How Dogs Learn – 20 Truths

Graduation graduate puppy dog in cap on white with copy space

Imagine living among an entirely different species. Not understanding their language, behaviour, and rules. You’re doing the best you can with the information they give you or what you gather from your environment. You try to figure out what it is they want, what is right, what is bad. They get frustrated with you, but you don’t know why because they are not communicating with you in a language you can understand. You have been put into their world away from your mother, father, siblings, or relatives and are expected to behave like them. Are you happy? Scared? Sad? Frustrated?.

Puppy on absorbent litter. Accustom the dog to the toilet. Training pets

Knowing how a dog learns will help you understand their behaviour better and will help you learn how to communicate effectively. The following list are simple truths you should know.

  1. Lack of understanding of how dogs think and behave leads to problems. 
  2. Dogs learn through trial and error.
  3. Dogs learn through association.
  4. Dogs learn what is taught to them.
  5. Dogs do what works for them.
  6. Rewarding behaviour only needs to happen once for your dog to continue to do it. Your dog will quickly figure out what works for him or her from a very young age.
  7. Certain breeds have specific needs.
  8. Dogs can be taught anything that you can teach him. 
  9. Negative attention is still attention.
  10. Dogs will always take the path of least resistance.
  11. Your dog picks up on your frustration; thus, making him or her more insecure.
  12. Dogs pick up on subtle motions.
  13. Dogs’ sense of smell gives them their perception of the environment.
  14. Dogs can’t shut off this sensory stimulation that gives them scent pictures constantly. 
  15. Their sense of smell gives off so much information and influences their decisions.
  16. Dogs will always have an instinctive behaviour no matter the amount of training you do.
  17. Your dog will have its own motivation point. You will need to discover what it is.
  18. If a specific behaviour gets them what they want or need, they will keep doing it. 
  19. Dogs don’t have ego issues.
  20. Dogs mostly live in the present moment.
Rear view of young man with dog (labrador retriver) in nature at sunset.

It can be a stressful experience for puppies and dogs forced to live with humans who do not understand how dogs learn. You cannot erase a dog’s instincts. You can gain their respect by learning how to communicate with them at an early age. Communication never stops between you and your dog. If you understand that, you will cultivate a strong bond with your dog.

A beautiful young woman hugs her dog as they sit in a field