How Do Dogs Learn?

Dogs are one of the smartest animals that humans commonly have as pets.  However, even the smartest of them require some degree of training in order to perform the sort of tasks and tricks we request.

Understanding more about how dogs learn can help us to streamline the education process by using techniques most effective at showing results and avoiding ones that are counterproductive.

Here are some of the ways dogs learn:


Like little children, dogs will learn to perform a certain action if there is a reward provided for doing so. Also like kids, dogs will try and get away with certain behaviors to see what will and will not fly. Rewarding the ones that you find acceptable will encourage the dog to repeat those, rather than something useless and/or destructive.

Replace Bad Behaviors With Good Ones

If your dog is doing something you don’t like, it is important to discourage them. However, being overly harsh will only damage the bond of trust you have with your animal; he is then less likely to obey you in future.

Whenever you see the dog doing something bad (e.g. chewing on furniture), admonish them, but also try to distract them into doing something positive. When the dog performs this preferable action, reward it. That way, the dog will think more about what will bring them food and acceptance from you, rather than a scolding.

Provide Immediate Reactions to Their Actions

When your dog does something negative, make sure they know this is not good. Similarly, when they do something right, clearly praise them. Yelling at a dog hours after it has eaten garbage is useless because the dog will not realize what you are mad about. However, catching him in the act and firmly expressing your unhappiness will help instruct him not to do it again.