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Considering two markedly different approaches to training a dog (or a horse), argue that one is superior to the other


Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, states that all behavior learned and acquired by an individual is a product of conditioning (Charles, 2014). This means that behaviors take form because of the condition of the environment at that time in response to a stimulus. The two major concepts of conditioning are classical conditioning and operant conditioning (Charles, 2014). When comparing the classical conditioning and operant conditioning, it becomes evident which is the best as a dog training method.

Classical Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov, best known for his dogs and bells, was among the first people to develop the concept of classical conditioning. In essence, classical conditioning involves the use of a neutral or latent stimulus to initiate a response similar to that of a potent stimulus. In Pavlov case, his latent stimulus was a dinner bell, his potent stimulus was the food, and the response he wanted to instigate was salivation. In his experiments with the three, Pavlov was able to make the dogs associate the ringing of the bells with mealtime (Roundy, 2016). He would strike his bell and then present the food. He repeated this until he was able to ring the bell and the dogs would come salivating ready to eat.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

In doing so, the dogs developed a conditioned response, salivation, because of the unconditioned stimulus, the sound of a bell ringing, similar to that of the conditioned stimulus, the food. The overall result is a salivating dog when the bell rings. The response takes some time, however, it is impermanent, and therefore the dog can return to its normal behavior when the reward of the conditioned stimulus is removed after some time.

Operant Conditioning

Developed over the years by many, the father of operant conditioning is often considered as B F Skinner. Unlike his predecessor Thorndike, Skinner based his evaluation on the conditioning of observable behaviors and their effects on the organism. Based on experimentation, the Skinner box, also known as the operant conditioning chamber developed to replace Thorndike’s cat mazes. The observations made in the operant conditioning chambers were specific in that they allowed exposure to single stimuli in a controlled environment. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

Skinner’s principle relied on the effects of reinforcement and punishment. These were either positive or negative, and each had an effect that would alter the behavior of the organism being conditioned and is named so because of their effect. The four possible outcomes of this conditioning included Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment (Charles, 2014). The Positive Reinforcement involved the presentation of a reward for the fulfillment of a certain action while Negative Reinforcement involved the removal of a reward because of not fulfilling a certain action. With Positive Punishment, it involved the introduction of bad consequences as a means of reducing bad behavior, while Negative Punishment involved the removal of bad consequences to reduce bad behavior.

The extinction learning is considered the fifth dimension and was designed based on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. In this case, a behavior can be forgotten if the reward being presented is no longer satisfactory enough to meet the needs of the dog under training (James, 2016).

Comparison of Operant and Classical Conditioning

In both instances, the stimulus is necessary to elicit the desired reaction. Classical conditioning uses potent and latent stimuli to create a situation in which the latent stimulus will generate an effect similar to that of the potent stimuli thus eliminating it from the picture (Charles, 2014). In operant conditioning, rewards and punishment are used, as a stimulus, to modify behavior. The difference between the two is that classical conditioning alters autonomic or involuntary reflexes responses whereas the operant conditioning alters voluntary reflexes. Based on this, a dog will obey orders to avoid punishment and receive a reward.

Over the years, with the perfection of the operant model of conditioning, punishment prevails over reward. The psychologist determined that one is more likely to conform to good behavior to avoid the consequences of punishment. This observation is present in the society today in that man is made to comply using negative reinforcement such as a ticket for going over the speed limit and losing one’s job for indolence among other numerous scenarios. It is an effective method in that the fear of the punishment makes one comply (James, 2016). In a similar manner, punishment is more effective in dogs. It creates a fear of committing bad behavior thus generating a means of compliance, though arcane.
In addition, classical conditioning is dependent on the association of the stimulus and the response. Both the potent and latent stimuli have to be present for the latent stimuli to elicit a response similar to that of the potent stimulus. Without the presence of the food, while ringing the bell initially, the dog cannot salivate since there has been no connection made between the two stimuli. For operant conditioning, reward and punishment are dependent on the behavior portrayed. For good behavior, either the dog receives a reward or the punishment reduced or minimized. When the dog behaves inappropriately, the reward is withdrawn or the punishment administered. Training a dog to sit using a spray bottle with water for punishment and treats for reward is an example of this technique (Roundy, 2016).


Despite their differences together, the two can be used in training dogs. However, the operant conditioning is more effective in the training of dogs than the classical. Operant conditioning trumps classical conditioning in that its effects are permanent and are reversed only when the reward fails to satisfy the needs of the dog. In addition, using the operant conditioning method as a training tool gives you more options regarding rewards and punishment. Lastly, it is easier and more effective to use punishment methods in that the dog will comply to avoid the effects of the punishment.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]


Charles, E. (2014, Feb 28). Explaining behaviorism: Operant & Classical Conditioning. Psychology Today.

James. (2016). Conditioning behavior. Retrieved from Den Solutions Dog Training

Roundy, L. (2016). Classical Conditioning vs. Operant Conditioning: Differences and examples.Retrieved from Study

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Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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