Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How a Puppy Learns

How a Puppy Learns
  • Simply put, all canines are born with instinct to survive -- such as having razor sharp teeth to compensate for underdeveloped jaw muscle. 
  • In addition to their instincts they learn from classical and operant conditioning. 

Classical Conditioning:
  • This means they learn to associate one thing with another.
    • An example would be, the dog hears the can opener start and runs to the kitchen because past history has proven he is about to receive a can of dog food. The dog has come to learn one thing equals another.
    • Dog learns when the sound of the garage door goes up, it is followed by you entering the house.

Operant Conditioning:


    • This means the dog comes to learn one thing is the predictor that something else is likely to occur. Your dog comes to learn “what he does” has consequences.
      • Example: Dog runs and jumps on a trash can, paws at it until it falls over and chews on all that great stuff that tumbles out!


    Puppies also learn without our input. This means fair boundaries need to be set when your puppy is still young and cute. Doing so allows your puppy to learn what normal is and how pleasant things can be when he repeats wanted behaviors. When a puppy is small and cute things he does may not bother you, but those same things will be repeated when he is older and most likely will bother you then. The lesson to be learned is; what you want your puppy to do as an adult dog is what you patiently teach him to do as a puppy.

    The 4-possibilities



    Positive Reinforcement (R+)
    This involves giving the dog something he wants when the requested behavior is performed. EX: You say “sit” and the dog sits & receives a treat. This serves to increase the likelihood of the dog sitting in the future.

    Negative Reinforcement (R-)
    This involves the removal of something the dog doesn’t like when the requested behavior is performed. EX: You say “sit” the dog sits & pressure is removed from his hips. This also serves to increase the likelihood of the behavior being offered in the future.

    Positive Punishment (P+)
    This involves giving the dog something he does not like when the requested behavior is not performed. EX: You say “sit” and the dog lies down instead. The dog is pulled up by his collar until he sits. This is likely to decrease the down behavior, leaving only the sit, in the future.

    Negative Punishment (P-)
    This involves the removal of something the dog likes when he does not perform the requested behavior. EX: You ask the dog to sit, the dog lies down. You eat the treat that he was hoping to get. This is likely to decrease the down behavior, leaving only the sit, in the future.

    Examples of Positive Reinforcement (R+)


    • You ask the dog to “sit’, he sits and you give him a treat.
    • Dog jumps on you and you pet him.
    • Dog whines in the crate and you tell him to “be quiet and go to sleep”

    *Regardless of what you want or intend to teach your dog, you are strengthening all 3 of the above behaviors.


    Examples of Negative Reinforcement (R-)

    • You say “sit” and the dog sits. You stop choking him with a choke collar.
    • You say “sit” and the dog sits so you stop pushing on his hips.
    • You say “come” and the dog turns towards you and you stop shocking him with a shock collar. 

    *This course does not promote the use of intimidation nor physical punishment, but uses these as examples of negative reinforcement, (R-).



    Examples of Positive Punishment (P+)

    • Dog jumps on you and you put your knee into his chest.
    • Dog licks you and you smack the dog on the top of the head.
    • Dog trips you and you kick the dog.
    *This course does not promote the use of intimidation nor physical punishment, but uses these as examples of negative reinforcement, (P+).


    Examples of Negative Punishment (P-)

    • You ask the dog to sit, the dog lays down and you eat the treat the dog was anticipating on eating.
    • Dog jumps on you and you turn away form the dog.
    • Dog plays too rough and you walk away.

    Regardless of what you want or intend to teach your dog, you are decreasing the likelihood of the dog failing to sit, jumping and playing too rough.


    The 4-Stages of Learning

    • Acquisition -- acquiring the behavior
    • Fluency -- automatic performance of the behavior
    • Generalization -- applying the behavior in different environments and distractions
    • Maintenance -- always use it or lose it




    *Canine Companion, October 2009


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