Over-learning is the continual performance of a behaviour that an animal has already mastered. It is commonly utilized to train for certain events, or to avoid development of fearful reactions in dogs. There are 3 things that over-learning achieves; it slows down forgetting, it fuels the resistance to extinction, and it raises the possibility that the behaviour will turn into an automated reaction in other similar conditions. It can be very helpful in getting a dog to learn to conquer fears and anxieties.
Desensitization is a way to steadily teach a dog to endure a condition by cautiously revealing it to that condition in little steps. For a puppy that tends to excessively animated whenever the doorbell rings, a good way to end this unwanted behaviour would be to record the sound. If the sound is played very gently initially and then steadily amplified in volume, with the puppy staying composed, then the puppy may stop reacting to the doorbell.
Flooding is the constant and extended exposure to a stimulus until the dog finally stops reacting. Flooding is the alternate technique to desensitization. It is the technique that places the most stress on the dog than any other modification method, and if it’s misused, it may worsen the situation. An increase if fear is the most common problem associated with this technique. This technique should only be used by an expert, and only if all other options fail.
Counter-conditioning is a technique for minimising negative behaviour by educating the dog to substitute it with another more positive behaviour. Using the doorbell example above, the puppy will adapt faster if it is primarily trained to sit, stay, and then relax before it is rewarded with a treat. The puppy must remain totally relaxed and serene, and show through its eyes, body stance, and facial expressions that it is ready to follow the owner’s instructions. As soon as this behaviour is learned, it is supplemented by desensitisation, i.e. by playing the tape recording at a steady rise in volume. If the puppy starts to get overexcited, reduce the volume until it relaxes. The relaxation phase is the key and is the first step to altering the behaviour. Counter-conditioning and desensitization require a lot of time and energy. The training must be habitually repeated until the negative behaviour is not a problem anymore.
Punishment is another name given to aversive conditioning. It is any nasty event that reduces the possibility that a specific behaviour will recur. In order to successfully use punishment to alter behaviour, it must be done early i.e. immediately when the behaviour is displayed. It must also be reliable and proper. Decisive aspects of punishment include timing, uniformity, suitable intensity, and the presence of a reward. Owners often use corporal punishment as the primary choice, but it doesn’t have to be this way. In addition, punishment is just as difficult to implement perfectly as counter-conditioning and desensitization. Punishment will never be the ideal option and has a high probability of failure. It can also result in unwanted results, such as a rise in fearful and aggressive responses.
Shaping is a teaching method that is appropriate for dogs that aren’t able to tell what kind of response the trainer wants. Shaping uses slowly measured guesses, and the dog tends to be initially rewarded for any behaviour that is similar to the wanted behaviour. For example, when trying to get a puppy to roll over, offering the puppy a treat for sitting will raise the likelihood that sitting will be repeated. A reward is only then given when the sitting transforms into a lying down, and finally a roll over.
In cases where a dog displays aggressive tendencies, Avoidance of the behavioural problem becomes important until a professional trainer is found. It may be possible to treat and consequently reduce such behaviour, but avoidance is the main thing in lessening the danger. Avoidance shouldn’t be interpreted as loss of control to the dog, or even quitting the attempt to modify its behaviour. In fact, it may aid in ending the violent behaviour. More and more aggression episode will only teach the dog that the only way to deal with a given situation is to be hostile and violent, thus compounding the problem.