Some very helpful information here! ~DesertRat

Using Conditioned Aversive Stimuli in Dog Training

Article by Ethan Pippitt D.T. Systems Pro Staff Member

Keep things simple and consistent, and your dog will learn to stop unwanted behaviors. Even good-natured dogs that are eager to please will naturally do many things you don’t want them to do. As a dog owner and trainer, you can help your dog know what is expected of them by teaching simple and consistent cues.

In all dog training, consistency is key. In order to develop a consistent dog, you simply must be consistent.

Consistent Cues
It’s important to choose one cue for a behavior and stick with it. (Many trainers call these ‘commands,’ but at Standing Stone Kennels we prefer the term cue.) For example, if you are teaching your dog recall, and you expect them to learn that “come,” “here,” “come here,” “get over here,” or just pointing to your side all mean the same thing, you are not being consistent. Most likely, this will confuse your dog. Teaching dogs recall while using a single cue will help them learn the behavior more quickly, avoid confusion and set them on the path to success.
It’s easy to see that choosing one cue for a behavior makes training less confusing for your dog. This is equally true for discouraging unwanted behaviors. Using a conditioned aversive stimulus, and staying consistent with it, is our preferred method of discouraging undesired behaviors.

Dog owners seem to struggle the most with consistency when it comes to discouraging undesired behaviors. What tends to happen is dogs hear many different cues while they are exhibiting the unwanted behavior.
When they jump up on people, they hear, “down.” When they get into the garbage they hear, “hey, what are you doing?” When they’re caught on the couch they’re scolded with, “get off the couch.” More often than not, the only way the dog knows it’s in trouble is by picking up on the tone or inflection in our voice.
What works so much better is to use one consistent cue whenever dogs are exhibiting unwanted behavior.

Using Conditioned Aversive Stimuli
The use of conditioned aversive stimuli starts with a neutral stimulus, which can be a verbal warning or gesture. The neutral stimulus cue we use to get the dog’s attention is “ah-ah.”
The verbal cue “ah-ah” can be used in any situation where your dog is exhibiting unwanted behavior. It is simple to remember, easy to use, brief, and allows you to be consistent.

In the beginning, we have to teach our dog that “ah-ah” is aversive. We do this by pairing the neutral stimulus (“ah-ah”) with negative reinforcement. To accomplish this, we use the vibrate feature on our e-collars. Our model of choice is the DT Systems H2O 1820 collar, which offers the vibrate-only feature.

The vibrate feature is an extremely mild form of negative reinforcement. DT Systems vibrate feature is very effective because it actually uses two of the dog’s senses; your dog will be able to feel the vibration and also hear the buzzing of the collar when the vibration is used. You start, of course, by putting the collar on your dog. Then, while the dog is exhibiting an unwanted behavior, you press the vibrate button on the transmitter while saying, “ah-ah.” Keep pressing the button, so the vibration continues to be heard and felt by the dog, until the dog complies by discontinuing the undesired behavior.

For example, you catch the dog sniffing the counters looking for food or “counter surfing”: press the vibrate button while saying “ah-ah” and keep the button pressed until the dog stops counter surfing. Then release the button, so the vibration turns off. Your dog is learning how to turn off the collar by doing what you want.
Conditioned aversive stimulus training works very similarly to the process of clicker training. Just as the clicker is used to mark desired behaviors, “ah-ah” is used to mark undesired behaviors. Through consistent repetition, eventually “ah-ah” alone will become a conditioned aversive stimulus that can be used to communicate to your dog that surfing for food on the counter is not okay.

You now have the ability to communicate to your dog in all training situations. If you are working on place training and your dog leaves the place, you can say, “ah-ah,” letting the dog know what it’s doing is wrong. Then, help the dog get back to the place without having to say the place cue again.
Another example: if you are heeling your dog and it starts to pull, use “ah-ah” and the dog will know what it’s doing is wrong. This can also be used in the field. For pointing dogs that have been taught to ‘whoa,’ you can use “ah-ah” if a dog starts to ‘creep’ after going on point.

Using conditioned aversive stimuli, like “ah-ah,” allows you to be consistent while training your dog. It eliminates confusion for your dog by giving him fewer cues to understand. Developing and maintaining consistent training habits will allow you to produce a more obedient and cooperative dog in less time.

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Photo taken by Kat Pippitt
Photo: CAS Photo.jpg