Behavioural extinction is a learning principle that is extremely efficient in resolving dog behaviour issues such as: Jumping on people, pulling on the leash, begging at the table, and whining when placed inside the crate.
Extinction learning refers to the gradual decrease in response to a conditioned stimulus that occurs when the stimulus is presented without reinforcement.
When you stop reinforcing a behaviour,
the behaviour fades away.
An example of this is if your GSD begs for food at the dinner table and you STOP giving him/her food sooner or later he/she will stop begging. It takes time, patience, and consistency. Although the concept is straightforward (stop reinforcing the bad behaviour), in practice it can be difficult for the following reasons:
Frequent behaviour occurs when the behaviour is reinforced. Sometimes the reinforcer/reward is obvious, e.g. begging at dinner table to obtain food – all one has to do is stop giving the food. Other behaviours are not as blatantly obvious, such as jumping on people or barking.
Jumping up on people is a common behaviour that we see in our GSDs when they want attention. Attention is ANY interaction e.g., yelling, pushing away, eye contact. Weather the attention is good, bad, or indifferent, it is still attention. Therefore, to extinguish jumping behaviour you need to completely ignore this behaviour – NO eye contact or physical contact of any form. In fact, you should look away, fold your arms, and turn your back to them.
Barking occurs for a variety of reasons the majority of which we ourselves cannot hear or see. Other times barking occurs through boredom, in which case the act of barking is reinforcing/rewarding in itself. In this situation extinction will not work as the reinforcement is self-rewarding. These situations require distraction by providing other stimuli and teaching him/her other means to amuse themselves.
Before you can irradiate the unwanted behaviour, you need to ascertain what the reinforcer/reward is in order to remove it.
When you first remove the reinforcer/reward the dog will try even harder! This is behaviour is referred to as an Extinction Burst. E.g., you’re shopping with your toddler who continually nags you for lollies or a toy, you ignore the nagging and next thing you know your toddler is throwing a full-scale tantrum and throwing themselves on the ground kicking and screaming
Giving in is a backward step, teaching your GSD that persistence will sometimes gain them their reward. You have to be strict and consistent. No food at the table EVER.
Extinction does not mean forgetting. When one forgets something, it means the memory faded away. During extinction there is new learning, but the old memory remains.
When you start extinguishing a behaviour you will note that dog gets better during one training session but then the next day they revert back to the same undesired behaviour. This is normal, don’t despair – keep going, keep training, be consistent.
Eventually with regular training sessions, the bad behaviour will slowly be reduced until one day it will be gone.
Spontaneous recovery can occur:
Use behavioural extinction training when you want to eliminate am unwanted behaviour.
Steps to achieve this are:
Now that we have covered how to remove bad behaviour, learning positive training methods to teach your GSD behaviour and commands by reading the following: