The Modules

The DogNostics Dog Behavior Diploma Modules

1.     The Use & Application of Best Practices – A Working Guide to Case Management

Professionals committed to best practice will always take into consideration whether they have the required level of competency to be working with any individual training or behavior case, whether they should only work on the case with support from a peer, or a peer with case-specific knowledge and/or experience; whether they should work on the case under the supervision of a more experienced behavior consultant or whether they should refer the case to a veterinary behaviorist.

There is an array of best practice models in the Pet Training Industry. Some of these models begin training and behavior change programs with the least invasive and aversive protocols available and work up to the more aversive levels – as deemed necessary by the individual trainer involved. Progressing up the hierarchy to more invasive and aversive protocols is merely a matter of time for individuals who are not proficient in their trade, or do not have the requisite scientific knowledge or education to understand why this strategy is so problematic in the first place. Simply because something is included as a guideline or an ethical code or endorsed by a well-known individual, does not mean that it will either be implemented correctly, nor, indeed, that it will be implemented at all. These existing hierarchies argue for why a new Best Practice model is needed to guide pet professionals.

2.     A Comparison and Contrast Between Respondent Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

It is assumed based on the programs eligibility requirements that students have a comprehensive understanding of both non-Associative and Associative learning. This module delves a little deeper into the differences between Respondent Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. It is critical that consultants can develop effective behavior change programs incorporating all aspects of applied animal behavior. We can no longer just focus on operationalizing our dog training protocols through applied behavior analysis and must have a higher understanding of involuntary and voluntary behaviors, how they are elicited and/or evoked and the role of conditioned emotional responses. Across the differing approaches to dog training and behavior modification, professionals may commonly be insistent on using tools or approaches with little concern to the emotional state expressed by the pet in front of them. All too often there is a myopia to what the pet is communicating, feeling, or even how he is reacting or responding. As such, subtle signs of stress, anxiety or fear may be missed due to the insistence that the chosen approach is acceptable and or the only approach.

3.     Canine Communication & Social Behavior

Understanding the science of behavior is one thing, understanding the emotional impact that our training and behavior processes and protocols have on our four-legged student is another. To enable us to be more proficient and humane behavior consultants we need to understand the nuances of canine communication. Communication “signals” are social behavior, just like any other behaviors. It is critical for behavior professionals to have a complex understanding of canine communication. It is important to be able to identify and interpret distance increasing and decreasing behaviors for many reasons such as: to make relatively reliable predictions about the near-future behavior of the do;  to know when to observe for antecedent conditions that set the occasion for and evoke problem behavior; to know when to observe for consequences that may be maintaining a behavior; to judge whether the stimulation you are applying in training will likely turn out to be reinforcing or punishment. This module coves a vast array of topics such as the topography of behavior, communication indicators and signals, consent testing, preference testing, aggression, and dog bite analysis. Becoming proficient in canine communication and social behavior ensures we avoid behavior myopia in our consulting work.

4.     The Functional Analysis – A Professional Approach & Flow to Behavior Case Management

The approach and flow of behavior case management makes the case for the systematical application of using functional assessments in the practice and management of behavior change programs. The behavioral approach to problem behavior is the most effective and efficient model to understanding behavior because it is based on the science of learning theory and follows scientific processes to identify the antecedents and consequences of the behavior. The behavior analytical approach does not rely on guess work, trial and error tactics or anecdotal recommendations but systematically identifies the functional relationship the behavior has with the environment, nor should it ignore the emotional welfare of the pet.   When these relationships have been identified then efficient and effective solutions can be developed. The behavior analytical approach is called a functional assessment, an objective and systematic, efficient and effective strategy for explaining, describing and controlling behavior. After all, if we cannot provide an accurate hypothesis on why the problematic behavior functions and how it is being elicited and maintained then it is not feasible that we attempt to develop a behavior change program. Using the application of science to work through our case management offers far better solutions than common sense or conventional wisdom. Science offers solutions that are public, peer reviewed and have a verification of findings across independent groups of researchers.

5.     Building Behavior Change Programs Using Differential Reinforcement, Counter Conditioning & Desensitization Protocols

Many professionals can cite or explain the sciences but find it difficult to operationalize these concepts into protocols. With an enhanced knowledge of conditioning, students will learn both academically and in practical terms how to construct counter conditioning programs and develop desensitization hierarchies to resolve common behavioral problems that are involuntarily elicited.

Respondent conditioning techniques for changing behavior focus on the antecedents, the stimuli, setting events and motivating operations that contribute to or elicit the problematic conditioned emotional responses and the operants they motivate. 

Respondent conditioning techniques and procedures used for changing behavior are a combination of, a) In vivo systematic desensitization where the pet is systematically and gradually exposed to the problem stimulus while maintaining the animal below the conditioned emotional response threshold, b) counter conditioning a type of exposure therapy where the problematic conditioned emotional response is replaced with a more desirable or appropriate response and c) attention exercises that promote relaxation by redirecting the animal’s focus. In this module students will increase their understanding of how conditioning takes place and its application in dog training. They will also learn about emotional learning, conditioned emotional responses and the important role emotions play in behavior and how we select and choose our protocols and procedures for different case management.

In contrast we will also review during this module shaping and differential reinforcement and how they can contribute to humane behavior change programs rather than using punishment. 

6.     Managing Productive Behavior Consultations

Much of a professional consultant’s role is teaching clients how to train their dogs and/or participate in behavior change programs. Training others to train is an important skill. This module takes you through the project management of Behavior Consultations and the human resource skills required to be an effective consultant.

Learn the necessary skills to conduct effective consultations that build consensus around agreed upon behavior goals. This module covers communication skills, building consensus skills and how best to work with clients to achieve the results needed by the guardian, pet and consultant. Understand the biology of learning and grasp a systematic approach you can integrate into your practice using skills from Positive Psychology. 

BONUS Module - The Art & Science of Teaching People - coming soon