This page on Theory and Strategy is part of the Beginners Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network

Comprehensive Behavioral Conditioning for Dogs
Section Two of the Beginner's Course

Behavioral Theory and Procedural Strategies
Page One of a five-page section

Go to the Index of the theory and strategies section

Even Mother Nature is Bound by an Exact Set of Rules

There was a long, dark period in human history when the truth went begging for lack of an effective device that would allow our ancestors to seperate fact from fantasy and falsehood.

But in just the last few hundred years, due to the work of a succession of theorists, researchers, astronomers, physicists, and the like, mankind has witnessed the development of a scientific method that can be used in a systematic fashion to determine what is and is not true.

As researchers have employed that methodology to determine the exact parameters of everything around us, they have discovered that even mother nature is bound by an exact set of rules, called the laws of physics, that determine precisely what is and is not possible as far as the physical world around us is concerned.

The scientific method has allowed researchers to determine with certainty that the laws of physics inform, govern, limit, and enable all that transpires within the physical realm of all but the most minute of submicroscopic objects.

Your Dog's Behavior is Also Governed by a Precise Set of laws

The same scientific method that was used to ferret out the laws of physics has also been applied to study the behavior of animals and, in parallel fashion, researchers have discovered that natural law governs both canine and human behavior just as surely as the laws of physics govern the physical universe.

In practical terms, that means that we already pretty much know everything there is to know about why your dog does what he does. But better yet, we also know how you can go about getting him to do something else, instead.

In fact, there is a set of principles as well as a set of procedures, called learning principles and learning procedures, that can be used to teach your dog to do anything of which he is physically, mentally, and dispositionally capable. Those principles and procedures are also often referred to as behavioral principles and behavioral procedures.


The systematic study of behavior through the application of the scientific method has become known as behavioral science. The act of using the principles and procedures of behavioral science to change behavior has become known as behavior modification, and the discipline itself has become known as applied behavior analysis. The experts who populate that discipline and apply those principles and procedures in the real world are known as behaviorists.

By definition, then, a behaviorist is someone who understands behavioral principles and procedures, and applies them in the manner prescribed by B. F. Skinner and the succession of researchers and theorists who built on his work.

The dog science workshop was written, created, and constructed by a doctoral level clinician who received his training through a line of behaviorists that extends directly back to Skinner and the other early researchers.

What Behaviorism Has to Do with Training Your Dog

Everything that we really and truly know about how to control you dog's behavior comes from the research of behaviorists. You can find an endless number of people who will be glad to give you their opinion about how to train a dog, but in the end, after you have talked to such people, all you can be sure of is that you have heard them express their opinion, based on their personal observation.

However, we know that the information that comes to us through the community of behaviorists has been tested rigourously by way of the scientific method. Therefore, we know that information is good.

When you know for sure that the information is good, the problem, then, becomes to somehow bring yourself to an understaning of that body of knowledge. And after that, to develop the skills that will allow you to apply that knowledge so that you can come out at the other end of the process with a happy, well trained dog.

However, in order to understand what behaviorists have to say about how to train your dog, you have to learn to use dog training terms the same way that behaviorists use them, and to a large extent, you need to learn to think the way a behaviorist thinks.

The closer you can come to learning to talk like a behaviorist and think like a behaviorist, the easier it will be for you to learn to use the procedures of the behaviorist.

As a dog handler, that's what you really care about, because behavioral procedures are to dog training what mathematics are to astronomy. They are the heart and soul of the discipline, and they are the mechanism whereby your dog will learn that which you need to teach him.

When it comes to training your dog, if you can learn to talk like a behaviorist, think like a behaviorist, and use the procedures of the behaviorist, then, everything else will fall readily into place. But if you fail to master those procedures, then, you must trust to luck and hope for the best.


I use the word football to describe the oblong "pigskin" type ball that American quarterbacks throw for a touchdown. But if to you, a football is a round ball that people kick into a soccer net, then, things are sure to get confusing when we start talking about playing football.

When professionally trained behaviorists try to discuss behavioral conditioning with laymen, the two groups immediately begin speaking at cross purposes, for precisely the same reason. The two camps are using the exact same words to mean very different things.

It seems that many decades ago, when pioneering behavioral researchers were in the process of founding their new discipline, for reasons one can only guess at, instead of making up new words to encompass the new concepts that were unfolding before them, they instead chose to use words that are common to the everyday speech of laymen.

To further exacerbate the linguistic chaos, having assigned unique meaning to everyday words, when speaking among themselves, behaviorists then abandoned the publicly accepted definitions of those words.

As a result, an enormous gulf of miscommunication has develped between professional behaviorists who actually understand how behavior works, and the community of laymen, who have been so perplexed by the behaviorist's singular application of everyday words that they no longer know which end is up, in terms of controlling the behavior of their dogs.

So it is a case of the same words having very different meanings for those who have undergone formal training, as opposed to those who have not. As a result, the two groups have developed very different sensibilities, and a totally different understanding of the meaning of the words that they use to communicate with one another.

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This page on Theory and Strategy is part of the Beginners Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network