Dog Training Definitions

The terms and/or definitions are terms used on our site. These definitions pertain to dog training and are in our own words.

The acquisition phase in dog training is the first stage in the learning process. This is when the trainer begins marking certain behavior with reward to clearly communicate with the dog a training command and / or hand signal. The dog begins to make associations with these commands.

When the dog cues off of the handler's body language and anticipates the command before any verbal command is given.

Bite Inhibition
The process of a dog learning to not put their mouth on us too hard (biting) when they play. This often happens in the puppy stage.

Civil Agitation
A method of agitating the dog without protection equipment. The decoy works the dog defensively and usually is in street clothing. It is also part of the man orientation phase of training.


Prong Collar
The prong or pinch collar applies uniform pressure over the skin of the dog's neck. It is also a very natural form of correction that most dogs respond very well to.

Choke Collar
A collar that slips over the dogs head and when pressure is applied it constricts or chokes the dog. Choke collars are usually metal however they also can be made of nylon and leather.

Flat Collar
A collar that is flat and can vary from 1/4 inch up to 2 inches wide depending the dog and style. These collars are made from nylon, leather, and cotton. Flat collars are general day to day type of collar that hold dog tags and is usually worn around the home.

Competing Motivations
Often we use a reward system in training to motivate the dog, such as treats/food, jute roll, or a ball. If the reward presented is challenged by a greater motivator, the dog will not respond to the reward thus creating a problem of competing motivations. In order to overcome the competing motivator a trainer needs to turn to positive punishment, or a correction.

Compulsion training is also known as escape training, Compulsion is directed to attach a cost to any behavior other than the one we are expecting or encouraging. The dog is called on to execute commands in order to remove the discomfort applied by the trainer. The dog escapes the force by doing the command.

Using the dog's opposition reflex to make him counter a particular behavior.

Defense Drive
The dog's instinct to defend it's prey, territory, or itself. This drive is triggered by threat.

Dominance Aggression
An inherent trait that a dog displays to assert itself over a person, or pack member. Example: A dog challenges its owner or other dog over the possession of an object.

Fear Aggression
A form of aggression brought on by fear, and known to be a reaction in a dog who feels that he is in danger. In order to defend himself, the dog will react (flight) or respond (bite) to the threat.

Fear Imprint Period (of a dog's maturation)
This period typically occurs somewhere between 4-8 months. Experiences a young dog perceives as traumatic during this time are generalized and may affect him all of his life. A dog is most likely to develop an avoidance response if subjected to physical or psychological trauma during this stage.

Fight Drive
A combination of prey and defensive instincts stimulated in a dog with a high capacity for self confidence. These drives, in conjunction with a dog winning fights over a period of time, result in a development of fight drive.

After the dog has acquired the association of the command with the desired behavior it transitions to the fluency stage. This is when the dog begins making an association automatically. The trainer asks the dog to perform a command, and depending on his response, the trainer will administer either positive reinforcement (the dog complied) or positive punishment (usually a correction for doing anything else besides the command).

Making the automatic associations clear in all contexts. This stage is also referred to as the 'Proofing Phase'. The dog is given commands and expected to perform them in various conditions including distractions, new places, and around strange people.

The dog's ability to deal with adversity and also how well it deals with corrections.

Imprinting (puppies)
A form of learning that takes place at a young age (puppy stage) in which environmental influences are learned through site, sound, and tactile experience.

The dog's ability to adapt or change to a new environment. A few examples of change would be the dog's environment (boarding or travel), or a change in the social situation (new owners, or the addition of a new pet to the family).

Operant Conditioning
To properly time and mark the behavior of the dog which naturally occurs (sit, down, stand, walk, etc.). Example: Dog sits, trainer marks the natural occurring behavior with reward.

Opposition Reflex
If you push, the dog has a tendency to push back against you. If you pull, they have a tendency to pull against you.

Passive Bite
The dog engages (bites) the decoy without agitation. An example in training would be the decoy slips the dog a sleeve and becomes passive the dog then would need to re-engage and bite the decoy without further agitation.

Prey Aggression
An inherent trait and instinctive motivation to chase, catch, and kill, or in short - obtain food.

Primary Reinforcement
The reward given to the dog in exchange for the appropriate behavior. Example: food or treat reward is given to the dog for performing the appropriate behavior.

Ritual Display of Dominance
As it relays to obedience training, the dog resists compulsion by exhibiting certain behavior(s) and not engaging or executing the command.

Dog on dog ritual display of dominance would be one dog mounting another.

Ritual Display of Submission
As it relays to obedience training, the dog responds to compulsion however instead of engaging in the proper behavior, it anticipates the correction and tries to escape the affect. Example: A dog rolling on its back as a sign of submission.

A German sport sponsored by the German Shepherd dog club of Germany, also known as the SV. The premise of Schutzhund is to test a dog's courage, it's desire to work, intelligence, trainability, perseverance, and protective instinct.

Secondary Reinforcement
Sound or verbal encouragement; something that clearly marks the event of the appropriate behavior. Example: Giving the dog verbal praise before you give the treat/reward.

Separation Anxiety
Emotional stress that is usually displayed shortly after the owner or family leaves the dog.

The specific traits and inherent characteristics of the dog's personality. Specifically, the temperament is made up public sociability, nerves, drives, hardness, focus, and activity level.

Threshold (in the context of behavior modification)?
The level of stimulus needed to elicit change in the behavior of the dog.

Other pages you may find helpful:
Dog Training Programs
Neuman K-9 Academy FAQs

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Josiah Neuman with pack of boot camp training dogs at state park