In order for our four-legged companions to enrich our everyday lives without worries, it is important that our furry friends have internalized some important commands right from the start.
The different principles of learning in dogs
- Classical conditioning: Dogs learn through associations between stimuli. A well-known example is Pavlovian conditioning, in which a dog learns that the ringing of a bell (neutral stimulus) is associated with feeding (unconditioned stimulus) and therefore responds to the ringing of the bell by salivating (conditioned response).
- Operant conditioning: Dogs learn through consequences of their behavior. Positive reinforcement (e.g., reward) increases the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated, while negative reinforcement (e.g., removing an unpleasant stimulus) causes a behavior to be reinforced. Punishment (positive or negative) reduces the likelihood of a behavior.
- Habituation: Dogs become accustomed to repeated stimuli that have no important meaning or consequence. Repeated exposure weakens or suppresses behavior toward these stimuli.
- Social Learning: Dogs can learn by observing other dogs or people. They imitate behaviors they see in other dogs or their owners.
- Learning through success: Dogs learn through experience and trial and error. If a certain behavior leads to a desired result, there is a high probability that the dog will exhibit that behavior again.
When training dogs, these learning principles are used to encourage desired behaviors and reduce undesirable behaviors. Positive reinforcement, rewards and clear communication are key aspects of enabling effective learning in dogs. It is important to note that every dog is individual and learns at different rates. Patience, consistency and positive reinforcement are crucial to achieving successful training and learning in dogs.
Lifelong learning with our dogs
It is important for us to know that dogs can – and want to – learn throughout their lives! However, just like humans, younger animals find it easier to learn new commands. The important thing here is that even if the commands have been learned, they still have to be trained again and again .
So when we get a four-legged addition to the family, we can basically get started straight away. If the puppy comes from a breeder, it will usually be no younger than 8 weeks . Within these eight weeks, a puppy has already developed around 80% of its brain power. So he is then well able to learn the basic commands. When training puppies on a daily basis, we must not forget that our four-legged friends have a relatively short attention span - similar to small children. That's why good patience , consistency in actions and sending clear signals are the most important companions for owners during this time.
Repeat the commands
As we practice these commands, we will need lots of repetition , even more treats, and countless amounts of praise. But the first successes will come quickly.
The feeling of complete interaction between the four-legged friend and the owner is worth all the effort. If we master these first and important commands, we will be able to train further commands. Here too, our clear body language is an important tool for achieving quick success.
Consistency, gestures and facial expressions
Our four-legged friends literally do not speak our language and can therefore only orientate themselves on our gestures and posture - if these are contradictory, it will unsettle our four-legged friend. If we are consistent from the start, our new family member will accept us as “superior” and will not question this as long as we act clearly and consistently . So the following applies: practice, practice, practice – and of course be patient!