Category Archives: How Dog’s Learn

how dogs learn

Trust – does your dog trust you?

trustWhen it comes to any relationship, trust is an essential part of the best, healthiest most enjoyable relationships.  

But what does the word trust mean to the relationship you have with your dog?  Dictionary.com describes trust as “the confident expectation of something”   Trust results in a sense of security.  The confidence you feel for your dog and its actions will only build with a combination of prevention and training.  Those are things you have complete control over.  So no matter how naughty your dog is, that trust can be obtained.

But what about the faith your dog has for you.  Are you trustworthy?  Does your dog have confidence your actions will not cause pain or fear or that you will protect it from harm?  

Building Trust

No one can explain the concept of building a trusting relationship better than Dr. Susan Friedman, so enjoy her video and then come back to finish reading.

Creating a relationship in which your dog trusts you is also something you have control over but it might take some work.  You will have to work hard at times in which you are angry, stressed out or just do not want to be reasonable.  These are the times in which our actions are most likely to deteriorate.  If you are in a position in which you think you may blow it, take a break.  Give yourself a timeout.  You can do this by gently and without ceremony or emotion put your dog in a crate or another room.  And of course seek training to learn better techniques for putting “deposits into your trust account” and avoid having withdrawals from the account.

When are you most likely to loose it and betray your dog’s trust?
I have to be extra careful when I am sleep deprived.  This is when I communicate less clearly, can be a bit grumpy and my less than charming self comes out.  By identifying when I need to be most careful, I can avoid situations that might cause a withdrawal.  When are you most at risk of behaviors that will cause a withdrawal from the trust account to take place?

What Is Humane Training?

humane trainingHumane training consists of teaching the dog what is correct through the process of rewarding desirable behaviors while eliminating rewards for undesirable behaviors through the use of consequences that do not cause pain or fear. It is through the consistent behavior of the owner that the dog learns to follow commands and to behave. Owners who can prevent the dog from misbehaving through the use of humane prevention techniques will succeed quicker in meeting their goals.

Rewarding Correct Behavior
Rewarding correct behavior involves training the dog under circumstances in which the dog is capable of learning and each time the dog displays the correct response giving the dog something that it wants – a reward.

A reward is something your dog is driven to obtain. Many things can be used as a reward but food is one of the most common and most misunderstood rewards. Many times a person will thinks they are rewarding the dog when they are not. An example of this would be the dog does a behavior correctly so the owner gives the dog a treat. The dog eats the treat but immediately turns away from the owner. It is questionable whether that particular treat is a reward under the circumstances. Ideally when you give a reward your dog will continue to pay attention to you in hopes of getting more rewards.

The food reward I recommend for training that takes place at the owners home and under non-distracting circumstances is the measured portion of the dog’s meal. I reserve all valuable treats for when there are distractions or the dog is out in public. This helps to keep the dog from getting bored of its treats. Because a food reward might be valuable under one set of circumstances but not under another, owners need to experiment to see what food rewards will work when their dog is in a novel environment or distracted with people, other dogs, wildlife, etc.

Luckily we do not have to limit ourselves to food rewards. There are a lot of other things dogs are driven to obtain. You can use play, social rewards and things in the environment to reward your dog’s behavior. The key is you have to get to know your dog and what it will be driven to obtain under the circumstances. Once you know what your dog values, training becomes much easier, successful and fun.

Effective consequences that do not cause Pain or Fear
Effective consequences that do not cause pain or Fear give the owner a way of making it so the dog does not see misbehavior as being advantageous. An example of this can be applied to walking a dog on leash. If the owner takes even 1 step when the leash is taunt the dog is being rewarded for pulling on leash. But if the owner stands perfectly still and does not allow their arms or legs to move as long as the dog is making the leash tight the dog will learn keeping the leash loose is the only way they get to go anywhere. And least you think this is all you have to do to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, think again. Applying only this technique will cause you to go batty.

Consistency
Rewards and consequence will need to be consistently applied to achieve effective results. Most people become a bit lazy with both rewards and consequences after a short period of time. Once a dog is trained, it will still need rewards for correct responses but this does not mean it will need food rewards. Proper reward training should include the use of a lot of different real life rewards.

intelligence and observations skills

intelligence and observations skillsIs there a link between intelligence and observations skills?  Guess continues to amaze me with me with how intelligent he is and how he connects events. Apparently, some time in the past  made rice in a specific pot and then gave Guess the leftovers as I cleared the table. Now, if we have rice, in that pot, as soon as I finish eating he becomes animated (not naughty, just excited).

 If I cook something else in that pot, he does not get excited.

If I cook rice in a different pot, he does not get excited.

He only gets excited if I cook rice in that particular pot. 

What I have accidentally done is taught a conditioned emotional response to the pot and rice.  This is an example of single trial learning.  It only happened 1 time and Guess remembered that it was a good thing. 

An intelligent animal is going to keep track of the environment.  It needs to know what is safe, neutral or dangerous.  This means it needs to observe and remember how the environment affected it.  If it eats a substance and it gets violently sick, the intelligent dog that makes this connection will avoid that substance in the future. If it has fun with other dogs and people, It will be happy or relaxed in the presence of other people.  Guess’s rice pot excitement is an example of single trial learning.  Dogs can learn something from just 1 experience.  This is why as much as possible, you want your dog to only have good experiences with other dogs, people and different environments as they will be observing and making the connections about how the environment affects them.