How Dogs Learn

The fundamental principle behind learning in all animals is that behaviors that are reinforced  happen more often.  A dog that turns over a trash can and finds something tasty inside will turn the trash can over again. A dog that jumps up and is given attention is likely to do so whenever he greets someone he likes. 

In a similar way, words associated with rewarding experiences are also remembered. Dogs quickly learn the words "walk!" or "cookie!" You need to get that kind of enthusiasm associated with the words "down" or "come". By using rewards and play, training can be easy. 


When your dog knows the commands, he will be happy to work. If he is not, then you must develop his desire to work because you are fun and he has a good relationship with you. In the early stages of training he does not know what you want. It is up to you to help him to understand. Support him as he works hard to comply with your requests.

 A dog that gets praise for free most of the time is likely to need other inducements to get him to comply. So don't rely on treats and toys. Give your dog genuine praise when he earns it. Break up training with games or pull out his favorite toy as a reward, not a bribe.

Once your dog knows your signals, there will be times when your requests are in direct conflict with what he wants to do.  For example, you call him when he is playing with another dog. At these times, the value of the reward you are offering needs to be higher than the rewards he would get if he did what he wanted to do.



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