What’s Differential Reinforcement In Dog Training? 

 What’s Differential Reinforcement In Dog Training? 

Differential reinforcement is a technique used in dog training that involves rewarding a desired behavior while ignoring or redirecting an undesirable behavior. This approach is based on the principles of operant conditioning, which suggests that behavior is shaped by its consequences.

In differential reinforcement, the trainer provides positive reinforcement for the behaviors they want to encourage, while withholding reinforcement or redirecting the dog’s attention away from behaviors they want to discourage. This can be a powerful training technique, as it can help to establish good habits and prevent bad ones from taking hold.

Types of Differential Reinforcement:

There are several types of differential reinforcement that can be used in dog training, depending on the specific goals of the training program. These include:

    1.  Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA): In DRA, the trainer reinforces a behavior that is an acceptable alternative to the unwanted behavior. For example, if a dog is jumping up on people, the trainer may reinforce the dog for sitting politely instead.

    2. Differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI): In DRI, the trainer reinforces a behavior that is physically incompatible with the unwanted behavior. For example, if a dog is chewing on furniture, the trainer may reinforce the dog for playing with a chew toy instead.

   3. Differential reinforcement of lower rates of behavior (DRL): In DRL, the trainer reinforces the dog for performing the unwanted behavior at a lower frequency. For example, if a dog is barking excessively, the trainer may reinforce the dog for barking less often.

   4. Differential reinforcement of zero rates of behavior (DRO): In DRO, the trainer reinforces the dog for not performing the unwanted behavior at all. For example, if a dog is jumping up on people, the trainer may reinforce the dog for keeping all four paws on the ground.

Note that differential reinforcement is used in conjunction with other positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play. The goal of differential reinforcement is to shape the dog’s behavior in a positive way, not to punish or intimidate them.

Does it always work?

Differential reinforcement in intense cases might not work well if you don’t take care of certain details. To effectively use differential reinforcement in dog behavior training, it’s important to identify the state of mind of your dog and the level of arousal. Redirecting and luring away your dog with a treat or “play toy”  is not an effective way of shaping any behavior. 

Your dog should be presented to the situation where the unwanted behavior is likely to happen, but always below threshold. Any type of differential reinforcement technique should be performed while your dog is not on a very high arousal or over threshold. For example if your dog is reactive to other dogs, you want to keep your dog calm while reinforcing an acceptable alternate behavior. If you wait until your dog reacts and gets over threshold (red zone) differential reinforcement will not work and will likely make it worse. 

Mistakes to avoid

A common mistake when modifying a behavior with differential reinforcement is to praise or reward with a lot of excitement by default. Excitement in most situations is going to send your dog back over threshold or “red zone” if you are not careful. People tend to confuse excitement with good. Excitement is not good or bad. Excitement is in your favor or against you depending on what you are trying to achieve. For example: if your dog is barking excessively or jumping on guests, excitement is against you. In these examples you want your dog to calm down. It’s imperative that you learn how to praise and reward with calmness. 

Trainers should also be consistent in their use of reinforcement and provide clear feedback to the dog when they exhibit the desired behavior as well as keeping the dog under threshold or bringing them back under threshold if they start getting out of control. 

Differential reinforcement is a powerful technique for shaping a dog’s behavior in a kind way. By rewarding the desired behavior and not letting the unwanted behavior happen, trainers can establish good habits and prevent bad ones from taking hold. This technique can have certain nuances where professional help might be needed. With consistent training dogs can learn to behave in a way that is both desirable and rewarding for everyone involved.

          © Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved April 2023















































What Are The Puppy Behavior Development Stages?

What Are The Puppy Behavior Development Stages?

Understanding the different stages of puppy behavior development can help you prepare for your new puppy’s arrival and provide the right kind of support as they grow and mature. It also helps with what things to expect as they grow 

 Week 1-2: Neonatal stage

During the first two weeks of their lives, puppies are entirely dependent on their mother for everything. They cannot see or hear, and they spend most of their time sleeping and nursing. They rely on their mother’s warmth and milk to survive and grow. 

Week 3-4: Transitional stage

Around week three, puppies start to become more aware of their surroundings. Their eyes and ears begin to open, and they start to explore their environment. They become more mobile and start to develop basic motor skills, such as crawling and walking. They also start to play with their littermates, which helps them learn social skills and establish their place in the pack.

Week 5-7: Socialization stage

During this stage, puppies become more active and playful. They learn about their environment and social skills by playing with their littermates and interacting with people. This is a crucial stage for socialization and training. Puppies that receive proper socialization during this stage tend to be more confident, well-adjusted, and friendly as they grow older.

Week 8-12: Fear imprinting stage

Around eight weeks, puppies become more cautious and may start to exhibit fear or anxiety. This is a critical stage for socialization and training as puppies may develop lifelong fears or phobias if not handled correctly. It’s essential to expose your puppy to different experiences and stimuli, such as new people, sounds, and environments, in a safe and controlled manner. This will help them develop confidence and resilience.

Week 13-16: Juvenile stage

During this stage, puppies become more independent and may start to test their boundaries. They may exhibit more dominant or submissive behavior and may be more challenging to train. It’s essential to continue socializing and training your puppy during this stage to establish good behavior and avoid any negative behaviors that may become ingrained. At this stage you might experience some set backs in your training which is completely normal

Week 17-20: Adolescent stage

As puppies enter adolescence, they may become more defiant and less responsive to cues or commands. They may also become more territorial and protective of their resources. It’s essential to continue training and socializing your puppy during this stage to ensure they develop into well-behaved and well-adjusted adult dogs.

Understanding the different stages of puppy behavior development it’s key for you provide the right kind of support and care to your dog. Remember that patience, consistency, and proper guidance are essential to ensure your puppy grows into a confident and well-behaved adult dog.


     © Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved April 2023

Is Dominance The Same As Aggression?

Is Dominance The Same As Aggression?

Dominance and aggression are two concepts that are often associated with each other, but their relationship is more complex than many people realize. While dominance can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior, it is not always the case, and there are many factors that can influence how these two concepts are related.

What’s dominance?

First, it’s important to understand what we mean by dominance. In animal behavior, dominance refers to a hierarchical relationship in which one individual (the dominant) has priority access to resources such as food, water, or mates. Dominance is often established through displays of aggression or other assertive behaviors, such as standing tall, baring teeth, or making loud vocalizations.

What’s aggression?

Aggression, on the other hand, is a behavior that is aimed at causing harm or intimidation to another individual. A lot of aggressive behaviors are the outcome of fear where the dog goes into fight/flight mode. It can range from simple displays of warning or threat, such as growling or snarling, to more serious forms of physical violence such as biting or attacking.

What’s the relationship between dominance and aggression?

While dominance and aggression are often associated with each other, it’s important to recognize that the relationship between the two is not always straightforward. In some cases, dominant individuals may use aggression as a means of establishing and maintaining their dominance. For example, a dominant individual may use physical force to prevent others from accessing resources, or to punish subordinates who disobey them.

However, it’s also important to recognize that aggression in many occasions is not a product of dominance. Some individuals may be naturally more aggressive than others, regardless of their position in the social hierarchy. Additionally, there are many situations in which aggression may be provoked by factors other than dominance, such as fear, frustration, anxiety or specific triggers. 


To sum up, dominance and aggression have a complex relationship.  Dominance can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior, but aggression can also be provoked by a variety of factors unrelated to dominance. Understanding the relationship between these two concepts requires a nuanced understanding of the social and ecological

Why Dogs Mark? What’s Marking?

Why Dogs Mark? What’s Marking?

Dogs are fascinating creatures and have unique behaviors that make them who they are. One of these behaviors is marking with urine, and it is an instinctual behavior that can be seen in both domestic and wild dogs.

What’s marking?

Urine marking is the act of a dog lifting its leg and depositing small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces such as trees, bushes, or even furniture in the home. This behavior is more commonly seen in male dogs but can also be seen in females. Dogs mark their territory as a way of communicating with other dogs, and the scent of their urine serves as a signal to other dogs that this is their space.

Why dogs mark?

There are several reasons why dogs mark with urine. 

In cities and urban areas is very common that dogs may mark with urine as a way to relieve stress or anxiety. Dogs that are nervous or stressed may mark more frequently, as it provides them with a sense of comfort and security. This behavior can also be a result of changes in their environment, such as moving to a new home or the introduction of new people or animals into their space.

Dogs also mark to establish territorial boundaries. Dogs have a natural instinct to protect their space, and marking with urine is one way they communicate this to other dogs. This behavior is especially common in male dogs who are trying to establish dominance over other dogs. The scent of the urine will tell other dogs that this is their territory, and they are the dominant dog in the area.

Another reason why dogs mark with urine is to signal their reproductive status. When female dogs are in heat, they will mark more frequently, and their scent will signal to male dogs that they are ready to mate. This is a way for female dogs to attract potential mates and communicate their reproductive status.

Summing up

Marking with urine is a natural behavior for dogs, and it serves several purposes. It is a way for dogs to communicate with other dogs, establish territorial boundaries, signal their reproductive status, and relieve stress and anxiety. Understanding why dogs mark with urine can help us better understand and manage this behavior in our pets. If you are experiencing a problem with your dog marking in the home, it is important to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer who can help you find a solution.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved March 2023

Alpha Dominance Theories. Myth? Or Science?

Alpha Dominance Theories. Myth? Or Science?

Dominance in animals is a concept that describes a relationship between two individuals or groups, where one individual or group is able to exert control or influence over the other. This control can manifest in a number of ways, such as access to resources, mating opportunities, or social status.

The scientific consensus on dominance in animals is that it is a complex phenomenon that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including physical size, age, sex, and social experience. Dominance relationships can also vary depending on the specific species and social structure of the animal group in question.

In many animal groups, dominance is established through aggressive interactions, such as fighting or displays of strength. However, in some cases, dominance can also be established through more subtle behaviors, such as posturing, vocalizations, or even changes in body posture or facial expressions.

Is Dominance important and relevant in dogs?

The more you can understand dog’s true animal nature, the better decisions and care you will be able to provide to your dog or dogs. Dominance and dominance hierarchies is something to consider when dealing with dog’s behavior. A good diagnosis is always a must in order to achieve a good outcome. 

The problem is that dominance can be easily misinterpreted and misapplied by dog owners and trainers. There are two different tendencies or trends that can lead to bad outcomes:

  • 1. The Alpha Theories. This theory has the tendency to think that most behavioral problems are caused because of dominance issues and solved by reestablising dominance hierarchies. This is specially true with aggressive dogs. Most aggression issues that I’ve worked on are not because of dominance status. Some of them are, but there are a wide variety of reasons for aggression. Ex: fear, specific triggers, frustration, restrainers such as a leash or a fence, negative associations , etc. Assuming that all or most issues are related to dominance is misleading and potentially dangerous. 


  • 2. The Deniers. This new trend has the tendency to deny that dominance issues do exist. They tend to avoid addressing dominance hierarchies as part of dog’s social interactions with both dogs and humans. Denying this and not addressing it when it is an issue it’s not helpful and can get you stuck in a never-ending loop of behavioral problems. 


Why is it so controversial with dogs and appears to be no consensus?

There’s been a crusade to prevent animals from being abused in the name of dominance. While this crusade is based on a noble cause which I applaud and support, on it’s way had somehow distorted the concept of dominance and in some cases even tried to ban the use of the word “Dominance”. 

This dogmatic approach is not science, although some supporters claim to be science-based. Let’s be clear, denying the existence of dominance and hierarchies in the animal kingdom it’s simply wrong.

 Scientific consensus says that most organisms organize themselves into hierarchies. It is also known that the fundamental biological mechanism for the regulation of hierarchy is serotonin. This is not disputable. Hierarchies are not a construct, they are observed in nature and they are 350 million years old.

How dominance affect dog’s interactions?

It is important to note that dominance in animals does not necessarily imply cruelty or oppression. Rather, it is a natural part of many animal social structures, and can help to maintain stability and order within the group. Additionally, dominance relationships can often be fluid and change over time, as individuals gain or lose social status or as the group dynamic evolves.

Disagreements still occur among dogs that have formed healthy relationships with each other. Some dogs can display socially inappropriate behavior and will challenge the stability and order within the group. 

While dominance hierarchies in dogs can be a natural part of their social behavior, it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the potential consequences of these hierarchies. In some cases, dominant dogs may become aggressive towards other dogs or humans, leading to fights and injuries. Additionally, dogs that are constantly subjected to dominance behaviors may become anxious or stressed, which can have negative effects on their overall health and well-being.

Should I assert dominance to my dog with alfa rolls?

The short answer is NO. During my first year of training dogs over a decade ago, I practiced successfully alfa rolls a few times. I soon stopped doing it. There are several problems with this:

  • 1. Alfa rolls do not solve the underlying behaviors and emotional responses of your dog in the long term in most cases.


  • 2. It’s not easy to do. WHY? Because submission doesn’t come from asserting physical force. Submission is an offered behavior from the surrendering individual, not one that’s purely enforced. I did 14 years of Judo and Jujitsu so I know very well how to apply this techniques. I’ve experienced both ends. Most people don’t know how to do this. If you’re using pure force, you are doing it wrong and you will never achieve submission. Most probably you’ll get bitten or you will shut down your dog into a fear loop. 


  • 3. There are many other ways where you can set rules and boundaries through Body language, controlled games and routines without confrontation, physical force or intimidation.


  • 4. By doing alfa rolls you’re risking doing it wrong, doing it for the wrong reasons, doing it to the wrong dog and getting bitten or installing fear in your dog in many cases. Not only you will have not solve anything, but you would have make it worse 


  • 5. It is not a pleasant experience for neither the human or the dog.

There are many different ways to set up rules and boundaries to your dog without asserting dominance or being confrontational. Having said that rules and boundaries are absolutely necessary. 

In conclusion, dominance is a common trait observed in many animal species and refers to the hierarchical ranking of individuals within a social group. While dominance hierarchies are often associated with aggression and conflict, they can also have positive effects on social cohesion within a group. Dominance is a complex concept that It is important to understand and should not be treated lightly when conflict arises. If you think your dog or dogs are struggling with dominance issues I would highly suggest to ask for help from an experienced specialized trainer in this issues. A basic obedience class is not going to get you very far and an inexperienced handler or trainer can make things worse.  


© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved December 2022