Positive Reinforcement

Training a dog to enter their kennel upon command is a challenging yet rewarding event. Many people try to train their dogs with verbal commands only and get fair or even poor responses from their pets. This study indicates a positive reaction from the dog with the introduction of an independent variable, namely a treat. The treats given to the dog, to elicit the positive reinforcement has to be given regularly with the verbal command to teach the dog properly. Training of the dog in this study occurred over a three week period of time and is now entering the kennel 100% of the time on command even though the variable has now been removed.

Dog training can be a difficult endeavor if taken on by a non professional. However, with the right tools and patience, the training of a dog can be rewarding and helpful for both the owner and the pet and improve their relationship.

The method for this study began with a baseline over a period of one week. The dog in this study was given verbal commands for one week with help into the kennel if the she refused to enter. The desire was to get the dog to enter on command without any help or coaxing. Once the baseline was set for the first week, the independent variable was introduced. On the 8th day, the dog was called to the kennel each time the owner left the house. During the first few days, the dog had a variety of responses and needed help on some occasions to enter the kennel. Once the dog was inside the kennel, a treat was given to her. The verbal command along with the giving of the treat continued for the next two weeks.

The subject of this study was a two year old female Boston Terrier that was untrained in kenneling. The other participant was the owner of the Boston Terrier who began the training.

The materials utilized in this study consisted of a kennel of sufficient size to allow the dog/subject comfort during the day so as not to dissuade her from wanting to enter the kennel. The second item needed for this study is a bag of treats that the dog enjoys eating.

This study began with the Boston Terrier being subjected to verbal commands only during the first 7 days to create a baseline measurement. The owner would kennel the dog each time she left the house. On the 8th day, the owner introduced the intervention which consisted of a dog treat each time the dog had to be kenneled during the day. The dog was not kenneled more than 5 times during the three week experimentation period.

The same treat was utilized over the entire three week period. The introduction of different types of treats may lead to undesirable results as the dog may not respond as well. Therefore, it is important that the intervention treat is kept the same throughout the entire experiment. In order to keep the dog willing to enter the kennel upon command and the giving of a treat, the owner must release the dog upon the return to the residence. Releasing the dog in a timely manner is reinforcement that kenneling is not being used as a punishment.

During the time of this study, the baseline was set by kenneling the dog without a treat as reinforcement to enter the kennel. The dog on occasion during the baseline would enter the kennel, but was not consistent during the first 7 days. After the intervention was introduced into the equation, the dog began to respond to the verbal command when given along with a treat. As seen on Chart 1, attached hereto and incorporated by reference, the dog’s improvement is visible as shown in the positive slope of the graph.

The result of introducing a treat as positive reinforcement along with verbal commands shortens the length of time it takes to kennel train a dog.

Once the intervention is introduced, it leads to a quicker response time in kennel training. It is very important that the dog is kenneled and given the positive reinforcement each time the owner leaves the house. If the dog is not consistently reinforced, the learning will be delayed through the dog’s refusal to enter the kennel. On several occasions during this research, the dog refused to enter even with the treat. If the dog refuses, remember, patience is a virtue. If the dog continues to refuse to enter the kennel, gently push the dog into the kennel and then provide the treat to the dog to show that it is not being punished.
Another essential part of this research, so that the dog does not have a negative connotation with kenneling, is the release of the dog upon the owner’s return. As with the other desirable outcomes, the owner can create an undesirable outcome if the dog is not promptly released once the owner returns home. If the dog is left in the kennel for an extended period of time after the owner returns home, the dog will equate the kenneling as punishment which will eventually effect the initial kenneling command.

There are several potential problems that the trainer could run into in this particular study. For example, one external variable that needs to be taken into account is kenneling by more than one person. The person kenneling must know the verbal commands used in kenneling the dog so that the dog will understand what is being required. When someone other than the owner kennels the dog, the owner must instruct the new person kenneling the dog as to command, tone of voice and even physical gestures.

Another external variable is the intervention. The treat being given as the intervention must be one palatable to the dog. Prior to beginning the experiment, the owner should determine which treat elicits the best response from the dog being observed. Once this is determined, the same type treat must be used throughout the experiment or the there may be un-welcomed outcomes in the kenneling habits of the dog.

This experiment had a positive outcome once the intervention was introduced. The dog, once it began receiving the treat, quickly learned the correlation between the verbal command to “kennel up” and the receipt of a treat. At the end of the second week, there was almost a 100% success rate in the kenneling process. By the end of the third week of training, the dog was completely kennel trained.

At the end of the third week, the treat was once again taken away. This part of the experiment is not shown on Chart 1, but the owner wanted to determine whether the training would continue to be successful without the intervention. The treat being removed and returning to the verbal command only, the dog was still 100% with the kenneling upon command.

It is my finding and conclusion that kennel training with the treat intervention is the quickest most positive way to kennel train a dog. Additionally, the dog, with such an intervention is willing to learn because the reinforcement is positive rather than the dog feeling as if kenneling is a punishment.

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