Canine Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,
by UPWARD Dogology
Positive Reinforcement Training and Counter Conditioning Methods are great -
when they are effective!
As a guest on the podcast, “The Vet Blast”, the host, Dr. Adam Christman, asked why positive reinforcement training is limiting. I replied,
“It is limiting simply by virtue of it being only one methodology. Technically, positive reinforcement training is one half of Operant Conditioning.”
Positive Reinforcement Training is grounded in Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning, a scientifically proven method, uses positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement to encourage expected behavior and discourage unwanted behavior (respectively). Operant Conditioning is proven successful beyond the world of dog training.
It is common to assume that if a trainer is not adhering to positive reinforcement training, they must be adhering to negative reinforcement training. This is not always true. Trainers who apply both sides of Operant Conditioning in a non-aversive manner, are called “Balanced Trainers”. “Positive correction” and “positive punishment” are used to describe actions, for example, such as removing the positive object (such as a treat) to discourage the dog from doing an unwanted behavior.
Counter-conditioning, desensitization and impulse control are trending terms in the dog rehabilitation industry. They are proven effective in decreasing reactive behaviors and changing a dog’s response behavior.
Counter-conditioning and desensitization are usually used in combination.
Desensitization provides a means of repeatedly safely exposing the pet to the stimulus at a level at or below which fear is likely to be exhibited. Counter-conditioning is used to change the pet’s attitude or emotional response to a stimulus by associating the positive element to the negative factor (scary man, dogs, vacuum, garbage pail) and, through repeated exposure without response.
Response substitution, of which Impulse Control is associated with, is a technique in which the pet is taught, using reinforcement-based techniques, to replace the undesirable behavior with one that is desirable. Again, in relation to dog training, the reward is used to teach and encourage, for example, a dog to Sit instead of Jumping, to get patted.
Conditioning Methodologies are designed to teach behaviors, making them effective with puppies and dogs with personalities that suit that approach. Methods and techniques which adhere to the principles of Conditioning Methodologies are not intended to rehabilitate or change behaviors. The platform simply does not work that way.
are reactive in nature. They REACT TO a behavior to encourage or discourage it. With many dogs, we need to pro-actively prevent the behavior without restraints or distractions or gimmicks, but by providing them with the skills and options that allow them to chose to not do the behavior because we change their perception.
are designed to teach “right from wrong” making them most effective when there are no pre-conceived thought patterns to change, which is common with puppies and with dogs who want to learn, and adhere to, expected behavior;
relies on contrived rewards, such as treats or toys or pats, and assumes the dog cares about these even in the most difficult of situations;
assumes dogs want to change their behavior and feel the need to learn from a human, when, in fact, many dogs have learned exactly what works in their favor and do not feel the need to change their behavior (which is why they ignore you or flip-you-the-bird).
The Fear-Free Movement is making huge strides in deterring trainers and behaviorists from applying negative reinforcements, which is commendable. UPWARD Dogology is proven to decrease the perceived need to rely on negative reinforcements (tools or methods) by providing a non-aversive effective method when Conditioning Methodologies prove limiting.
Canine Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT)
CCBT adheres to the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which is, inherently, force-free and non-aversive. Behaviors common with dogs over 6 months and dogs with checkered pasts stem from their ability to think cognitively, meaning we need to harness these cognitive skills to change behavior.
For more info, pls listen to season 1 and season 5 of my podcast.
By including UPWARD Dogology into the “tool box” of scientifically proven methods, we have more tools in the tool box, and can more effectively work with each individual dog.
“Less Correction; More Direction”
“As a graduate of the American Behavioural College and Certified Behaviourist, I highly recommend UPWARD Dogology. Billie mentored me for 2 days and I learned more about how to address reactivity, aggression, and anxiety than in the entire ABC course. I also highly recommend reading her book.”
— Rachel Johnson, 2019