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How dogs learn! (... and why we get it wrong!)

Most of us have heard "dogs learn by association". This window of learning in situations is up to 3 seconds between what happened and what happened next.

A big factor we don't always consider, is that our Little Woofers are learning -24 hours a day, 7 days a week!! We've focused a lot on how to interact with and train your Little Woofer - but of equal importance is how your Little Woofer might be training you!

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" Take the scenario - that a dog or puppy jumps up on you.. For puppies and small dogs, we'll often ignore the problems with this behaviour and engage in rewarding the dog (petting, talking, eye contact). In this situation the Little Woofer learns - 'Two paws up = rewarding behaviour to perform' which in turn - increases the probability

of this behaviour being performed again. For pups, it ends up being a behaviour owners often have to try 'undo' during adolescence or adulthood as they are now at a size that jumping is no longer quite as cute!! Or for small dogs, we may be reluctant to bring them places or have people over, or wear certain clothes - as we know they will be jumping all over them! In the dogs defence - this is a behaviour we didn’t just welcome - but positively rewarded! In addition to this - what about the other scenario? Where a Little Woofer jumps up on us and we say "no!" or "Get down!" whilst looking at them and brushing them away? Well - this is where lots of people get stuck!! From the Little Woofers point of view, they have activated a verbal response, eye contact and physical contact from you! Other situations this crops up in tend to include - chewing on our hands, robbing socks/slippers or anything else they can get their jaws on or even begging from the table!

We need to be more considerate in our interactions with our Little Woofers to help paint a clear picture of what is and isn't a preferred behaviour! Think: Am I accidentally reinforcing a behaviour that I don't necessarily want? Or: What is my Little Woofer getting from this? Then: Agree a plan and share it with anyone that regularly interacts with the dog - to ensure the dogs learning is consistent!

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