What Is Behavior Modification Training?

what is behavior modification training

Where does correcting a dog’s behavior begin? How does it go? How long will it take to resolve the problem? The list of questions that owners have in connection with the need to correct the dog’s behavior can be continued indefinitely.

For this, you need to train your dog in behavior modification. So, in this article let’s know what is behavior modification training.

What Is Behavior Modification Training?

Dogs are no longer alike from the start, and the unique conditions that led to the emergence of this or that problem make the differences between them simply colossal. Therefore, only very approximate forecasts can be made in absentia, and to correctly solve problems, the consulting dog handler needs to be well acquainted with the situations. So, let’s know about behavior modification training.

Accepting The Fact That There Is A Problem:

The first stage can well be called preliminary, but it sets the tone for all subsequent therapy. Until this point, the problem arises, grows, and begins to cause concern. Sometimes the owner tries to fight it, more often he tries to explain to himself why this behavior should not be changed.

There are an innumerable number of explanations for the reasons that prompted the dog to behave in one way or another, but none of them can be called truthful. Stop fooling yourself. Intellectually, you understand perfectly well that all of this is just an attempt to convince yourself that everything is fine with the dog.

Problem Analysis:

This stage is inextricably linked with the previous one; they proceed more in parallel than sequentially. Once the necessary information has been collected, the dog handler can analyze the data and try to find the root cause of the problems. 

Most likely, some information received from the owner will require clarification and the consultant will have to ask the owner any additional questions.

For example, a dog is aggressive towards strangers, and it becomes clear that its behavior is driven by fear. 

In this case, solving the problem of aggression as such will be useless until the owners help the dog reassess the situation and it can cope with its fears. You will likely be able to cope with fear only when its cause is clear.

Estimation Of The Probability Of A Successful Solution:

This is a very important and delicate stage. Even if the owner has a strong desire to deal with the problem, not every situation can be brought back to normal in a more or less reasonable time. 

Sometimes it can take months, or even years, to overcome a crisis; sometimes even in such a time, it is not possible to achieve even the slightest significant results.

The consultant can estimate the time required for correction based on his experience in solving similar problems, but even in this case, the time frame will only be approximate. Very often it is impossible to set an exact deadline after which one should expect a complete change in the situation.

In addition, some factors have an extremely negative impact on the prediction of correction time. For example, organic damage to the nervous system, disease, the age of the dog, or serious psychological trauma at an early age. 

You need to understand that in such cases it may be not so much about correcting the dog’s behavior as about revising the owner’s views on the dog’s behavior.

Prioritization:

Communication with a consultant often raises the morale of the dog owner, and he, full of determination, is ready to go ahead, regardless of obstacles. At this stage, the dog handler needs to cool the owner’s ardor a little draw up a clear treatment plan, and develop a “road map” for solving problems.

 The owner’s strength must be properly distributed over the entire period of correction and not allowed to burn out in a couple of days.

Many problems are not solved “head-on”, since a direct impact on the dog’s deviant behavior can lead to fierce resistance on the part of the animal. Even in cases where the simplest and most obvious approach seems to be the use of punishment, it is worth considering all alternative options.

Increasing the punishment can make the dog panicky about the owner, which will lead to an escalation of aggression. If the dog is large, his response will frighten the owner, fear will make the person retreat and he will lose faith in the success of the entire event.

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Development Of Problem-Solving Methods:

The main task of this stage is to find a method of influencing the dog that, at a minimum, will not lead to an increase in deviant behavior. The main idea is to not harm! You need to start therapy carefully, first trying to at least stabilize the problem. And only then can measures be taken to eliminate it.

Based on all the collected data, the consultant dog handler thinks through the purely technical aspects of the impact on the dog, including adapting standard methods to the specific situation in a specific family.

The effectiveness of the impact depends not so much on the technical perfection of the methods, but on whether the owner accepts them and is ready to use them. If the proposed option, for example, punishment, seems too harsh for the owner, there is no point in insisting on its implementation, since the effectiveness of its use will be very small.

It is important to maintain feedback with the owner and feel his mood when suggesting this or that method. Dog owners must understand why certain actions need to be performed.

Actions To Solve The Problem:

This stage depends almost entirely on the owner. A canine consultant can show how to act in this or that case, but the owner himself always does the daily work.

In other words, it both arises within a specific environment and is assessed as a problem only by specific people. Therefore, it is precisely those people who are with the dog constantly who must implement all the recommendations. This will also allow owners to learn to feel their dog and gain control over it.

It is very important that the consultant dog trainer explains to the dog’s owner what should and should not be expected from the dog after behavior correction begins. It is unlikely that a miracle will happen and everything will change in one day. The situation will change gradually, there will be successes, but there will also be failures.

You shouldn’t give up if something goes wrong, but you shouldn’t relax when the first serious successes appear. Problem behavior takes a long time to form and becomes a habit, and replacing one habit with another will require a lot of work.

The number of meetings with the dog handler at this stage can vary greatly. If the dog’s behavior begins to change, there is no need for frequent meetings. If, after the agreed time, the owner does not see any changes, you need to meet and find out what exactly the owner did and why his actions did not have an effect.

Evaluation Of Results:

After the agreed time has passed, the consulting dog handler and the dog’s owner should contact and discuss the results. Perhaps the change in the dog’s behavior was not complete and not too dramatic, but the dog’s owner may be satisfied with both the degree of change and the ongoing dynamics. In this case, you can leave the treatment strategy unchanged and continue working.

In no case should this stage be viewed only as reaping the fruits of work. A correct assessment of the successes achieved will allow you to evaluate both the degree of changes achieved in the dog’s behavior and the degree of mutual understanding that has arisen between you and the pet. Correcting a dog’s behavior always has a double effect.

We teach the dog to behave correctly, but this same work forces the owner to reconsider his behavior to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future. Any problem is a serious test of strength for both sides of the conflict.

Behavior Modification Techniques:

The majority of behavior modification approaches are easily learned and effective as preventative measures. But they do demand a consistent time and effort commitment. Here’s a quick rundown of the fundamental ideas behind these methods.

Reinforcement:

Any occurrence that raises the likelihood that a particular behavior will be repeated is considered reinforcement. Reinforcements may come in the form of good or bad. The behavior and its results have a favorable link when training uses positive reinforcement or a reward.

The pet receives more positive reinforcement for its actions the more of them it engages in. This leads to an increase in that behavior. Negative reinforcement, often misinterpreted as punishment, is unpleasant behavior that, when removed, causes an increase in that behavior.

For instance, a wriggling puppy might not enjoy being held closely. However, the puppy must settle down before the grasp is removed. The possibility that the puppy will relax more quickly will rise when the restraint is removed a few times.

Habituation:

A straightforward, non-rewarding method of learning is called habituation. It is simply the cessation of or reduction in a reaction to a circumstance brought on by extended or recurrent exposure to that event. Dogs kept in a pasture next to a road, for instance, might first flee when cars pass, but they will eventually come to disregard it.

It is not a given that a dog that grows accustomed to one kind of sound will inevitably grow accustomed to other noises. The inability to react to stimulation due to weariness, injury, or sensory adaptation is not the same as being accustomed to something. Habituation usually has long-lasting effects.

However, habituation does not usually happen if an animal is repeatedly exposed to a potentially hazardous stimulus (like a predator) without suffering any injury. As a result, researchers think that reactions to potentially harmful stimuli could possess an innate resistance to habituation. 

The dog may not adjust to the stimuli but instead, become more scared if the fearful response is too strong.

Conditioning:

Associations between stimuli and behavior are referred to as conditioning. For instance, when a dog sees food (the stimulus), it drools, which is the behavior. After that, a bell is rung each time the ravenous dog spots the food.

After the food and bell are combined multiple times, the dog will begin to drool at the sound of the bell. We refer to this as conditioning. The sound of the bell and the sight of food elicit the same reaction.

The dog has eventually come to associate the meal with the bell after a few instances. Positive or negative conditioning is possible. For instance, depending on whether the dog enjoys or dislikes guests, the sound of a doorbell can elicit either anxiety or excitement in the dog.

Spontaneous Recovery:

The occurrence of spontaneous recovery is linked to habituation. When a dog is exposed to an incident to which it has become habituated again after a prolonged period has passed, the dog may react once more. 

A puppy might bark, for instance, to gain attention. The puppy barks louder the more the owner tries to stop it. Since it is receiving the attention it desires, it will keep following this pattern.

Some puppies will find attention rewarding, even if it is “negative.” Ignoring the behavior is the greatest way to discourage it. If the owner ignores the puppy’s barking continuously, eventually the puppy will cease. But now and then, the inappropriate behavior returns. We refer to this as spontaneous recovery.

Extinction:

A response that ends when a reward is taken away is called extinction. A dog that jumps up on people to get attention is a well-known example of extinction. 

The behavior of the dog persists if people pet it. The dog will ultimately cease jumping up if people stop touching it since there will be no more reward.

But even a little bit of patting in response to the dog’s jumping will help to reinforce the behavior. The resistance to extinction is higher the more valuable the initial reward was, the longer it has been there, and the more doubt there is over the award’s actual removal.

 If the reward is sufficiently good and closely associated with the behavior, resistance to extinction may also happen in the absence of reinforcement.

The intensity or frequency of the behavior you are trying to stop usually increases at the start of extinction since there is often a correlation between receiving the reward and the intensity of the behavior. Stated differently, a behavior that you are attempting to stop could get worse before it gets better.

Punishment:

Another name for punishment is unpleasant conditioning. It is a painful experience that reduces the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Penalties can be either favorable or unfavorable. 

While negative punishment involves taking away something beneficial to reduce a behavior, positive punishment involves applying something unpleasant to do so.

Negative reinforcement is not the same as punishment. Punishment needs to be consistent and appropriate, and it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Timing, consistency, proper intensity, and the availability of a reward once the unwanted behavior stops are all important considerations when it comes to punishment. 

When it comes to treatment, this is the area that owners of pets with behavioral issues overlook the most. Physical punishment is frequently the first option used by owners, but it is not always necessary.

Second-order Reinforcers:

Signals that can be utilized from a distance to alert the dog to an impending reward are known as second-order reinforcers. Second-order reinforcers include hand gestures, clickers, and phrases like “good girl.” 

Second-order reinforcers can evoke the same reaction as a primary reward (e.g., food or petting) when correctly paired with them.

As an illustration, a clicker can be linked to a head pat as a reward for keeping seated. You may teach your dog to sit and stay from a distance while still rewarding the behavior by attaching the clicker to a treat. Clicker training and positive training have gained a lot of traction.

Nonetheless, one can achieve remarkable results in positive training even in the absence of second-order reinforcers. Regular practice and precise timing are necessary for clicker training. When it comes to some problem behaviors, misusing a clicker can work against a behavior change program instead of helping it.

Shaping:

For dogs that are unsure of the trainer’s expected reaction, shaping is an effective learning strategy. Shaping rewards the dog for any behavior that first resembles the desired behavior by using progressive approximations. 

Giving a puppy a food reward for squatting, for instance, increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated while the puppy is being taught to sit. Then, only when the squatting behavior is more pronounced and eventually turns into a proper sit, is it rewarded.

Overlearning:

Repetition of an already learned behavior is called overlearning. It is often employed in event-specific training, and it might also help keep dogs from reacting fearfully. 

Three things are achieved by overlearning: it postpones forgetting, strengthens resistance to extinction, and raises the likelihood that the behavior will develop into a reflexive, or “knee-jerk,” reaction in like circumstances. When it comes to educating a dog to overcome fear or anxiety, this feature can be quite helpful.

Counterconditioning:

By educating the dog to substitute a desired behavior, counterconditioning helps decrease undesirable behavior. The dog in the doorbell example above will pick up new skills more quickly if it is taught to sit, remain, and then unwind in return for a treat.

The puppy should exude calmness and quietness, demonstrating via its gaze, stance, and countenance that it would stop at nothing to please its owner. After this behavior is mastered, the tape recording is played at progressively higher volumes to add desensitization.

The cassette recording should be turned down until the dog calms down if it ever becomes overly excited. The first step towards altering the behavior is to relax. It can require a significant amount of time and energy to desensitize and counter condition. 

It is necessary to repeat the exercises a lot to reduce the undesirable behavior until it stops being an issue.

Desensitization:

Desensitization is the process of gently introducing a dog to a scenario in tiny steps, to progressively teach it to tolerate it. A tape recording of the doorbell may be able to calm down a dog who becomes overly excited when it sounds. 

The puppy may cease responding to the doorbell if the tape is first played very softly and then only progressively turned up in volume as long as the dog is calm.

Flooding:

Flooding is the process of exposing a dog to a stimulus over time until it eventually stops responding. This is the exact opposite of how desensitization is done. It is significantly more stressful than any other therapy approach, and improper application will exacerbate the situation. 

The most prevalent issue is growing fear. This is a method best left to the professionals and for last resort only.

Response Substitution:

Response substitution is the process of swapping out a desired answer for an unwanted one. Teaching a dog to lie down rather than leap up is one example. 

Owners should start in a relaxed setting where success is more likely, and then when the behavior is mastered, move on to locations with greater distractions. For response substitution to be effective in dogs, the stimuli may first need to be desensitized.

Conclusion:

If you are consistent in your actions and demanding of the dog, after a while you will become a leader. But this does not mean that you will remain one forever. In the natural habitat of a dog tribe, the leader can grow old, get sick, or suffer as a result of fighting enemies. 

And your dog knows this. Therefore, from time to time she will check the strength of your positions. So be on the lookout!

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Aapt Dubey
Aapt Dubey

Aapt Dubey, a devoted canine enthusiast and experienced dog Owner, brings boundless passion to our team. With a heart full of love for our four-legged friends, Aapt is dedicated to sharing insights on dog care, behavior, and training to make every pup's life happier and healthier at ItsAboutDog.com.

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