How Dogs Learn

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    Every action of the dog should be accompanied by an appropriate effect. Dogs are much like children, and we have to establish certain rules regarding wanted and unwanted behaviors. In other words, normal discipline. To establish the desirable behavior, we need to know how to administer praise properly (as well as scold and reprimand) whenever it is required so that it has meaning to the dog. The actual words have no meaning to the dog, but the enthusiasm we say them with does.

    Emote. You can say over and over again to your dog, “You stupid mutt – how did you get me into this mess!” and depending on your mood and tone of voice at the time, your dog will either cringe or wag his tail. Let’s take a look at how praise, scold and reprimand are performed properly.


    Your dog could be the type that either reacts normally to praise or goes bonkers over praise because he becomes so excited when praise is given. Because of these two different reactions, you have to be careful when praising your dog. You cannot give too much praise for something done well. However, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it.

    Praise is an example of psychologically positive reinforcement. When you say “Good girl” or “Good boy,” it appeals to the mood of belonging, which is highly pronounced in dogs. A pat is an example of a physical positive reinforcer that is administered for a desirable behavior. A dog learns to do things because nice things happen to it as a result of its actions. On the other hand, a particular behavior starts to diminish if the “niceness” is removed as a result of the dog’s actions.

    No dog likes to be petted on the head or shoulders so hard that the motion is jarring – that’s irritating, just as it is to a human being. The correct place to pat a dog is on the rib cage behind the shoulder, or on the chest between the forelegs. If the dog is excitable, scratch it between the ears as ou say “Good.”

    Whenever a scolding needs to be done, you should select a one-syllable word that both fits comfortably on your tongue and conveys the message to “cease and desist.” When either of the words “no” or “what” are delivered in such a manner, there can be no doubt that you are angry and upset. This is not a training type of command – after all, your dog cannot learn how to do “no.” “No” or “what” are to be administered whenever the dog performs an action you want it to stop. In order to be effective, it should be given at the very moment the action you want to stop commences, not after the fact. If it becomes necessary, then set up a situation of entrapment.


    When scolding, remember you are dealing with a dog. The dog’s memory span is incredibly short. If you attempt to administer the scolding after the fact, then you may be scolding the dog for something other than what you want to correct. For instance, if you discover that the dog has gone to the bathroom in the house well after the act, the dog may think that the scolding is for coming to greet you. In other words, you have scolded the dog for coming to you, not for having gone to the bathroom in the house. Timing is all-important when you are attempting to train a dog.

    Whatever happens, if your dog defecates in the house do not rub its nose in it. This is akin to attempting to toilet train a human baby by rubbing his/her nose in their own excrement. It accomplishes nothing.

    If the dog has defecated in the house and you discover the crime several hours later, grit your teeth and bear it. You are too late, and the only thing that would be accomplished by giving the dog hell for it might be some sense of satisfaction that you receive for having vented your own frustrations. The dog will not learn not to go into the house under those circumstances. The sooner the scolding (or the praise) is given for a particular action, the faster the lesson will be learned.


    Quite often, your dog will look at you when a scolding is even, especially if ordinary house manners are not part of its vocabulary, literally trying to “pull your chain.” This is the time to impress the meaning of a scolding upon your pet, especially if the dog continues to misbehave and ignores the scolding. This is when the reprimand is applied. It is simply a means for reinforcing a scolding and is the harshest treatment any dog needs at any time. Any other physical abuse really has no place in training.

    When your dog decides to ignore the scolding, simply use your left hand to shorten up on the lead. Do two things simultaneously. Give the scolding once more and then use our right hand with the fingers and thumb closed so as to have a closed hand to administer a sharp open-hand motion below the jaw in the fashion of an “uppercut.” This should not hurt the dog, but both the scolding and the motion administered together will impress it. The scolding will now take on a meaning. In this manner, the dog will discover that the same hand that brings food will also yield discipline.

    This reprimand is only used if our dog is lunging or snapping at people or dogs. If this reprimand does not correct, the behavior seek the advice of a professional training instructor or class near you.

    Video Credits: THRIVING CANINE


    Glen R. Johnson – The Companion Dog: From Best Friend to Obedience Ring Partner


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