Canine Learning & Training

Learning HOW to train your dog requires YOU to understand how animals learn. Understanding how our dogs (and even us) learn, provides us with the fundamental building blocks to train our dogs. Dogs and all animals learn through the principles known as Classical ConditioningOperant Conditioning and Extinction.

During the 1890s, Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist was researching salivation in dogs as a response to being fed. While the dogs were being fed, he used a small test tube to measure the saliva by inserting it into their cheeks. He predicted that the dogs would salivate when the food was in front of them, but he realised that the salivation actually started when the dogs heard the footsteps of his assistant. The salivation was not only a result of the food being served, but of the sound of the footsteps that the dogs associated with being fed. This is how classical conditioning was discovered.

Classical conditioning is a basic behavioural mechanism, and its neural substrates are now beginning to be understood. Together with operant conditioning, classical conditioning became the foundation of behaviourism, a school of psychology which was dominant in the mid-20th century and is still an important influence on the practice of psychological therapy and the study of animal behaviour.

Classical Conditioning – Classical conditioning is how we learn to associate a neutral stimulus (like a sound, or a light) with a consequence. Classical conditioning means “basic learning”.

Operant Conditioning – Operant conditioning is a form of associatory learning process through which the force of a behaviour is modified by reinforcement or punishment.

Extinction – Extinction learning refers to the gradual decrease in response to a conditioned stimulus that occurs when the stimulus is presented without reinforcement.

Basic Rules for Training

Training should occur at all times when we are together with the dog. Basic training of a puppy is not very difficult task provided certain simple rules are followed:

  1. Keep the task simple an only go one step at a time.
  2. Teach sounds and words as commands and not sentences.
  3. When trying to program the puppy to respond to your command, avoid distractions and competing activities. For example, you will never get your puppy to learn to walk around the garden on a collar and lead if someone is playing ball in another part of the garden.
  4. Be enthusiastic with your price and don’t be afraid to use food rewards.
  5. Ignore failures and certainly do not punish the puppy. If dangerous behaviour is exhibited (such as aggression) then remote punishment or distraction is preferred.
  6. Be consistent. This applies to all the members of the family that are involved in the training of the dog.

It is also a benefit to get your puppy used to having its ears, feet and mouth touched and examined. Just looking at your puppy’s mouth and ears as well as picking up the pup and touching its feet can help aid in future examinations by your veterinarian.

REMEMBER that your pup is very young and requires a lot of rest and sleep. A young puppy should not be expected to keep up with an older dog or a young child full stopped always give your puppy someplace of its own where it can retire when it wants. You may consider crate training for your puppy.

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Learning and Training

How to use food treats

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There are many non-treat rewards for GSDs but most dog owners don’t realise it. Anything that your GSD likes or enjoys can be used

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