Glossary of terms

We’re providing this glossary so that we have a common language of terms. It will also serve as a reference since different people use different terms in training and that causes a lot of confusion. These might not all be “textbook” definitions because often those use too much jargon to be functional.

Technical Terms

Classical Conditioning

Creating anticipation through repetition of a pattern. Typically we are giving meaning to a signal that currently has no meaning to the dog. This is done by providing the signal and following it with an event that has meaning to the dog. This is what is happening when we “charge” or “condition” our markers.

  • Click or OK are always followed by a reward

  • OUT is always followed by a punishment

Counter Conditioning

Changing the meaning of a signal by changing the event that occurs after the signal.

Desensitizing

Exposing the dog to something in a way that decreases their arousal response to its presence.

Operant Conditioning

The observed result of increasing or decreasing the frequency of a behavior by connecting consequences to that behavior. There are two elements to operant conditioning:

  • the addition (Positive) or subtraction (Negative) of something

  • the observed effect of the addition or subtraction of something on the targeted behavior on the frequency of a behavior. Does the behavior increase (reinforcement) or decrease (punishment) in frequency

The  result is four “quadrants”:

  • Positive Reinforcement: adding something to make the behavior increase.

    • My dog sits more frequently because I give them a treat every time they do.

  • Negative Reinforcement: removing something to make the behavior increase.

    • My dog sits more frequently because I loosen pressure on their collar when they do.

  • Positive Punishment: adding something to make the behavior decrease.

    • My dog stops chewing an electrical cord because I throw a rolled up towel at them when they do.

  • Negative Punishment: removing something to make the behavior decrease.

    • My dog decides to stop jumping up on the couch with their kong because I take the kong away and put it back on the floor every time they do.

Two very important notes about using the terms in operant conditioning:

  1. We cannot say what any consequence is, in terms of operant conditioning, until we have observed the effect of the consequence on a target behavior.

  2. Punishment, reinforcement, positive, and negative all have clearly defined meanings.

Colloquial Terms

Punish

To apply an intolerable consequence to make a behavior stop. Positive Punishment.

Reward

To provide a tangible reward as a consequence to encourage a behavior. Positive Reinforcement.

Pressure

To apply force to get the dog to do the behavior we want. Negative Reinforcement.

Correction

To make correct, such as applying pressure as defined above, to get the dog to do the behavior we want. Negative Reinforcement.

Arousal

Any increase in the energy level of the dog in response to something, regardless of if it’s “good” (excitement) or “bad” (aggression) or “emotional” (fear, or anxiety)