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Why Classical Conditioning Training Methods Are So Effective

Finding out what motivates your individual dog to learn is a key to training success. Find out about Classical Conditioning training methods and how they work.

A recent large-scale survey reveals that over 60% of households across the United States own at least one pet. Yet approximately 6.5 million cats and dogs are admitted to animal shelters every year.

Respondents listed behavioral problems as one of the most common reasons for relinquishment. Disobedience, aggression, excessive noise, and destructive behavior were among the difficulties cited.

However, most of these surrenders could have been avoided. Simply by adding training methods like classical conditioning training. So if you have dog behavior concerns that need fixing, keep reading for the solution.

What Is Classical Conditioning Training?

Training your dog doesn't always have to be done through a dog school, although that offers its own benefits. Instead, much obedience training can be done at home - between you and your dog. Classical conditioning is an organic training method. It helps with re-adjusting negative emotions in your pet by replacing them with positive ones.

I'm sure you've seen it in action already. Have you ever noticed your dog getting excited when you put on your walking shoes even though you've said nothing? Or when you open the treat jar, Fido comes running? This is a result of classical conditioning. It is, essentially, learning through association.

How Does it Work?

Classical conditioning is straightforward, focusing on replacing one association with another. This is unlike other training methods that focus on the dog's actions or behavior. But what exactly does that mean? Well, let's use the walking shoes mentioned above as an example.

When you initially start walking your dog, they won't immediately have a response to the action of you putting on your sneakers. Why would they? However, what happens once you've worn those shoes on several walks? Your dog will begin to associate those shoes with a walk based on the feelings associated with that action.

Subconsciously they've learned that sneakers equal a walk. And so, they demonstrate their new understanding by showing excitement. Classical conditioning occurs naturally over time, even when you're not trying. However, this is one of the best training methods available when actively implemented.

Shifting Emotional Reactions

The idea behind classical conditioning is to change your dog's emotions about something unfavorable to them. Another example is if your dog doesn't like wearing a head-halter. Here you can use classical conditioning to re-adjust your dog's feelings towards the halter into positive ones.

You can achieve this by offering a treat every time before and after putting the halter on. You would continue this until, eventually, your dog positively associates with the head-halter. Of course, this is greatly simplified, but you get the idea.

We can observe that, like humans, dogs are driven by emotions. Manipulating those emotions into positive ones is what makes classical conditioning so powerful. As a result, your dog is more likely to repeat something they genuinely get enjoyment or happiness from.

Rewarding Desired Behaviours

You can integrate classical conditioning as a training technique with other training methods. For example, combining it with clicker training can significantly expand the results you can achieve.

You may use a clicker if you have one handy. If you don't have one available, you can use a click-pen, a sound using your mouth, snap your fingers or anything else that makes an audible, instant noise. You can also use an electronic collar, sometimes called an Ecollar but you should consult a trainer if you want to use this method for you want to MARK not Correct or Punish with it.

When you first introduce the clicker to your dog, they, reasonably, won't understand. It's a blank slate; there are no emotions -good or bad- yet associated with it.

When you start pairing clicks with treats, your dog eventually understands that the click is now desirable. Again, they are learning through association.

Adding Classical Conditioning to Your Training Methods

By now, you might be wondering how you can harness this powerful positive reinforcement training tool? Classical conditioning can be highly effective in adjusting several behavior-related conditions. Some examples of situations that can benefit from learning through association are:

Conquering Fear

A fearful dog is somewhat more dangerous than an aggressive dog. Where aggressive dogs will usually only attack if provoked, fearful dogs can attack unpredictably. This is because they perceive everything around them as a threat to defend themselves against.

Training methods like classical conditioning can enable your dog to overcome these fears. For example, a skittish dog can become confident when you employ positive reinforcement as they're confronting a fear.

Fears or triggers can include intimidating obstacles, introductions, noisy vehicles, crowds, etc.

Managing Aggression

Aggression is a stress reaction brought on by different stimuli. Using training methods like classical conditioning can help your dog overcome their aggression. You don't even have to know why your dog is aggressive. Tasty treats are a crucial component of the training session, so get some good ones.

Positive reinforcement training has to be adapted depending on the situation. To combat aggression, you have to reprogram negative associations into positive ones. You can achieve this by treating whenever the aggressor sees another dog. Eventually, new dogs mean treats.

So by learning through association, they are able to balance their emotions around other dogs. Continuing to build those positive interactions will result in a well-adjusted and friendly pet.

Socialization Situations

Training methods like classical conditioning can be extra effective if started from a young age. However, you want to begin when your dog is still a puppy for the best results. Use positive reinforcement by rewarding desired behaviors around other dogs, children, or people. Do this as often as you can while your pup is still learning.

You want to begin classical conditioning training from puppy age. Doing so means you're more likely to have an overall more confident dog who socializes well with others.

A Better Life For Your Best Friend

Classical conditioning is one of the most effective compared to other training methods. When rewarding desired behaviors, consistency is key to your success.

When your dog can regulate their emotions, they no longer live in a state of stress or anxiety. Well-adjusted dogs are better equipped to engage and learn new things.

If you learn better under instruction and guidance, we are the solution you need. We offer K-9 training programs like puppy and group classes and specialty classes like Aggressive Dog Training. To begin, book a consultation with one of our Dallas senior dog trainers today.

Have FUN with your dog!

K9 Culture Dog Training

Serving the Dallas / DFW Metro and North Texas

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