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How dogs learn

How Dogs Learn

Dogs repeat the things that bring them the best outcomes; behaviours that earn them rewards or attention are the ones that they are most likely to repeat in the future. Remember however that any attention (even being scolded) maybe seen as worthwhile by your dog!

Dogs do not possess the same ability to reason as a person. With this in mind, any praise or reward needs to be delivered as quickly and consistently as possible so your dog can learn the correlation between behaviour and outcome over time. After all, good training takes patience.


It’ll become very clear what motivates your dog to exhibit certain behaviours. For many it’s treats! Others it’s praise, attention, or a game. Try to ensure that you reward your dog for all the behaviours that you would like him to repeat in the future including being calm and relaxed.


Here at the Company of Animals we would NEVER condone physical punishment. In order to discourage unwanted behaviour you should firstly identify what benefit your dog is gaining; often this is simply your attention. In this case, more often than not, the removal of your attention will do the trick. (Typical attention seeking behaviours include jumping up, stealing and often barking).

In other cases, your dog may simply enjoy the behaviour; chewing, chasing and digging are all fun activities for your dog. In this cases removal of the item or access to it is the easiest way of discouraging your dog. Don’t forget to also provide him with alternatives to occupy his time such as chew toys, games and fun training sessions.

Removing your attention

Top tips

Fiona Whelan ~ Pet Behaviourist

Fiona has been working at the Training and Behaviour Centre as a behaviour specialist since 2002, and previously ran her own training and behaviour establishment in Lincolnshire for seven years so has a wealth of experience as a behaviour counsellor.