Doggy Dictionary: Common Dog Training Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Terminology

*note: this is by no means a complete list, but if there are any I’m missing that jump out to you, please let me know and I will update it!

Like all industries, the dog training world is full of terminology that has it’s own connotation, and so many acronyms and abbreviations.  It can be hard to keep up with for the best of us, and undoubtedly even more so for the average pet owner.  Here’s a quick reference sheet to help you keep up:


ABC:  Animal Behaviour College

ACVB:  American College of Veterinary Behaviourists

AKC:  American Kennel Club

aversive:   “adjective. Causing avoidance of a thing, situation, or behavior by using an unpleasant or punishing stimulus, as in techniques of behavior modification.” Commonly used to refer to tools such as prong collars, shock collars, etc.

AVSAB:  American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior


“balanced”:  balanced dog training is the euphemism given to correction trainers; ie. someone who uses all four quadrants of operant conditioning, including positive punishment.

BAT:  Behavior Adjustment Training; created by Grisha Stewart, used to help build confidence especially for fearful or aggressive dogs.

BSL:  Breed Specific Legislation (aka. the “pit bull ban”)


CER:  Conditioned Emotional Response

CGC: Canine Good Citizen; the AKC’s behaviour/manners test for pet dogs.

CGN: Canine Good Neighbour; the CKC – Canadian – equivalent of the CGC test.

CKC: Canadian Kennel Club

classical conditioning: a type of learning theory; think: Pavlov’s Dogs.

clicker: a noise maker (makes a “click” sound) used as an event marker.

correction: euphemism for punishment; ie. a dog pulls on leash, so a correction would be to yank of their leash.

CPDT-KA: Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed; one of the most common and recognized certifications for dog trainers.

CS: a conditioned stimulus; the bells for Pavlov’s dogs that caused them to salivate, for example.  Bells have no meaning but he taught them to have a meaning to the dogs (food).

CTC: Certificate in Training and Counseling – a graduate of Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers.


dominance theory: an outdated understanding of dog behaviour; often discussed hand in hand with being “pack leader” or “alpha”, a common misconception in dog training.

DRI:  Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior; training an incompatible behaviour to an undesirable behaviour.  ie. my dog jumps on people so I teach him to sit for pets.  He cannot jump and sit at the same time.

Ds/CC: Desensitization and Counter Conditioning; used for behaviour modification.

DVM:  Doctor of veterinary medicine


extinction: a behaviour that a stops because it isn’t being reinforced

extinction burst: if a behaviour was getting reforced but no longer is, your dog may have an extinction burst, which is essentially the behaviour getting worse before it gets better.  The use of this is debatable.


fallout (behavioural fallout): the potential negative consequence to the use of punishments or aversives.  For example, a dog who hit for chewing on shoes may stop chewing shoes, but will as a result be afraid of people/hands.

Flooding: over-exposure to a trigger; ie. if a child is afraid of swimming, throw them in the deep end of a pool and let them struggle.  The argument is made that it helps them overcome their fear but the reality is that it traumatizes them.

Force-free: refers to trainers who avoid the use of aversives, abide by the humane hierarchy.




IPO: Internationale Prüfungs-Ordnung; tracking, obedience, and protection based dog sport



KPA:  the Karen Pryor Academy

KPA-CTP: a graduate of the KPA Professional Dog Trainer program; a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner.


LIMA: Least invasive, minimally aversive.


marker: something that marks the desired behaviour; often a clicker or a verbal or visual cue (ie. “yes” or a thumbs up).



operant conditioning: a type of learning theory primarily based on B.F. Skinner’s work


P+: Positive punishment; one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning

P-: Negative punishment; one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning

PPG: Pet Professional Guild; an education based organization for force-free training.

Punishment: Something that decreases the likelihood of a behaviour repeating



R+: Positive reinforcement; one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning

R-: Negative reinforcement; one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning

Reinforcement: Something that increases the likelihood of a behaviour repeating

RG: resource guarding; a dog guarding something of value – often food and toys, occasionally people, water, locations.


SA:  Separation Anxiety

science-based training: a common phrasing for “positive reinforcement training” or “force-free training”; dog training based on the most advanced behavioural science – specifically, see “dominance theory” above.


threshold:  the concept of when a dog is comfortable around a trigger (“under threshold”), to being stressed out or anxious (“over threshold”).  For intentionally putting a dog over threshold, see “flooding”, above.


US: unconditioned stimulus; a natural response to a stimulus. ie, if I smell apple pie, I will drool.






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