Adam’s primary goal is to train dogs to be predictable decision makers that exercise self-control. To achieve that goal, we use our “Balanced Training” model. Academics refer to it as Operant Conditioning or a Four-Quadrant model. This model uses the three key principles of Timing, Motivation, and Consistency.
It has been scientifically proven that we have 1.3 seconds to influence a dog’s behavior (or 1.3 seconds to link cause and effect). This means you have 1.3 seconds to acknowledge a behavior you would like repeated, and 1.3 seconds to acknowledge a behavior you would not like repeated. We call this moment of acknowledgement, “Marking a behavior.” To simplify your training and so it works at anytime, we prefer to use verbal markers over and artificial marker like a Clicker.
If the Marker does not come within 1.3 seconds, then your dog will not make the connection. The moment your dog does a behavior you are trying to capture, you have to “mark” the moment and then follow it with motivation. The same principle applies to actions you would not like your dog to repeat. The moment your dog does the undesired behavior in question, you have to mark the moment within that same snapshot of time and ideally reinforce the marker with motivation.
Motivation is where we give value to our markers; otherwise, the markers are just noise that your dog tunes out. Academically speaking there are four ways to use motivation.
To start there is Positive reinforcement (R+) where we are applying a desirable stimulus to increase the frequency of behavior. Negative punishment (P-) is where we are removing a desirable stimulus to reduce the frequency of behavior. Negative reinforcement (R-) is when we are removing an undesirable stimulus to increase the frequency of behavior. Positive punishment (P+) is applying an undesirable stimulus that will reduce the frequency of behavior.
We think of it in terms of balance. Once a dog is taught what is expected, the dog sees that there are two potential outcomes based on the decision the he or she makes. If a good decision is made (sitting on request for example), there is a positive or desirable outcome. If a bad decision is made (jumping on a person), there is a less desirable outcome. This balance of positive and negative potential outcomes leads to decision making in the dog…which produces the end goal of calm, confident, self-control development in your dog.
The money analogy always works. If you make a good decision and do a good job at work, you get a full paycheck. If you make bad choices, show up late or do a poor job you may get paid less or even fired. The value of motivation has a scale to it as well. Say you are speeding to work doing 90 mph and you receive a $0.50 speeding ticket. For most folks, that 50-cent ticket was worth it to get to work on time and a 50-cent (negative outcome) fine will not deter the inclination to speed again. However, if you receive a $5000.00 speeding ticket, if may be too traumatic because you could loose your home and then fear ever driving again. Therefore, we look at your dog’s bank account (temperament wise). Is your dog a broke college student or Bill Gates? What value of positive or negative motivation does your dog need to influence future decision-making, without the dog being arrogant or afraid.
Consistency is the easiest to talk about and the hardest to implement, because we are busy human beings navigating life in North America. You see, dogs are wired to thrive in a Black & White world of consistency. But it is the Grey areas that we humans bring to the mix that can cause issues. When we create or allow Grey areas (where expectations are not clearly explained or they are not consistently implemented) we will see undesirable traits and behaviors develop in our dogs. Grey areas can produce Hyper activity, Anxiety, Aggression, and we always see a Lack of Reliability.
An example of a Grey area is letting your dog come onto the couch as he pleases during a football game on Sunday, but then you get on your dog’s case when he gets on the couch Monday morning. Inconsistency creates stress and confusion in your dog. In addition, like us, when dogs are stressed and confused they will make poor choices that cannot be explained and they will not be reliable. So if your dog is drowning in the shades of Grey, look at how you can separate those shades of Grey and clarify the desired Black & White to your dog. Your dog will appreciate that more than anything.
Have the family meeting of what is expected of the dog, how you respond when expectations are met or not, and show your dog that you are united and leading from a consistent set of rules.