How do dogs learn? Some important tips for dog owners

Jay Verma - August 27, 2021

When I get back home after a long, tiring day at work, my exuberant Labrador, Bruno, slams his body on me, just like a football team falling on each other after hitting a game-winning goal. He moves around my legs, jumps on me, licks all over my face, and even when I scream NO!! He just keeps going. Yes, I love his cute act of dancing around me, it’s a stressbuster, but I want to stop that body-slamming welcome. I have tried many times, but it’s happening every day. I feel perplexed that I don’t see a change in his behavior despite many attempts to teach what I don’t like. I need to know how dogs learn. If this is something that sounds familiar to you, then you have come to the right place.

How do dogs learn? Check out these important things about dog learning.

- Timing is important: When we talk about associative memory, dogs have 1.3 seconds, meaning that it only takes them 1.3 seconds to link behavior and consequences. That is a small window of opportunity you have to correct behavior or reward. If you yell at him or punish him for an act that he did a few minutes back, he won’t connect and understand your behavior.

- Be mindful of your words: When you give a command or say any word, it is important to ensure that action occurs. Regardless of the language, you must be consistent while observing your dog’s actions. The words you use when communicating with your dog should have an exact meaning. Try to make it easy for your four-legged friend to understand you.

- Teaching NO command: How to ensure that your NO command gets followed? When you give a NO command, make sure to stop your dog from doing that activity right away, allowing your dog to connect the action with that NO command. But, if you will keep saying NO while your dog is still doing that activity, your dog can assume that it’s okay to do that particular activity.

- When dogs jump on people: Dogs are very intelligent, and they don’t do anything without reason. From digging and jumping to barking and chewing on things, they do things they love or anything they get pleasure from. Always try to understand which behaviors pleasure your dog, and then you can correct the unwanted behaviors.

- How to ensure consistency: Some dog behaviors are acceptable while others are not. For instance, you might be okay if your dog jumps on you during the weekend when you’re at home wearing casual clothes, but you may not be alright with that behavior during the workweek when you’re well-dressed and going to the office. Being consistent with dogs can be easier for singles and couples, whereas it can be more and more difficult for a family. When there are too many people interacting with the dog, it can lead to inconsistency.

- You can work with dog trainers: If you are unsure how to interpret what a particular dog behavior means, you can work with dog trainers. They can design training programs to help your dog improve its behavior.

Final words: Before you feel irritated because of certain dog behaviors, it is important to realize that these actions can be due to a lack of training and understanding. Know how to train your dog, how they learn, provide them with proper training, and they will never disappoint you.

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