How exactly do dogs learn?
Just like you humans, dogs learn in a variety of ways. A big difference is that we don’t speak in words; nor do we understand any of the human languages. So, it is important for our owners to find other ways to communicate with us.
Since I am a pretty nice dog, I’ve listed some ways below for you.
Trial and Error
A dog learns from being successful and from failing. Dogs are always learning; they are always paying attention. If they try jumping up and it gets them the attention they want (petting, rubbing, etc) then they learn that jumping works. If, however, the result of the jump is a knee bump in the chest, or a pop on the leash they learn that jumping is not the best way to get your attention.
Showing a dog what is required in small steps. Linking these small steps together gives a dog a mental map or sequence of what is required for any given command or task. This behavior pattern comes from the practice and repetition of a particular routine on a regular basis. I think this method is similar to human problem-solving.
Dogs can also learn from other dogs. Dogs can learn a lot by watching other dogs and by being encouraged to join in. Certain obedience commands, tricks, and even things like how to swim can be learned simply by watching others. Just remember, this can be a double edged sword, however, as dogs can also learn bad habits by watching others.
Many trainers end their training sessions on a high note, and then allow the dog some time to rest and process the information. This gives the dog a good association with training, and makes it more desirable for the dog to want to repeat the last task. Giving a dog time to process and reflect on what just happened can work with both obedience commands, and with bad habits. Reprimanding a dog for a bad habit (if caught in the act) works the same way as giving praise for good behavior.
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