Dog training is not a complicated process. We, as dog owners, make it so because we do not understand how dogs learn. We assume they are like us and learn the way we do. NOT ENTIRELY SO.
Dogs are bred and born with various instincts. A good example is the desire to chase or hunt, be it birds, rabbits, squirrels, etc. In the case of pointing dogs, they have the instinct to stop on approach to game; POINT. Retrievers have the instinct to catch or pick up things and bring them back; RETRIEVE. Plus all dogs want to please their owners. Our goal is to take those natural instincts and make them work for us. We want our dogs not to hunt for themselves, but to hunt for us. That is where the training comes in. When we understand how dogs learn, we can train them to hunt for us rather than themselves. In fact, with this understanding, you can train your dog to do almost anything.
So, how do dogs learn? Here’s how. They learn by ASSOCIATION, REPETITION and MEMORY. Let’s take the here command. You have the dog on lead and verbally say here and pull the dog toward you. You REPEAT the process many times. Through this REPETITION your dog ASSOCIATES the sound of here with coming to you. The dog then commits that sound to MEMORY. Through this process, your dog now comes to you when you say here.
Now that you understand their learning process, dog training becomes less complicated doesn’t it. Next month we will discuss attributes you need to possess as an owner/trainer of your dog. See you then.