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The psychology of dog training

Some people assume training their dogs is “just common sense”, but they are soon convinced otherwise when they join us on one of our residential dog training programs.

To effectively train your pets, residential dog training uses scientifically proven methods from the realm of psychology. Here are three key theories you should be aware of:

1. Behavioural conditioning

Behaviourism is the cornerstone of most modern dog training methods. Conditioning aims to modify the dog’s behaviour using various types of reinforcement, and can be broken down into two sub-types:

– Classical conditioning
– Operant conditioning

Have you ever heard of the famous experiments run by Pavlov? He trained dogs to associate a ringing bell with mealtimes — and measured their reactions. Over time, the dogs began to salivate upon hearing the bell, even when food wasn’t offered. This is classical conditioning and involves encouraging the dogs to associate a reward with the behaviours we want to promote.

Operant conditioning is similar, but it involves reinforcing behaviour the dog voluntarily displays. For example, we may provide them with positive reinforcement (e.g. a reward) when they remain calm and avoid jumping up when excited.

2. Social learning

Dogs are social animals — and this is a claim supported by psychological theory. They learn well from others — and this is one of the main reasons residential dog training is so effective.

Each dog on our training will learn at its own pace. But the dogs slower to adapt will quickly pick up social cues from other dogs, considerably speeding up the learning process.

3. Relationship building

As well as being sociable with their own kind, dogs have a strong desire to build relationships with their human owners. This means they will pick up on certain cues and responses, adapting their behaviour to please you.

This is another key focus of residential dog training. It uses proven strategies to strengthen the relationship between the dogs and their owners, using the dogs’ own pack mentality to create strong bonds that lead to desirable behaviour.

It’s important to remember this is a two-way relationship too. As well as helping the dogs understand the behaviour we’d like to see, it’s important to learn what their body language means too.

Do you want to know more about how we use these theories at TOTAL K9 ®? Get in touch to find out more.