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Training your new puppy can be something of a head-scratcher, especially if you’re a new pet owner.
Most new pet owners have trouble understanding how exactly to get their pup to understand what it is they want when they’re trying to talk or instruct.
Your puppy is not human – this much is obvious, of course. But some people make the mistake of approaching training as if they are dealing with a small child.
Even that would more often than not, be futile. Yes, puppies are technical “kids” among dogs, but it’s crucial to remember that their brains are wired completely differently from that of humans – and therefore, of human kids, too.
The way they perceive the world around them and the way they interact with it and learn from these interactions is completely different. Their instincts, too, are fundamental “doggy”, and so their behavior and responses are naturally shaped by these instincts – whether it be their inclination to hunt things, guard their territory or any other normal doggy behavior.
Understanding Puppy Psychology Can Help You Key Into They Way They Think
So, go a long way towards reinforcing your training and speeding things along in the process.
In this post, we’ll highlight some interesting and useful aspects of doggy behavior, or psychology, to present you with 5 dog training psychology tips that could really help with training. If you want more puppy psychology check out our book Dogology Blueprint for more training.
1. Using Cues Other Than Verbal Commands
Some owners tend to use exclusively verbal commands, and that too, those that are sentences, rather than just a word or two.
Puppies are unlikely to register the meanings of a bunch of words stringed together, and it’s always better to stick to a handful of commands that are distinct and restricted to one or two words at most.
However, it’s useful to note that dogs are highly receptive to visual and scent cues. So incorporating these into training and commands can vastly improve your puppy’s learning rate.
For instance, instead of relying solely on verbal commands, it’s much more effective to combine these with visual cues like hand gestures and a particular body language to help your puppy distinguish between commands faster.
2. Making Use of Their Natural Instincts
Instincts are something everyone learns to control through experience, training, and discipline – this is true for both humans and animals.
Puppy behavior, too, is largely drawn out by their natural instincts – whether it be chewing on or tearing at shoes and other objects in the house (hunting), or peeing in different places (territorial marking).
Understanding the instincts behind their behavior would help you get to know your puppy better, and therefore adjust your training methods or activities to suit their personality and needs.
For example, you can use a form of catch-ball if your puppy has a particularly strong “herding” instinct, and games involving chew-toys, and long walks with playful stalking and chasing in the park, etc. will satisfy the hunter in your pup!
3. Try to Use “Classical Conditioning” Over “Operant Conditioning”
First, what are Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning…
Classical Conditioning is a method in training where you use responses in your puppy that are involuntary or uncontrolled – like how dogs automatically salivate when they see food.
An example of training using classical conditioning is using these involuntary responses to get puppies used to something they don’t like or fear, say playpens or a harness.
Presenting the playpen or harness during or right before it’s time to eat eventually gets your puppy to associate them with the food (i.e. something good).
Thus feeding your puppy in the pen, or putting on the harness every day with the food in front of may shed the fears or dislike associated with the objects or activities much quicker.
The other form, Operant Conditioning, uses a positive or negative stimulus as a condition for training and reinforcement: do this, and you’ll get a treat, or do this other thing and you’ll be yelled at or smacked across your snout!
While both forms of conditioning are essential and needed for training, you may see that classical conditioning is something that is clearly better, being easier to learn and reinforce as it uses the dog’s natural responses to things.
Operant conditioning, on the other hand, must be learned by your puppy over many repetitions, and then reinforced over time.
4. Don’t Reward Too Often!
This is a fairly common mistake new owners make when they treat and pamper their puppies for virtually each and every instance of good behavior.
This can lead to trouble later, dogs get accustomed to the treats, and then refuses to behave or respond to commands unless they get their “reward”.
So make sure you only reward your puppy for exceptionally good behavior, or great responses to, or progress with a new training activity – and don’t repeat it often.
You don’t want to be held to ransom over treats!
5. Establish yourself as the Alpha Right from the Beginning
This is really important for new owners to understand, and to ensure that training goes quickly and smoothly throughout.
All dogs have a “pack mentality” ingrained in them – it doesn’t matter whether they’ve actually lived in a pack or not.
Even your brand new little puppy, believe it or not, understands the mechanics of a pack – that there is always someone in charge, and it’s never a good idea to cross that someone.
So unless owners establish and reinforce their role in the relationship as the alpha from the start, through the way they conduct and control training and discipline, their puppies may eventually assume that position for themselves.
This may lead to real problems with aggression, indiscipline, and disobedience over time.
So make sure you assert yourself! Things like how firm, and in control, you are on walks, how particular you are about the schedule for eating, and how firm you are with commands for discipline and obedience are all crucial for establishing control and showing you are the alpha.
What do you make of these insights into doggy psychology? If you want more tricks and tips check out our Dogology Blueprint guidebook, currently on sale.
Do you have some tips of your own? Do let us know through your comments in the section below, and feel free to share this post with friends and fellow pup-owners!