White Maltese with black glasses with pencil
Freak On A Leash offers online learning opportunities included in your personal training and group classes.


How Dogs Learn


The Two Ways Dogs Learn:


Learning by Association

The first way dogs learn is by Association  (Emotional Response)

Human example:

We humans learn by association, too.  For example, when you meet someone for the first time you come away with an association—either positive, negative, or neutral.  If you really enjoyed your interaction with the person, you are likely to be really happy to see them again.  If you found them to be difficult or argumentative and then you see them again, you might get that little pit of dread in your belly—you have formed a negative association with that person.

Human-dog comparison:

Dogs experience the world this way, too, only they rely on this learning far more than we do.  They are constantly forming associations—safe, dangerous, neutral or good for me, bad for me, neutral.  These associations inform the decisions they make and the reactions they have to various situations and stimuli.

learning through association
dog learning through consequences

Learning by Consequence

The second way that dogs learn is by consequence, or by doing.

Edward Lee Thorndike’s Law of effect states that behavior that is rewarded will happen more frequently.

Human example:

Pay checks – we can all understand that if we go to work we will receive a paycheck. If we don’t go to work we won’t get a paycheck. We don’t get a paycheck everyday but understand that the paycheck we get in a week or two is for work we have already done.

Human-dog comparison:

A dog could never understand this—it’s way beyond their ability to connect events over time like this.  Dogs learn by consequence like we do, but for dogs the consequence has to be immediate; it must occur right on the heels of the action that caused it.