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Dog Training Methods: Extinction

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What is extinction training?

Extinction is the removal of a desired event or reward as a consequence to a behavior. This causes that behavior to decrease. If you do not want your dog to repeat a behavior, do now give it any reinforcement. Even talking to your dog can be seen as receiving attention and the dog will repeat the behavior.

How to apply extinction training to remove unwanted behavior?

Extinction is “the decreasing or dying out of a behavioral response created by conditioning because of a lack of reinforcement.”

Even though the concept is simple, “stop reinforcing the bad behavior”, in practice it can get tricky for several reasons:

What is the reinforcer? Sometimes it is not plainly obvious what the reward is that keeps the bad behavior going. You will need to figure out what is reinforcing the unwanted dbehavior in your dog before you can eliminate it.

Extinction burst: The behavior will get worse before it gets better. If you have a dog who is barking to get your attention, odds are he is going to bark harder and louder before he stops.

Spontaneous recovery of unwanted behavior: During each training trial you will see an improvement but on the following trial (usually 1 or more days later) it will seem like your pet doesn’t remember anything! Do not give up. Remember your dog was used to getting a reward for that behavior and it takes time for him to realize that there is no longer a reward.