Labrador retrievers are known to be highly intelligent dogs which can easily be trained. There are many known methods which have been employed in training dogs but the method that works best for Labrador retrievers is operant conditioning.
Operant conditioning involves the application of specific consequences of behavior to influence how a dog should behave and banish negative or undesirable behaviors. It seeks to bring out responses that a dog has control of.
Operant conditioning is anchored on reinforcement and punishment. With reinforcement, a dog chooses the behavior more frequently while punishment causes a dog to perform a specific behavior less frequently and/or completely get rid of it. Labs love positive reinforcement because he is aware that when he follows a command he will surely get a treat and lots of tummy rubs and fun. The intelligent Lab will know that peeing on the rug or chewing a shoe can bring in punishment.
Reinforcement is not only a positive exercise. A dog can understand negative reinforcement when he realizes that a specific behavior can result in the removal of a negative aspect. This is typically seen when training a Lab using an electronic collar. The dog will know that if he follows a specific command or behave in a desirable manner, the hurting caused by the electronic collar will stop. However, the dog will also realize that if he doesn’t listen or behave appropriately, he will get choked.
A dog’s behavior can change for the better or worse depending on the training method he receives. Positive reinforcement creates a happy experience for your Lab while punishing may cause the dog to stop doing the behavior but will associate the experience in a negative light.
As much as possible a Lab should perceive training as a positive experience. Many studies have shown that positive reinforcement creates the most productive atmosphere for learning in Labrador retrievers. Furthermore, it has been shown that when a Lab is trained using negative reinforcement, it can develop negative behavior that can interfere in how he interacts with other members of the pack. A Lab lives to please and what better way to have a happy dog than to employ positive reinforcement and make the training a happy experience.
Extinction conditioning is another important procedure that can be used in training a Labrador retriever. It is actually a type of operant conditioning which is designed to eliminate an undesirable behavior. Extinction is based on the premise that when a specific behavior is positively reinforced, a dog will tend to exhibit it more frequently. However when there is negative reinforcement, it can cause a specific behavior to become extinct.
Training a dog to behave in a desirable manner involves patience. In order to make correct choices and imbibe positive behavior, the type of reinforcement—whether positive or negative—can influence how fast a dog can be trained to perform and behave what is expected of him and extinguish the negative or undesirable behavior.
A Lab’s intelligence and highly sociable behavior can often interfere in the process of extinction. Most often, it is hard to resist a Lab’s long face and pleading eyes. Begging at the table is one of the most common behavior that should be stopped however many Lab owners find it hard to continue eating with a begging Lab at their side. If one intends to banish specific negative behavior in their Labrador retrievers, a strong-willed NO and purposely not giving in can eventually give the results one desires.
Oftentimes an extinction burst comes before a negative behavior is successfully corrected. This is a behavior wherein a dog will try everything to get what he wants. He will try to nudge each person in the table or lay his head in each person’s lap and may whine or bark. If you give in to a Lab’s charms you will be back to square one and all the hard work that you have put into the training will be in vain. And another thing to keep in mind—once you start training again, you will need to exert twice the effort because the extinction burst which will be exhibited by your Lab will surely be double the persistence and charm that he has shown.
Photo of Jack provided by Just Labradors Forum member labby