All definitions are from Burch and Bailey’s How Dog’s Learn, unless otherwise specified. Additional definitions are identified by author only.

Acquired Behavior Behavior that is determined by heredity but has to be further developed by learning. This special behavior is learned in the so called “Socialization period,” which is about the forth to the twelfth week after birth. In this period the dog learns to react to his siblings, other dogs, people, odors, sounds, sight, etc. (Garitsen and Haak)

Allelometric Behavior A type of learning by mimicking, or group coordinated behavior that relies on the hard-wired inclination of a social animal to follow and mimic members of the social group. (Miller)

Antecedent Control Controlling the environment and/or an identified trigger stimulus so that a behavior will not occur.

Antecedent Control Controlling the environment and/or an identified trigger stimulus so that a behavior will not occur.

Antecedent Events The events that occur before a behavior.

Antecedents Stimuli that occur prior to a behavior.

Auto Training Method of associating an action with a command by waiting until the action occurs and then giving it a command. (Coren) see also Contiguity Learning.

Avoidance Conditioning When offering a given behavior can prevent a negative stimulus from occurring, the behavior increases in frequency. (Burch and Bailey)

Backward Chaining A process that starts with the last response and moves forward to the first response. In back-chaining the next behavior becomes the reinforcer for the previous behavior. (Burch and Bailey)

Behavioral Diagnostics Takes into account the operant variables related to behavior, plus genetics, medical status and physical variables. It is an on-going approach well-suited to the analyzing the behavior problems of dogs, because it is so important to consider the biological variables. (Burch and Bailey)

Behaviorism The science of behavior.

Bridging Stimulus A method of using a time bridge between the animal’s response and the delivery of a primary reinforcer such as food. (Delayed reinforcement.)

Butyric Acid Constituent chemical in human perspiration.

Classical Conditioning Reflexive behavior, like salivation. Not voluntary behaviors. See Respondent Conditioning.

Clicker Training One application of conditioned reinforcement. The clicker is a neutral stimulus that is followed by a primary reinforcer and eventually becomes a conditioned reinforcer. (Burch and Bailey)

Clicker Training The clicker is a neutral stimulus that becomes a conditioned reinforcer. (Burch and Bailey)

Conditioned Inhibitor No-reward marker that elicits a change in behavior. (Fisher) i.e. the removal of an expected reward as a punisher.

Conditioned Punishers These only function as punishers after being paired with an unconditioned punisher. Includes but not limited to: verbal reprimands, sounds, and facial expressions. (Burch and Bailey)

Conditioned Reflex A classically conditioned reflexive response. A reflexive response under. Stimulus control. (Burch and Bailey)

Conditioned Reinforcers See secondary reinforcers. A previously neutral stimulus that begins to function as a reinforcer after being paired a number of times with an established reinforcer. (Can be used with a “reward marker” for delayed reinforcement.) (Burch and Bailey)

Conditioned Stimulus Pairing a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus creates a conditioned stimulus. (Burch and Bailey)

Contiguity Learning Attaching a label to an activity that a subject (dog) is already engaged in. (Coren)

Contingencies of Reinforcement The relationship between the antecedent stimuli, a behavior, and the reinforcing consequences. (Burch and Bailey)

Continuous Punishment Every incidence of the undesired behavior is punished. (Burch and Bailey)

Continuous Reinforcement Reinforcers given for every single correct response. (Burch and Bailey)

Counter-conditioning Counter the effects of previous conditioning. Often the previous conditioning was of an aversive nature. It is of particular use with fear and anxiety. Counter-conditioning will only be effective for classically conditioned behaviors (behaviors that deal with natural drives). (Burch and Bailey)

Depression Underperformance related to a change to a lower reinforcement amount or value. (Burch and Bailey)

Deprivation Describes the effectiveness of a reinforcer. Used to increase the value of the reinforcer. (Burch and Bailey)

Differential Reinforcement Combines extinction and reinforcement to decrease the probability of an undesirable behavior while increasing the frequency of a desired behavior. (Burch and Bailey)

Differential Reinforcement of Low-Rate Behaviors

Reinforcement of behaviors only if they occur less often than a specific number of times in a given period. (Burch and Bailey)

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors

Reinforces the absence of an undesirable behavior for a specified period of time. (Burch and Bailey)

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviors

Teaches a subject that acceptable behaviors result in rewards while undesirable behaviors do not. (Burch and Bailey)

Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behaviors

One way to reduce the frequency of an undesirable behavior is to reinforce a behavior that is incompatible with it. (Burch and Bailey)

Discriminative Stimulus The antecedent stimulus that is present when a behavior is reinforced. (Burch and Bailey)

Elation Effect Results from jackpotting. Does not have lasting conditioning values. (Burch and Bailey)

Escape Conditioning A response is more likely to occur in the future if the negative stimulus is removed immediately after the response. In escape conditioning, escape comes after the aversive event has occurred. (Burch and Bailey)

Establishing Operations Events that alter the value of a reinforcer. Establishes the effectiveness of reinforcers at particular times and in particular situations. (Burch and Bailey)

Extinction A behavior that has been previously reinforced is no longer reinforced and the result is that the behavior no longer occurs. Extinction involves withholding the reinforcers that maintain a behavior. (Burch and Bailey)

Extinction Burst

The increase of intensity, duration or frequency of a behavior that is not reinforced during the process of extinction. (Burch and Bailey)


The gradual reduction of the strength of a prompt. (Burch and Bailey)

Fixed Duration Schedule

A schedule of reinforcement defined as a reinforcer that is given after a behavior has occurred (or has been occurring) for a certain amount of time. (Burch and Bailey)

Fixed Interval Schedule

A schedule of reinforcement defined as a specified amount of time before the reinforcer is given. (Burch and Bailey)

Fixed Ratio Schedule

A schedule of reinforcement defined as the same number of responses required before a reinforcer is given. (“FR”: example FR3) (Burch and Bailey)


Exposure to the fearful stimuli for a fixed period of time where escape is not permitted. It is almost the direct opposite of systematic desensitization. (Straight flooding often causes overwhelming anxiety and stress, loss of bowel or bladder control often occurs.) Traditional flooding does not address positive adaptive behaviors. (Burch and Bailey)

Functional Analysis

A way of looking at the operant variables that are related to a behavior. Knowing the function of a problem behavior can help determine an appropriate solution. This procedure determines under which conditions a behavior problem occurs. (Burch and Bailey)


Occurs when behaviors are seen in contexts other than those in which they were originally trained. (Burch and Bailey)


A gradual decline in the magnitude of the respondent behavior after it has been elicited repeatedly. The process whereby an animal (or person) begins to have a less negative reaction to an event after they have been exposed to it several times. The results are supported by research as only temporary. (Burch and Bailey)

Innate Behavior

These are all acts determined by heredity and which are already partially present at birth. These are, in the beginning, still simple acts like urinating and defecating when the female licks the puppies, kicking with the front legs against the female’s nipples to get milk out of the deeper regions of the milk glands, etc. In a later stage of the dog’s life various behaviors will appear which the dog was never taught, like turning around before laying down, scratching away soil after he has answered nature’s call, etc. (Garritsen and Haak) Hardwired behavior, such as breed specific traits may be considered innate. (Coppinger)
Intermittent Punishment The undesired behavior is punished only some of the time.  (Resulting in a random schedule backfire.) (Burch and Bailey)
Interval Schedules Sets an interval of time that must pass before a reinforcer is given. (Burch and Bailey)
Jackpotting The use of a large and unexpected amount of the reinforcer.  Recommended in the short-term, but diminishes response in the long-term. (Burch and Bailey)
Law of Effect Responses that produce rewards tend to increase in frequency.  Thorndike’s LAW OF EFFECT.
Limited Hold The limited window of time during which a response will produce a reinforcer. (Burch and Bailey)
Local Enhancement Differs from true observational learning in that the dog actively participates in the desired behavior in the presence of the other dog and/or other environmental clues.  (Miller)
Motivation Describes the effectiveness of a reinforcer.  The heart of reinforcement.  The reinforcement must hold value to be valuable. (Burch and Bailey)
Negative Punishment Occurs when the behavior is followed by the removal of a stimulus.  The withdrawal of a positive consequence. (Burch and Bailey)
Negative Reinforcement One of the four parts of operant conditioningNegative reinforcement is the removal of an unpleasant event or stimulus as soon as a desirable response is performed in order to increase the frequency of the desired response.  The probability of a behavior occurring the in future is increased when the behavior is followed by the removal or avoidance of a negative stimulus.  With negative reinforcement a negative stimulus is removed, conditioning an escape or avoidance response.  (See also escape conditioning and avoidance conditioning.) (Burch and Bailey)
Negative Reinforcement Extinction Not allowing escape from the situation until the correct behavior is offered. (Burch and Bailey)
Nonexclusionary Time-Out The individual is not removed physically from the situation but prevented form engaging in by the use of another form of restriction.  (Ex.: placing an unruly dog into a DOWN.) (Burch and Bailey)
Observational Learning (Modeling Behavior)  To be effective/definitive, learning must include Attention – Retention – Motivation – Production; unproven (scientific) theory.  (Miller)
Olfactory Adaptation Scent Flooding.  (McConnell)
Operant Conditioning A part of behaviorism that is used to explain the relationship between environmental events and actions.  The type of conditioning related to the behavioral principles of reinforcement, extinction, punishment and stimulus control. (Burch and Bailey)
Paedomorphic The retention of juvenile characteristics beyond sexual/social maturity. (?who)
Pavlovian Conditioning See Classical Conditioning.
Physical Punishment One of the four categories of punishers.  Involves the application of aversive events or aversive stimuli.  Non-abusive physical punishment involves the brief, noninjurous application of physical punishers to reduce a behavior.  Punishment includes but is not limited to: tapping under the chin, ear pinch, pinch collar, check correction, or shock correction.  Meant for short duration discomfort only. If the use of any of these causes long-lasting pain or discomfort than the animal has been abused. (Burch and Bailey)
Positive Punishment One of the four parts of operant conditioning.
Positive Punishment Occurs when the behavior is followed by the presence of an unpleasant stimulus.  Involves the presentation of an aversive event. (Burch and Bailey)
Positive Reinforcement One of the four parts of operant conditioning.  A stimulus that when presented following a behavior makes it more likely that type of behavior will occurs in the future. (Burch and Bailey)
Premack Principle "High probability behavior reinforces low-probability behavior."  A preferred activity can be used to reinforce a less-favored activity.  It requires self-management and an understanding of what is in one’s best interests and is rarely used in dog training.
Primary Reinforcers Reinforcers that are related to biological drives, such as food and sex.
Proactive Intervention A component of leadership that defines effective leaders from ineffective ones; specifically important to the dog’s perception of his overall safety.  (Clothier)
Prompting Providing antecedents that result in the occurrence of a target behavior. (Burch and Bailey)
Punisher A consequence that if presented immediately following a behavior makes the behavior less likely to occur in the future. (Burch and Bailey)
Punishment One of the four parts of operant conditioning.  Punishment is providing a consequence that makes a particular behavior less likely to occur in the future.
Ratio Schedules Sets a number of responses that must occur before reinforcement is given.
Reinforcement A desired behavior is strengthened or made likely to repeat by following the behavior with a consequent stimulus
Reinforcer A stimulus that when presented following a behavior causes that behavior to be more likely to occur again in the future. (Burch and Bailey)
Reinforcer Assessment A process of rating the value of various reinforcers, both primary and secondary to determine best usage.
Reinforcer Sampling A form of establishing operations. (Burch and Bailey)
Reprimands One of the four categories of punishers.  Involves the application of aversive events.  Reprimands are conditioned punishers.
Respondent Conditioning See Operant Conditioning.  An unconditioned stimulus elicits an unconditioned response.  /// A neutral stimulus can become a conditioned stimulus if it is paired a number of times with an unconditioned stimulus. The unconditioned stimuli and unconditioned responses of respondent conditioning affect the reflexive actions of the glands and smooth muscles. (By contrast operant conditioning involves the striped muscles that control voluntary activities such as barking running and jumping.)  Techniques used in respondent conditioning are habituation, counter-conditioning, systematic desensitization and flooding. (Burch and Bailey)
Response Cost One of the four categories of punishers.  Involves the withdrawal of a positive consequence.  Withholding a known reinforcer as a result of an undesired behavior.  (Cause and Effect must already have been established.) (Burch and Bailey)
Response Effort The effort the animal must make in order to engage in a behavior. (Burch and Bailey)
Satiation Describes the effectiveness of a reinforcer.  When a reinforcer loses value due to extensive or exclusive use. (Burch and Bailey)
Schedules of Reinforcement These define which responses will be reinforced and how often.
Secondary Inducements See secondary reinforcers.
Secondary Reinforcers Reinforcers other than those related to primary drives.  Secondary reinforcers are related to social conditions (within a cultural context).  Includes praise, voice inflection and clickers.  Secondary reinforcers can become reinforcers by being paired with primary reinforcers.
Shaping A process used to establish a new behavior or behavior pattern.  It is reinforcing successive approximations of a desired behavior. (Burch and Bailey)
Social Facilitation (In reference to Social Learning)  Behaviors performed in a group where the presence of another dog causes an increase in the intensity of the behavior.  (Miller)
Social Interference (in reference to Social Learning) The phenomenon that occurs when the pressure of other dogs and their contrary behavior interrupts a single dog’s ability to concentrate in a learning session; distraction.  (Miller)
Social Learning (Observational Learning)  An animal’s ability to learn by watching pack members and mimicking same with respect to learning.  (Miller) 
Social Mimicking Does to require strict adherence to behavior modeling. (Miller)
Spontaneous Recovery Occurs when a behavior reappears following extinction. (Burch and Bailey)
Stages of Learning Acquired – Automatic – Generalization - Maintenance.  (Applebaum)
Stimulus Any object or event that can be detected by the senses and can affect a person or animal’s behavior.  Includes but is not limited to: verbal commands, encouraging noises, clickers, whistles, food treats, pats, snaps on the leash and body language. (Burch and Bailey)
Stimulus Control An increased probability that the behavior will occur as a result of the presence of a specific antecedent stimulus. (Burch and Bailey)
Stimulus Discrimination When a behavior is reinforced if a specific discrimination stimulus is present (Burch and Bailey)  Ex.: “sleeve-happy” police dogs.
Stimulus Generalization A behavior that occurs in the presence of stimuli that are similar to the discriminative stimulus present during training. (Burch and Bailey)
Successive approximations Any behaviors that get the individual closer to the desired behavior, or any behaviors that resemble the desired behavior. (Burch and Bailey)
Systematic Desensitization Three main counterparts of this are (1) relaxation training, (2) a hierarchy ranging from the least to the most problematic situation and (3) counterconditioning. (Burch and Bailey)
Targeting Gives the trainer stimulus control for particular behaviors. (Burch and Bailey)
Task Analysis The procedure of breaking a task into small steps to facilitate training. (Burch and Bailey)
Temperament Internal constitution in respect to balance or mixture of qualities or parts.  (WDJ)
Time-Out One of the four categories of punishers.  Involves the withdrawal of a positive consequence.  (No positive reinforcement, in some cases no stimulation of any kind.)  The transference from a more-reinforcing environment to a less reinforcing environment. (Burch and Bailey)
Topography Refers to the physical characteristics of a behavior, such as biting or aggression. (Burch and Bailey)
Trained Behavior This is the strengthening or suppression of innate and acquired behavior.  This happens in particular during the dog’s training and exercises, for instance as a search and rescue dog, but begins with obedience training.  When at least part of the trained behavior is not innate or not acquired, or if there is no hereditary tendency for a certain part of behavior, then teaching and training of that part of behavior makes no sense to the dog.  (Garritsen and Haak)
Unconditioned Punisher Related to biology and does not require conditioning.  Includes but is not limited to: extreme hot or cold, extreme level of noise, any painful stimuli. (Burch and Bailey)
Variable Duration Schedule A schedule of reinforcement defined as a variable interval of time that the behavior must be engaged in before reinforcement is given. (Burch and Bailey)
Variable Interval Schedule A schedule of reinforcement defined a variable amount of time that passes prior to reinforcement. (Burch and Bailey)
Variable Ratio Schedule A schedule of reinforcement defined as reinforcement given after a certain number of responses that varies unpredictably.  This is the true “random schedule of reinforcement.” (Burch and Bailey)

All definitions are from Burch and bailey’s How Dog’s Learn, unless otherwise specified.  Additional definitions are identified by author only. 

C: (0202)dc-  updated: 08/07


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