Communicating clearly means eliminating inconsistencies when interacting with your dog. Understanding what they perceive will make it easy for them to understand you correctly.  It helps reduce stress for both the learner and the teacher.  Simple, consistent communication strategies will aid in your dog’s progression toward better behavior.

Communicating with your dog effectively requires a clear goal and consistent communication patterns.  What is the behavior you wish to modify and do you wish to increase or decrease the behavior in question?  What is the dog accomplishing by performing that behavior?  How does the dog know when you wish them to perform the appropriate behavior?

Remember this simple equation: Antecedent + Behavior = Consequence (A+B=C).  

  • The Antecedent or ‘Prompt’ is an environmental cue for the learner to perform a certain behavior.  
  • The Behavior is the observable action performed by the learner.  
  • The Consequence is something rewarding or aversive that increases OR decreases the chance of the preceding behavior happening again.


Consequences can be added or taken away and those consequences can increase or decrease the target behavior.  

There are 4 aspects of Operant Conditioning. The official terminology is as follows:

  • Positive means the addition of something 
  • Negative means to take away.  
  • Reinforcement refers to anything that maintains or increases a behavior and punishment means to decrease a behavior.  
  • Punishment implies that the preceding behavior was decreased in it’s expression


In the following chart we investigate the common behavior of ‘Jumping Up’ and the ways that behavior may be encouraged or discouraged.

In order to avoid the pit falls caused by our own ‘reactive’ behavior, poor timing, or misapplied aversives our trainers will help you identify and learn how to focus on reinforcing (increasing) desirable behavior by giving your things they find rewarding.  ‘Misbehavior’ is best prevented with good environmental management.   Determine instead what you’d like the dog ‘TO DO’ and focus on rewarding that behavior instead!


When your dog is doing something that you like, reinforce that behavior by giving your dog something he likes such as your praise or food.  However, because ‘good’ behavior often fails to attract our attention your dog may learn to seek out Bootleg Reinforcers.  These are rewards that are available to them in the environment, such as food left on the counter, due to poor environmental management.  Or, because ‘bad’ behavior is hard to ignore and training works both ways, our dogs teach us to engage with them by performing undesirable behavior.  

What kinds of reinforcers does your dog obtain access to that are outside of your control?  What management strategies will you implement to eliminate opportunities for ‘bootleg reinforcement?’


When rewards for repetitive behavior suddenly disappears, the dog doesn’t immediately know that the behavior in question no longer works.  They will try it again and likely harder after it fails the first time.  This gives the illusion that the behavior is worsening and is known as the ‘Extinction Burst.’  It is a good sign that you are effectively withholding reinforcement of the problematic behavior.  Focus on reinforcing alternative incompatible behaviors and the undesirable behavior will extinguish shortly thereafter. 

BE AWARE, many owners get discouraged by the extinction burst, think that the training isn’t working, and give in to their dog’s demands.  This leads to an ‘Intermittent Reinforcement schedule’ which perpetuates undesirable behavior by teaching the dog to ‘try harder.’  If he is persistent he will eventually achieve a reward even if he isn’t successful every time.  This is the schedule we strive to attain for behaviors we want but often inadvertently achieve for behaviors we really wish to be rid of. 

If you have any questions about your dog or training program please call or text us at 913.712.8742. Join us remotely for our Weekly Q&A and Nail Trim sessions hosted on Zoom and streamed live through Facebook. On a tight budget? Check out our FREE courses available online.