During the escape training process, it is important to maintain the integrity of our commands. In other words, we want to ensure that our commands are viewed by the dog as a good thing, and that they are associated with the correct response. If we aren’t careful about our timing, we run the risk of accidental classical conditioning of our command to an aversive stimulus. To prevent this from happening it is important that the onset of pressure occurs slightly before the command or any other cue/help. In other words, pressure is there and our command advises the dog as to how to make it go away. In almost all circumstances during escape conditioning, the onset of pressure is non-contingent on the dog’s behavior.
We can go a long way toward preparing our dogs for pressure conditioning, and reducing the likelihood of stress responses by doing what I refer to as Priming the dog. This simply means that if your dog already has some familiarity with the behavior you are going to condition, you should do at least 2-3 repetitions of the command before beginning to condition pressure.