3.1 Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning (or Pavlonian Conditioning)
During his research on the physiology of digestion in dogs, Pavlov noticed that his dogs began to salivate in the presence of the technician who normally fed them, rather than simply salivating in the presence of food. Putting these informal observations to an experimental test, Pavlov presented a bell and then gave the dog food. After a few repetitions, the dogs started to salivate in response to the bell, even when no food was presented. This was an involuntary conditioned response.
We apply the above findings to our use of markers in dog training (Marker Training).
For example, “Yes” will be conditioned to become associated with treat through repetitions. We call this process charging the marker.
There are 5 markers we will introduce at this stage:
  • “Ready” : signals dog to get ready for a fun session of training
  • “Yes” : signals dog did something right and to come and take the treat
  • “Good” : signals dog did something right and to carry on doing the behavior. owner will come and give the treat
  • “No” : signals dog did something wrong and will not receive the treat
  • “Finish” : signals end of session. No more treats to be given.
Marker training is useful because studies have shown that an immediate consequence is more effective than a delayed one. The timing of the reward is information to the dog as it tells the dog exactly what it is you like. Saying “Yes” allows us to communicate at the precise moment that the dog offers the behavior, even when we are at a distance from the dog. The treat can come a short interval later.
A few other findings were also found to be useful for marker training:
  • Learning is fastest in forward conditioning. This means we must say Yes before the treat.
  • In the extinction procedure, a conditioned response will become extinguished without pairing Yes with treat.
  • Repeated pairings are usually necessary for positive conditioning to emerge.
  • Fear and aversive-related stimuli need less repetitions to learn a conditioned response. While this means that aversive methods of dog training may work faster, we still do not use them as our primary toolbox because it affects the bond between you and your dog.