Some common terms you'll see in the other articles.

Aversive
Any stimulus that is avoided or unwanted (fear, pain, discomfort, annoyance)

Appetitive
Any stimulus that is sought after or desired

Back-chaining
Training the last behavior in a chain first, then training the next-to-last behavior, then the behavior before that, and so on. Back-chaining takes advantage of the Premack principle.

Behavior
Any observable action an animal does.

Behavior chain
A series of behaviors linked together in a continuous sequence by cues, and maintained by a reinforcer at the end of the chain. Each cue serves as the marker and the reinforcer for the previous behavior, and the cue for the next behavior.

Chaining
The process of combining multiple behaviors into a continuous sequence linked together by cues, and maintained by a reinforcer at the end of the chain. Each cue serves as the marker and the reinforcer for the previous behavior, and the cue for the next behavior.

Classical conditioning
The process of associating a neutral stimulus with an involuntary response until the stimulus elicits the response.

Conditioned punisher
A conditioned stimulus that signifies that an aversive is coming. Used to deter or interrupt behavior; if the behavior halts or changes, the aversive may be avoided. For example, a trainer that says “ack” to interrupt a behavior, or the warning beep of a shock collar when a dog gets too close to the boundary of an electric fence.

Conditioned stimulus
Any stimulus that has preceded a particular behavior or event sufficiently often to provoke awareness or response. Clicks and cues are both examples of conditioned stimulus.

Counter-conditioning
Switching a stimulus from aversive to appetitive, or vice versa. Usually done by pairing the stimulus with the desired opposite. For example, a frightening object being paired with the delivery of food, done slowly will result in the frightening object becoming a desired predictor of good things. If it's rushed may result in food being made aversive.

Criteria
The specific, trainer-defined characteristics of a desired response in a training session. The trainer clicks at the instant the animal achieves each criterion. Criteria can include not only the physical behavior but elements like latency, duration, and distance.

Cue
A stimulus that elicits a behavior. Cues may be verbal, physical (i.e., a hand signal), or environmental (i.e., a curb may become a cue to sit if the dog is always cued to sit before crossing a road).

Desensitization
The process of taking a stimulus that was previously aversive or appetitive and bringing it toward neutral. Usually done through prolonged exposure.

Extinction
The weakening of behavior through non-reinforcement or “ignoring” the behavior. In extinction, nothing is added or removed from the environment. For example, a treat lies on the other side of a fence. A dog reaches his paw under, but cannot reach the treat. Because reaching for the treat doesn’t work—because it isn’t reinforced through success—the dog will eventually quit reaching for the treat.

Extinction burst
A characteristic of extinction. If a previously reinforced behavior is not reinforced, the animal will increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior in an attempt to earn the reinforcement again. If the behavior is not reinforced it will diminish again after an extinction burst.

Jackpot
A mega-reward given after a particularly exceptional effort or to mark the end of a session.

Luring
A hands-off method of guiding the dog through a behavior. For example, a food lure can be used to guide a dog from a sit into a down. This is a common method of getting more complex behaviors. Lures are usually food, but they may also be target sticks or anything else the dog will follow. Trainers must take care to fade the lure early.

Marker
A signal used to mark desired behavior at the instant it occurs. The clicker is a marker.

Negative punishment (P-)
Taking away something the animal will work for to suppress (lessen the frequency of) a behavior. For example, a dog jumps on you to get attention. By turning your back or leaving the room, you apply P- by removing the attention he wants.

Negative reinforcement (R-)
Removing something the animal will work to avoid to strengthen (increase the frequency of) a behavior. Heeling is traditionally taught through R-. The dog receives a correction when he walks anywhere except in heel position. Walking in heel position increases, because that is the only “safe” place—because the threat of correction is removed by walking there. The key to R- is that an aversive must first be applied or threatened in order for it to be removed.

Operant conditioning (OC)
The process of changing an animal’s response to a certain stimulus by manipulating the consequences that immediately follow the response. The five principles of operant conditioning were developed by B.F. Skinner. Clicker training is a subset of operant conditioning, using only positive reinforcement, extinction, and, to a lesser extent, negative punishment.

Positive punishment (P+)
Adding something the animal will work to avoid to suppress (lessen the frequency of) a behavior. For example, jerking on the leash to stop a dog from jumping on someone is P+ used to suppress the behavior of jumping. Other common examples of P+ include yelling, nose taps, spanking, electric shock, and assorted “booby traps.”

Positive reinforcement (R+)
Adding something the animal will work for to strengthen (increase the frequency of) a behavior. For example, giving the dog a treat for sitting in order to increase the probability that the dog will sit again.

Primary reinforcer
A reinforcer that the animal is born needing. Food, water, and sex are primary reinforcers.

Proofing
The cue will result in the behavior in every situation possible.

Punishment
In operant conditioning, a consequence to a behavior in which something is added to or removed from the situation to make the behavior less likely to occur in the future.

Rate of reinforcement
The number of reinforcers given for desired responses in a specific period of time. A high rate of reinforcement is critical to training success.

Reinforcement
In operant conditioning, a consequence to a behavior in which something is added to or removed from the situation to make the behavior more likely to occur in the future.

Reinforcer
Anything the horse will work to obtain.

Release word
A word that signals the end of a behavior. After a behavior is strong and on cue, clicker trainers replace the clicker with a release word.

Respondent conditioning
The process of associating a neutral stimulus with an involuntary response until the stimulus elicits the response. A famous example was the discovery by Ivan Pavlov: dogs drooled when they heard a bell that was previously paired with food. Also called classical conditioning.

Secondary reinforcer/Condition reinforcer
A conditioned reinforcer. A reinforcer the animal is not born needing. Secondary reinforcers may be as, or even more, powerful than a primary reinforcer.

Shaping
Building new behavior by selectively reinforcing variations in existing behavior, during the action rather than after completion, to increase or strengthen the behavior in a specific manner or direction.

Stimulus
A change in the environment. If the stimulus has no effect on the animal, it is a neutral stimulus. A stimulus that stands out in the environment, that the animal notices more than other environmental stimuli, is a salient stimulus. A stimulus that causes a change of state in the animal, that causes him to perform a specific behavior, for example, is a discriminative stimulus.

Stimulus control
A conditioned stimulus becomes a discriminative stimulus (or cue) when it is followed by a specific learned behavior or reaction. The response is said to be 'under stimulus control' when presentation of the particular stimulus fulfills these four conditions: the behavior is always offered when that cue is presented; the behavior is not offered in the absence of that cue; the behavior is not offered in response to some other cue; and no other behavior occurs in response to that cue.

Target
Something the animal is taught to touch with some part of his body. A target is generally stationary.

Target stick
A mobile target the animal is taught to follow. Target sticks are often used as lures to shape behavior. Target sticks are available in our store.

Traditional training
Compulsion training. Traditional training is characterized by modeling or luring to get the behavior, and the use of negative reinforcement and positive punishment to proof it.

<- Back to Training Articles