How does the dog learn?

Dogs learn through pleasant and unpleasant experiences and association of ideas. Training is accomplished by a combination of inducive and “compulsive” methods. When applied correctly the dog quickly learns what is to his advantage and to avoid the unpleasant. The single most important aspect of training is remembering to reward your dog for good behaviour because we have the tendency to pay attention to bad behaviour and take good behaviour for granted. When using compulsion, only the amount of force necessary to achieve the desired response is used. Having said that it is important not to “under correct” (apply insufficient compulsion). A good correction have to have meaning otherwise you’ll end up popping the chain repeatedly without real improvements. The important point to note is that the sharp contrast between the disagreeable experience and the agreeable experience makes it easy for the animal to appreciate where his advantage lies, and he learns very quickly. Start training your puppy early. It is easier to teach a puppy with rewards (Positive Reinforcement = R+) making training gentle, humane and enjoyable. Older dogs with bad habits will need to be rehabilitated with punishments (Positive Punishment = P+). Prevention is better cure! Behavioral research has determined that animals learn because of what happens directly following a behavior. We can influence our dog’s behavior by utilizing reinforcement which increases the chances of a behavior recurring or punishment which decreases the chances of a behavior happening again.

Know your dog

Besides not understanding language, dogs are color blind. It has a keen sense of smell and hearing. Basic understanding of animal instincts is essential in interpreting their behavior; and all instincts have a bearing on the dog behavior. The Dog Natural Instincts are:

– Pack Instinct
– Fear Instinct
– Sex instinct
– Submissive Instinct
– Guarding & Protective Instinct
– Hunting, Chasing & Retrieving Instinct
– Herding Instinct

The one important thing we need to know in obedience training is that you must adopt the position of the pack leader. For most breeds it comes almost naturally without any problem. However a lack of understanding on this subject may cause you to loose control of a dominant dog.

How do we teach it?

Dogs do not understand language like we do. In teaching the dog, the first thing you as the owner will have to master is the Tone of Voice. There are three (3) tone of voice we use in training: –

1. Praise Voice – High-pitch, exciting, happy, enthusiastic and emphatic.
2. Command Voice – Firm, matter-of-fact but not harsh or threatening.
3. Reprimand Voice – Low-tone and Stern.

Commands and Hand signals (Secondary Stimuli) are used in association with Food Inducement and Physical Compulsion (Primary Stimuli). Training is essentially to reward (by Food and/or Praise and/or Play) the dog for correct behavior and check (by correction with the Training Collar and/or Verbal Reprimand) for misbehavior. Timing is of utmost importance. At the exact moment the good or bad behaviour occurs you Mark it with your voice followed immediately with the reward or correction. Never hit your dog to punish it. 

DOs and DON’T


  • Always reward the dog for the correct response. Praise it emphatically and give it a treat and stroke it. If you don’t, your training will not be as successful because it is not being paid its wages.
  • By the same token correction must be applied immediately the dog misbehaves.
  • A command once given must be enforced. If you say SIT and it fails to respond, place it into the SIT position immediately.
  • Until your dog is trained don’t call to your dog “COME” unless you have a leash attached.
  • Timing is Important. Few things are more important in training than timing. Praise almost always follows correction (except in training for abstention). Correct promptly followed by immediate praise.
  • Be consistent. Everyone in the family must come to a common agreement as to what constitute objectionable behavior and what is not. It’s unfair and confusing to the dog if grandma allows it on the sofa but gets a scolding for doing so from the rest of the family.
  • Use the same command for specific action. Not down sometimes and lie down at other times.
  • Make training enjoyable training sessions should be short and snappy, 15-20 minutes at least twice a day.
  • Work your dog with vigor; heeling briskly and cheerfully, not at a slovenly pace, constantly praising in an excited voice. End every session with play.
  • The correct time to stop undesirable behavior is when the dog is thinking about it or at the beginning of it. Not after fruition or after the fact.


  • Never give a command unless you can enforce it. If you do, the dog will quickly figure out that he does not have to come unless it suits him.
  • Never give a command more than once. If you do, the dog will finally decide that you only want him to respond after a number of repetitions. It will also make you naggy.
  • Never punish/reprimand your dog when he comes to you no matter what he has done.If you do, you will have a dog that is difficult to train to come on command.
  • Never train your dog when you are in a bad mood. The poor dog will be too frightened and confused to learn anything.

CAUTION – Unintentional Training

Beware of unintentional training. The following are just some examples:

  • You call your dog when it misbehaves and then punish it. The dog learns that it is not to his advantage to come to you when called so you end up with a dog that will not come when called. You call your dog to administer medicine or to cut his toe nails (usually unpleasant to him). The same thing results.
  • Someone is at the door and your dog starts to bark incessantly. You carry it (for small breeds) or hug/hold it (for large breeds) and begin to scold it, at the same time stroking or patting it, telling it to keep quiet but in a tone that do not convey disapproval. The physical contact of being carried, hugged or hold on to and stroked or patted is a pleasant experience for the dog. Coupled with the wrong tone of voice it gives the dog the wrong impression that you approve of the barking and encourages it.

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If you have a question on how to deal with your dog’s behaviour problem please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to offer an answer to help solve it

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