each and every time it is exhibited.
Describes the process and/or procedure of countering previous respondent conditioning with new respondent conditioning. Means to teach dog to have a pleasant feeling or reaction to something they once feared or disliked. To “condition” means "to change behavior", and to “counter” means "to oppose", "to run contrary to," or "to reverse or go in the opposite direction." NOTE: With counter-conditioning, the animal's respondent behavior to a stimulus is replaced with an opposite automatic response.- Standard definition, as worded by Susan Friedman from professional LLA
Covert Behavior.
Behavior that cannot be observed by anyone other than the person performing the behavior (i.e. thinking, dreaming, etc.).
Antecedent stimulus that signals the availability of reinforcement, contingent on the appropriate behavior. Cues may be verbal, physical , or environmental.
The process of increasing an animal’s tolerance to a particular stimulus by gradually increasing the presence of the stimulus. In psychology, desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated (gradually) exposure to it.
Differential Reinforcement (DR)
Combines extinction and reinforcement to decrease the probability of an undesirable behavior while increasing the frequency of a desirable behavior. a. DRA – differential reinforcement of alternative behavior. b. DRI – differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior. c. DRO – differential reinforcement of other (or zero rates) of behavior. d. DRH – differential reinforcement of high rates of behavior. e. DRL – differential reinforcement of low rates of behavior.
Discriminative Stimulus
An antecedent stimulus that indicates the availability of reinforcement, contingent on a behavior. The discriminative stimulus indicates to the dog that if they do the behavior reinforcement is available.
Everything internal and external surroundings has relevance to behaving organism. Surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.
Establishing Operation (eo)
Temporally altering a reinforcer for overall effectiveness of that reinforcer. Usually by taking away it's availability temporally to make it more effective. Giving less attention can increase the effectiveness of attention.
The process of decreasing behavior by permanently removing the maintaining reinforcer. When operant behavior that has been previously reinforced no longer produces reinforcing consequences the behavior gradually stops occurring.
Extinction Burst
A burst of activity (behavior). When a previous behavior has been reinforced and now stopped being reinforced an animal will keep trying that behavior faster, harder, again and again.
To slowly remove all prompts so that the cue (SD) alone leads to the behavior.
An emotional response, including both operants and respondents, defined by signs of sympathetic nervous system arousal, stress, and escape or avoidance behaviors. A distressing emotion aroused by imminent danger, unpleasant, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
Fixed Duration (fd)
A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that the target behavior must be exhibited continuously for a specified period of time, at which point reinforcement is delivered.
Fixed Interval (fi)
A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that reinforcement is delivered immediately following the first response exhibited after a specific interval of time has passed.
Fixed Ratio (fr)
A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that reinforcement is delivered following the final response after a fixed number of responses have occurred.
A form of behavior therapy, based on the principles of respondent extinction, in which a subject is exposed, usually at full intensity, to an aversive stimulus, where escape behavior is prevented, until escape responding ceases. Also called “exposure and response prevention.” It is sometimes referred to as exposure therapy or prolonged exposure therapy
Free Shaping
Shaping, or as it's regularly known, “shaping by successive approximations,” this simply means breaking down a behavior into tiny increments, and reinforcing the dog at each incremental step until you've achieved the full behavior (end goal). That is, the trainer does not prompt any responses, but rather waits patiently for the approximation and provides reinforcement whenever it occurs.
Emotional behavior resulting from being prevented from fulfilling one's goals. Frustration can trigger aggressive responses. A feeling of dismay, often followed by anxiety or depression, resulting from unsatisfied needs or unresolved problems.
Functional Assessment
Is a way of looking at the OPERANT "causes or reasons of learned behaviors". VARIABLES that are related to behavior and environmental events. Knowing the function of a problem behavior can help determine an appropriate solution. "Is a procedure that determines under which conditions a behavior problem occurs". Functional analysis is the process of systematically testing the ABC hypothesis. Antecedent, behavior, Consequence.
A behavior is said to have generalized if the trained behavior occurs at other times or in other places without having to be retrained completely in those particular times or places, or if functionally related behaviors occur that were not trained directly.
Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer.
A conditioned reinforcer that has been associated with a variance of unconditioned reinforcers. Praise often achieves this standard.
The diminishing of an instinctive response to a frequently repeated stimulus. Therefore people or animals become used to something, so that they no longer find it unpleasant or think it is a threat:
Head halter.
Head halters fit similarly to a horse’s halter, a halter gives a handler more control of the dog’s head, making it easier to manage a dog on leash until the dog has been taught to walk at the handler’s side. The basic logic of a halter is: Where the head goes, the body will follow.
Intermittent Reinforcement.
Reinforcement is given only part of the time a subject gives the desired response.
Interval Reinforcement.
A schedule of reinforcement, which sets the rule that reinforcement is delivered immediately following the first response exhibited after a specific interval of time has passed. It is a schedule of reinforcement where the first response is rewarded only after a specified amount of time has elapsed.
Jackpot or Jackpotting.
A large-reward given after an exceptional effort.
Latency is the time between the cue and the beginning of the pet's response, the behavior.
Law of Effect.
Edward Lee Thorndike, the first important animal researcher observed through his research what is now known as the ‘law of effect’. It states that ‘any behavior which is accompanied by satisfying and agreeable consequences maybe repeated and those which are followed by undesirable consequences will most probably be terminated.’
A biological process by which behavior is changed as a result of experience. Conditioning!
Luring simply involves using a food reward to guide the dog into the desired position or behavior. Example: place a piece of food by a sitting dogs nose and start luring him into a down position.
A signal through conditioning indicates a correct behavior that will result in reward. Typically, to be effective, the signal should be within 1.5 seconds of the behavior. A clicker is a marker.
Matching Law.
The relative rate of responding on two concurrent schedules of reinforcement equals the relative rate of reinforcement on those two schedules.
Negative punishment (P-).
Negative punishment occurs when a certain reinforcing stimulus is removed after a specific undesired behavior is exhibited, resulting in the behavior happening less often in the future.
Negative reinforcement (R-).
'Negative reinforcement is the removal of an adverse stimulus which is ‘rewarding’ to the animal or person. Negative reinforcement strengthens behavior because it stops or removes an unpleasant experience.'
Neutral Stimulus.
A stimulus that does not evoke or elicit the behavior in question.
No Reward Marker (NRM).
A no reward marker is usually a cue or sound that informs your dog that whatever they just did has ended the possibility of reinforcement.
Behavior that operates on the environment to produce consequences.
Operant conditioning (also called instrumental conditioning)
Is a type of associated learning process based on a certain behavior in which a behaviors strength is modified through reinforcement or punishment. A method of learning that engages in punishment or reinforcement for a behavior.
Overshadowing is when we present two or more more stimuli at one time, and one stimulus produces a stronger response than the other because it is more relevant or salient.
Positive Punishment
Use of aversive stimuli to decrease or change a behavior. The addition of an unpleasant stimulus in order to decrease the frequency of an unwanted behavior. P+ is commonly called “Avoidance Training” and is one of the four quadrants of Operant Conditioning.
Predatory Drift
“Predatory Drift” is a term that was coined either by Ian Dunbar and we believe first published by Jean Donaldson. This is when a large dogs acceptable behavior shifts to predatory behavior. This is known to happen with large and small dog interactions an example can be when a small dog squeals and runs away in fright. This is one of the biggest reasons dog parks and play groups are separated by size. This phenomenon can be very dangerous.
Premack's principle
''the more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.''  Animals are willing to perform a less desirable (come) activity to get at the more desirable activity (etc. go play with other dogs). That is, if the animal gets to do a certain behavior right after doing a lower probability behavior, the lower probability behavior will be reinforced.
Prey Drive
More accurately referred to as “Predatory Instinct.” Dogs are carnivores and have a natural instinct to chase moving things and take them down "prey/nature". Many dogs are breed for controlling the natural orient, eye , stalk , chase , grab bite , kill bite , dissect. For example herding dogs are breed to stalk and chase therefore may not bite or engage in the take down sequence of predation.
 NOTE: For most animal behaviorists, predatory behavior refers to those behaviors involved in the location, capture and consumption of prey. It is part of the feeding behavior system for those animals that capture and consume other animals for food, such as dogs, hyenas, snakes and dragonflies.
Rate of Reinforcement
Rate of reinforcement is the frequency in which a dog is rewarded. We can determine this by how many times we reinforce a dog within a minute. Then we divide 60 by the number of reinforcements given. For new learners the rate of reinforcement should be high especially with any high distractions. (ETC 15-20 reinforcements per minute) ...also see matching law
Many professionals use the label reactivity or reactive to describe certain observable behaviors. Usually it's a dog that is lunging, barking, growling, spinning or lunging to name a few. Especially when they see a certain trigger (stimuli). A dog is usually on leash when reactive but many also use the term when off leash too. ETC doorbell or behind a fence (see barrier frustration) A reactive dog is usually trying to ward off or escape a stimulus. A reactive dog is usually fearful, a frustrated greeter or even related to some type of aggression.

See our blog section on reactive dogs

In operant conditioning, "reinforcement" refers to anything that increases the likelihood that a response will occur. A consequence a dog finds pleasurable or desirable. Operant conditioning, researched and made popular by B.F. Skinner, is the learning theory where punishment or reward follows a behavior to make it more likely (McLeod,2015)

See Operant Conditioning for more...

Resource guarding
When a dog protects anything it perceives of value. What a dog perceives of value depends on each individual dog and it can be anything from food to a leaf on the ground.

See Operant Conditioning for more...

Shaping is a conditioning paradigm used primarily in the experimental analysis of behavior. The method used is differential reinforcement of successive approximations. It was introduced by B. F. Skinner with pigeons and extended to dogs, dolphins, humans and other species. Shaping, or as it's formally known, “shaping by successive approximations,” simply means breaking down a behavior into tiny increments, and reinforcing the dog at each incremental step until you've achieved the full behavior.
Every day a puppy is learning about the surrounding world and growing. What they experience in these formative years (Stages of Puppyhood) play an integral role in the personality they will develop as they turn into adult dogs.As you could guess, well-socialized puppies most often turn into well-socialized dogs.The prime socialization period is 8-12 weeks but can extend from 3-18 weeks.A well socialized dog grows into a confident dog in all different environmental context and able to effectively communicate in their social group. Read more on how to socialize your puppy and How a puppy develops...
Stimulus Control
When a dog performs a behavior on cue quickly, anywhere, and under a wide variety of conditions, the behavior is said to be under stimulus control.
Stress is an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressure placed upon it to change or adapt.
Systematic Desensitization
To make less sensitive. To reduce or eliminate in small steps the exaggerated emotional based reaction (fear response) that an animal has to a specific triggers etc. sounds, other animals, people or any stimulus.
It's a way to measure a dogs emotional state in different environmental context. Think of it as a distance from a scary stimulus, if a dog is far enough it's relaxed and calm. If a dog is at it's threshold it will be mildly stressed and anxious. If a dog is over threshold it will be reactive (anxious, barking, fearful).
Variable Schedule of Reinforcement
Where an unpredictable amount of time have passed before getting rewarded for a response, or a number of behaviors required before getting reinforced. This keeps a dog motivated like a human playing a slot machine.

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