A lot of dog training (and teaching in general) is based on using consequences.
Using consequences to teach is only effective if the learner actually learns i.e. changes their behaviour. If what you are doing isn’t working, STOP doing it and reassess the situation.
Unskilled trainers usually deliver consequences late, haphazardly or not at all. Effective timing is the second of Bob Bailey’s critical training skills.
Whatever happens during or immediately after the behaviour, shapes whether the learner is likely to repeat it in future. For humans, you might get away with more of a time lag, but immediate feedback is ideal.
You cannot explain to a dog that the biscuit you’re giving him is for the sit he did 5 minutes ago, nor that the scolding is for the mess he made in the house while you were gone. The dog may happily eat the treat or flinch away from your anger, but they won’t connect what they did earlier with what you just did.
If your feedback is late or likely to be late, chalk it up to experience (for you) and aim to do better next time.
Example: The dog sits, as you go to deliver the treat, the dog stands to take it. This reinforces (strengthens) the stand after the sit. Often dogs will link the two together and you’ll get a ‘sit- quickly- followed- by- a- stand’, chain of behaviour.
The same can happen with dogs who jump up on people. You may reinforce ‘jump-on- people-then-sit-for-a-treat’.
The trick is to set the learner up to get it RIGHT FIRST TIME, so you can reinforce (strengthen) JUST the behaviour you want.
Reinforcement (reward) STRENGTHENS behaviour (makes it more likely to occur in future).
Punishment WEAKENS behaviour (makes it less likely to occur in future.)
It’s only reinforcement if it works (increases a behaviour.)
It’s only punishment if it works (reduces a behaviour.)
TARGET the BEHAVIOUR, not the thought processes. Some would argue with this, but IMO you cannot know what your dog is thinking, so do him a favour and focus on what he is doing.
Your INTENT has nothing to do with it. If your child has to annoy you to get attention, even if it’s ranting and raving attention and even if you INTEND to punish the annoying behaviour, you may well be REINFORCING it. If the annoying behaviour happens just as much or more, you are definitely reinforcing it.
To a bored and frustrated child ANY attention may be better than none. The same goes for bored and frustrated dogs. If barking, digging or sock stealing gets attention, even if it’s shouting attention, it may be reinforcing.
Somebody has to be in charge of making changes and if you’re reading this, it could be you. Remember that within every problem lies an opportunity. When you take responsibility for upgrading your training skills and observing your learner’s response, you are already on the way to feeling a whole calmer and empowered to achieve the change you want.