classical conditioning in dog training
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Classical Conditioning In Dog Training Made Easy

If you’re an everyday owner, or an aspiring dog trainer, classical Conditioning in dog training is a concept that every dog owner should have a clear understanding of. 

So if you want to know one of the big secrets to training your dog efficiently, be sure to read on to learn how we use classical Conditioning in dog training!

What Is Classical Conditioning In Dog Training?

Classical Conditioning in dog training is how animals learn through associations.

Learning through association essentially means that when one thing happens, another thing will quickly follow. 

For example, when you ask your dog “wanna go for a walk,” your pup may get excited because he/she has learned that it is followed with a walk outside after you say that specific sentence.

In another instance, your dog may run to the kitchen when you pick up his/her bowl because, more often than not, picking up your dog’s bowl signals that it’s feeding time.

In simple terms, your dog essentially learns to respond to the first thing in anticipation of what’s going to happen next.

How Does Classical Conditioning work?

Classical Conditioning works by pairing something that previously means nothing to the dog with something of value. 

The founder of classical conditioning Ivan Pavlov explains how this works best. You may have read about this in secondary school, where scientist Ivan Pavlov was curious about how reflexes work and studied the salivary response of dogs.

Long story short, in the experiments, Ivan Pavlov would present the dog with a tone that initially had no meaning to the dog.

After the tone was played, food was then dispensed and given to the dog. 

What Ivan Pavlov found was that after a couple of repetitions of playing the tone and then dispensing food, the dog would then begin to salivate at the sound of the tone alone.

That means that the sound of the tone alone created a reflexive involuntary response within the dog! (Classical Conditioning, “if A happens then B follows”)

After running this experiment, Ivan found that if the tone and the food were presented simultaneously, no association was made.

So for any classical conditioning or association to be made, the tone has to come Before the food.

classical conditioning in dog training
classical conditioning in dog training
classical conditioning in dog training

How Do You Classical Conditioning Work For Dog Training?

Now your likely wondering, great, but what does that have to do with dog training?

The answer is… Everything!

With this information in mind, as dog owners, we can classically condition various behaviors from our dogs just using this principle.

For example, take a dog that usually runs to the door when someone knocks on the other side. 

The sound of the knock usually gets “classically conditioned” without owners realizing it!

That means that the response that most dogs have towards a person knocking is involuntary.

If we know that, we can alter the sequence and classically condition a different response.

Take this scenario instead, the door gets knocked on, but instead of allowing your pup to run to the door, you send him to “bed” and give him a treat.

You’ll notice that if you pair this sequence a couple of times, the next time your dog hears someone knock on the door his/ her response will be to run straight to “bed” instead of the door!

Do you see how classical Conditioning can benefit us in training our dogs?

This is just one example of many, though the most common way that classical Conditioning is used is clicker training.

Clickers are a direct example of classical Conditioning but are used in dog training to communicate to the dog the exact moment dog did something right to get rewarded.

To read more on how to use the clicker for dog training, read our guide here


classical conditioning in dog training

Classical Conditioning has many uses in dog training, but ultimately, it’s up to us, as dog owners, to condition behaviors we want and avoid behaviors we don’t want!

To learn more about classical conditioning in dog training and to awaken your dog’s true potential contact us here or Give us a call! Receive your free dog training consultation and set your pup up for success! 

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