Humane Hierarchy of Dog Training: Intensified Themes

humane hierarchy dog training themes

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over an approach to dog training that’s known as the Humane Hierarchy. Created by Dr. Susan Friedman to help dog trainers and owners with several important areas of this process, the Humane Hierarchy involves starting out with simpler care and welfare themes and interventions with your dog, then moving to more intense formats over time.

At Innovative K9 Academy, we support a number of distinct training approaches or themes within our dog training classes, dog boot camp and numerous other dog training programs. While we went over the lower-stress, care-focused areas of the Humane Hierarchy in part one of our series, today’s part two will dig into the latter stages that can involve more intense interventions in some cases.

Differential Reinforcement

This one may sound a bit complex, so we’ll simplify it for you: “Differential reinforcement” really refers to giving your dog an acceptable alternative behavior for some kind of negative outcome you don’t want to see. It involves beginning this process with a specific reinforcement, sometimes a minor negative punishment for the behavior or sometimes a positive one for avoiding it.

For instance, let’s say your dog barks at the door regularly. As a form of differential reinforcement, you can teach them to sit at the door instead of barking, which is not the same thing as simply teaching them to sit because you’re also requiring that a given behavior (barking) be avoided. When your dog has become familiar with this new task, you can remove the reinforcement format you’ve been using to train them on it slowly but surely.

Extinction and Negative Themes

Down similar lines is a theme known as “extinction,” which within dog training refers to removing forms of unwanted behavior from the animal. However, because these areas involve negative reinforcement and may even lead to temporary issues of pet-owner relationship straining, we strongly recommend you reach out to a dog training professional for advice before going down this path on your own.

This is because, while some extinction and negative punishment themes can be beneficial for your dog in the long run, too many people reach for them right away. Extinction can be stressful for the dog, and it should only be applied when other forms of training have not been successful.

Positive Punishment

Another step of this hierarchy you should be careful with moving to is positive punishment, which refers to scolding or scaring the dog when they do something you don’t like. It can be harmful to pet relationship if not done correctly, and should be used as a last resort.

For more on the Humane Hierarchy of dog training, or to learn about any of our dog training courses or pet obedience services, speak to the staff at Innovative K9 Academy today.