For a long time we have guessed, assumed and tried to work out how a dog learns. I’m going to let you into a secret now and one which will greatly improve the relationship between you and your dog.
How dogs learn – From his environment.
Yes it’s that simple. So many people think that their dog has taught himself bad manners and that they have control over the dog in their home. Many people believe that the dog is entirely responsible for the fact that he jumps up, barks or carried out other unruly acts.
Some people take such little responsibility for their dog’s behavior that the poor animal gets labelled a bad dog like he’s got there all on his own. Often ‘bad dogs’ end up homeless, isn’t that sad?
As you are such a big part of your dog’s environment it’s important to note that your dog actually learns most of his behavior from you. More accurately he realizes, from an early age, than when he does certain things you respond by doing something that he likes.
It could be easy to think at this point that your dog should be perfectly behaved then couldn’t it? If you tell him that he’s a good dog when he does something you like and to stop doing the things that you don’t like then your dog should be the best behaved in in the country.
There are two reasons why this may not be true.
You Have Different Methods of Communication!
Your best friend has very little idea of the meaning of words. He can teach himself and probably will, particularly if the words benefit him in some way (can you see a pattern developing here?)
Unless we put some effort into learning about and applying a communication method that our dogs understand we might as well be speaking double Dutch.
You Have Different Ideas of Reward!
Your dog will repeat anything that gets him a reward, yet he may see your attention as the most rewarding thing in the world. So he jumps up and you push him off, annoyed because he has bruised your legs, yet all the dogs sees is that you touched him and spoke to him. In his eyes your dog has just got the most precious thing in the world, your attention.
So how can you take advantage of this information? This bit is easy, you only give attention to your dog when he does something good. In fact you ignore your best friend when he’s being a pain and offer attention when he is being an angel.
With this tactic you will be reinforcing all of the nice behavior that your dog displays and teaching him to forget all about unhelpful acts that he experimented with. Most important of all you will be finally communicating with your dog in a language that he actually understands.
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