What Is Counter Conditioning In Dog Training?
Counter conditioning is the use of positive reinforcement (positive praise or treats) to cause a behavior to change. Positive punishment (negative verbal reprimand or correction) can be used when desired behaviors are not changing. For example, if your dog barks at other dogs on a regular basis, you may punish him with a clicker every time he does so. If he barks at you instead, then you would reward him with a treat.
In some cases, the behavior will change even without using any kind of negative reinforcement. For instance, if your dog barks at other dogs because they are bigger than him, but you do nothing to stop it, eventually he will learn that barking at larger dogs is acceptable behavior and not something to worry about. You could reinforce him with a treat whenever he stops barking at larger dogs.
The key point here is that the behavior must change regardless of whether there is positive or negative reinforcement. The goal is to teach your dog that certain types of behaviors are acceptable and others aren’t. There are many different ways to accomplish this, but the most common way involves teaching your dog new skills through repetition. When you repeat a skill over and over again, it becomes easier for your dog to perform it repeatedly.
For example, if you want your dog to sit in a certain location when people come over to visit, you can put him in that spot every time someone arrives. If you get your dog at the door and he jumps on them, you should pick him up and put him in his spot and then reward him for getting off the floor (as this behavior is something you want to reinforce).
Eventually, he will learn that the best thing he can do is sit in his spot. By consistently rewarding this behavior, you are helping him learn what is and isn’t acceptable. Between jumping on people and sitting in his designated spot, there shouldn’t be any confusion if you are consistent. If he starts jumping on someone, just pick him up and put him in his spot and keep doing so until he gets the message.
You should always make sure that your dog understands what you want him to do before you start trying to change his behavior. Most importantly, make sure he knows how to sit before trying to teach him not to jump on people. If you start jumping on people, you may find that you are unsuccessful at teaching him not to jump on people. Therefore, make sure that your dog is able to follow your instructions before expecting him to do so during social situations.
When using counter conditioning with your dog, it is important to be patient. It will take time for him to learn that his behavior will only be reinforced if he sits in his spot and stops jumping on people. You may have to repeat this process several times before you see any real results. Just remember that your dog will learn what you want him to do if you are consistent and patient enough. Consider asking a friend or family member for help in order to ensure you are being as consistent as possible.
Overall, this type of training can be very effective in changing your dog’s behavior. However, it requires a considerable amount of time and dedication on your part as the owner. If you are willing to work with your dog over the long term, then this type of training will definitely pay off and make him much easier to live with.
If you need more help with your rambunctious dog or have other questions about training, feel free to contact us!
Sources & references used in this article:
A prospective study of two self-help CD based desensitization and counter-conditioning programmes with the use of Dog Appeasing Pheromone for the treatment of … by ED Levine, D Ramos, DS Mills – Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2007 – Elsevier
Effect of a Standardized Four-Week Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning Training Program on Pre-Existing Veterinary Fear in Companion Dogs by A Stellato, S Jajou, CE Dewey, TM Widowski, L Niel – Animals, 2019 – mdpi.com
Vicarious and direct counterconditioning of test anxiety through individual and group desensitization by J Mann, TL Rosenthal – Behaviour Research and Therapy, 1969 – Elsevier