Communication in Training
Sharing Ideas with your dog
Dr. Doolittle made it look very easy. So easy, that many think it can't be done at all!
Well rearrange your thinking a little bit. Depending on how you think of communication, it is all quite
easy and done by people with their dogs everyday. No one seems very surprised when someone
mentions the number of words in their dog's vocabulary. Nor would anyone be very surprised to find
that a dog with a well rounded vocabulary lived closely with its owners and was rather mature. It
appears that the hindrance with such accomplishment happening faster is the difficulty the dog can
have in recognizing that unique label, or word, that is used for specifics.
For many years, repetition and consistency seemed to be the only way to develop any aspect of
communication. Even then, it was limited by being so one-way and time-consuming.
Some pretty brilliant behaviorists have cracked the code for changing that. Utilizing special operant
conditioning and recognizing prime motivators, after a few sessions the subject offers responses! The
trainer simply picks and chooses the ones that they want to reinforce and name. This is revolutionary
in its ability to indicate that they have ideas and creativity to share with us! The technique is so simple
that a child can do it (literally, a three year old had the basics down). The critical aspects of timing
require focus on the part of the trainer but even then, because its so much fun, even mistakes aren't
too problematic. The technique is very forgiving!
These techniques have taken over many areas of higher level training. People are excited and
overwhelmed at the rapid results and complex behaviors and concepts that can be conveyed using
these approaches. It's very likely, that the gains made with special operant conditioning will cause the
scientific community to completely re-evaluate their understanding of what animals are capable
Check out ClickerTraining by Karen Pryor or Bridge and Target Training for specific information on using special
operant conditioning techniques with your dog.