There are many different ideas that are deemed the best way to train, everyone has their own opinion. However there are some that are scientific fact, which is the science of dog training.
Thorndike’s Law of effect, created by Edward Thorndike back in 1905, tells us that if something really good immediately follows a behaviours it is more likely to be repeated in the future. It is the basis for most trainers, a simple example being, sit quickly followed by a treat equals more sits. It is important to remember that the timing is crucial!
Skinner who brought us Learning Theory tells us that although dogs control themselves (some less favourably than others!) we can have a big impact on changing it. If a dog likes to jump but we don’t want that, we ignore them; the dog gets no attention for jumping, so they stop (most of the time!) Good results for the dog, they do that behaviour more often, bad results for the dog, behaviour stops. During training we will use cues and hand signals for the dog to react too. This isn’t ‘because we want to’ it’s scientific. When you ask your dog to sit, they anticipate a treat so their more likely to do it.
When we get more scientific about it we start talk about Antecedence, behaviour and consequence. The cue is the antecedent, the behaviour speaks for itself, and the consequence is what the dog gets out of it. This is learning theory, so, you ask your dog to ‘sit’, he sits, he gets a treat. This method also works when you are not paying attention, dogs are always learning, even when you are not in the room. A common scenario is, the dog smells food on the counter, he jumps on the counter, and he gets the food. This is the kind of training that you don’t want your dog taking part in.
As trainers, we use this to assess dog’s behaviours. We find out what the antecedent is, why is the dog doing that, what exactly is the dog doing? When working with many behaviours we will read it exactly for what it is rather than assuming it is something that it’s not. Assuming is not scientific, and you should never assume anything. This is why it is important to bring trainers in for problems you are having with your dog, they know what to look for and know what questions to ask. When the antecedent has been realised, the behaviour and therefore the consequences can be changed.
So you see why having a qualified and certified trainer is important. People you have learned just by growing up with dogs are not good enough. We all ate food growing up but that doesn’t make us nutritionists.