In this article, expert trainer Rachel, part of the team at Royvon Esher, explores the way that dogs learn and how we can use this knowledge during dog training at Royvon,
Learning is a process that every species has developed in order to survive across generations within their changing environment – those that learnt quickest went on to reproduce, whilst those who did not learn from events were less fortunate. As humans we learn episodically which is different from other species and it is important as owners and dog lovers not to expect our dogs to learn as we do.
Human learning is typically broken down into seven categories of Visual, Auditory, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social and Solitary; each of us as individuals have a preference for a way of learning. What works for you might not work for your friend, for example a Visual learner will learn best from pictures and diagrams whereas an auditory learner will learn best by hearing information. Both the visual and auditory learning styles would benefit from educational videos to aid their learning, however a verbal learner would struggle with this teaching method. Dogs, much like humans, have preferred methods of learning.
Dogs learn through action and consequences, they’re motivated to repeat behaviors that either resulted in positive or neutral outcomes and avoid behaviors that resulted in negative outcomes. This process of learning is called ‘Conditioning’ and there are two typical types of conditioning developed by psychologists and regularly used for dog training: classical conditioning and operant conditioning.