How Dogs Learn
Let’s explore the 2 main principles of learning:
1. Learning through association (classical conditioning, Pavlovian dogs)
This means that we’ll be using treats and toys to create positive associations with objects, situations, sounds or words.
Example: the “Name Game” -- creating a positive association: your dog’s name leads to good things (treats).
Your dog learns to associate one event with another (name -> treat). One event predicts that the other one follows.
This is a powerful tool we can take advantage of when working on changing how a dog feels about a situation, sound, person, etc.
2. Learning through experience (operant conditioning, BF Skinner)
We teach our dog that their behavior has consequences. The consequences can be positive or negative.
Example: Verbal or environmental cue -> followed by a behavior -> leads to reinforcement or punishment.
Verbal cue "sit" -> dog's bum touches the ground -> dog gets a treat.
How we train:
A reward is given after the dog does something we want him to do in order to encourage our dog to repeat the behavior. For example, if a reward is given after a dog sits, the dog will learn to “offer” a sit in hopes that he will get a treat.