Learning by association (classical conditioning) – a powerful tool in dog training.

Here I discuss classical conditioning – learning by association – in dog training. Dogs make associations constantly in their environment. By having a greater understanding of what we are doing and how this effects the associations our dog makes, we will have a more harmonious life with our dogs.


8 thoughts on “Learning by association (classical conditioning) – a powerful tool in dog training.

  1. Thank you for your generosity in sharing these videos and your expertise, it has really helped clarify so many aspects of training. I wonder if I could get your thoughts on something though?
    I am working with my rather reactive 4yr old rescue Collie x Husky. His main trigger is other dogs (especially if they bark at him). His behaviour pattern is that he freezes as soon as he sees a dog, then stares and stalks towards them – on or off lead. (His intention is always to play but he was not well socialised so is a bit ill mannered in his approach.) I am having success but am concerned that in conditioning him that ‘other dog = food’ I will inadvertently be rewarding him for ‘staring’? I am inclined to think that this is the habit I need to try and alter as I know it is intimidating. What are your thoughts?
    Thank you in anticipation. Kalie

    1. I would use a long line and continue what you are doing. When he has a large history of you feeding him when dogs appear, start to withhold the food. He may (should) then look at you expecting the food and we can now reinforce that. In any case, we are getting classical conditioning around other dogs, which always takes precedence over reinforcing what he is doing.

      1. Thank you! He is showing the behaviour you mention – looking to me as soon as dogs appear – which is great. He is also now much more able to deal with larger dogs barking at him, so just need to keep working on staying calm when small dogs bark at him!
        Thanks again for your advice

  2. Great description of Counter Conditioning – give all of my new clients a run down on Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning to help them understand how they’re teaching in wanted AND unwanted behaviours!

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