Is my dog stupid? Why doesn’t he understand what I want him to do?

Dogs are complex in a way that we are not.

One of my favourite analogy’s for explaining the very way basic of teaching a dog anything is just like teaching a child to first walk. When that child takes it’s very first step the parents face will light up with excitement, following with lots of praise and encourage the child to take another step followed by more excitement. Well ladies and gentlemen this is dog training in a nutshell. As with the child first learning to walk we set up the environment. It’s a quiet room with usually nothing going on around. The parent is immediately in front of the child, the child will be standing up with either both hands supported by the parent or the child with one arm on the couch. The parent is doing their best to make sure the child doesn’t fall over and there will almost be constant communication from the parent, either praising, encouraging and guiding the learning of this new behaviour.

Dogs are taught to walk in a matter of self-preservation, there goes mom with all my food. So out of desperation the pup will begin wiggling about and then by discovering these things are flapping about are starting to take him in the right direction. Because of immediate success the pup will move those legs even more and before long he’s walking, falling over the place he gets back up and gets to mom and is immediately reinforced by getting to mom and his food. So therefore the learning with reinforcement continues and the pup is able to have more experiences of this and the better he gets to getting to mom. As you can see both species learn to walk for different reasons, one is approval and two is self-preservation.

Being anthropomorphic means thinking and behaving in a way with your dog believing he has human characteristics.

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to nonhuman entities.[1] It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Have ancient roots as storytelling and artistic devices, and most cultures have traditional fables with anthropomorphized animals as characters. People have also routinely attributed human emotions and behavioural traits to wild as well as domesticated animals.

Dogs consciously do not purposely copy our behaviour. They will do what is their best interest at any given time. Dogs are bound by a number of governing factors, the environment, his genetic capacity for any behaviour, prior learning and your skill for teaching that dog.

Coupled with those facts, dogs are also very in the moment as they do not have the capacity to dwell on the past nor do they have the capacity to worry about the future. So as I have pointed out dogs are very different than us and I could give example after example of how they differ from us. Why do we think about them the way we do? It is because we have been conditioning to think and react like this. Sit back for a moment and think about the behaviours that your dog does and behaviours you wouldn’t do because you wouldn’t enjoy them or in no way do they serve you. Beyond that think about all the behaviours dogs can do that we cannot do.

Raising and lowering criteria’s

In dog training when we make something a bit more difficult for the dog we will in another way we make it easier so an example of that would when I am teaching a dog to search a group of boxes to find and indicate on an odor. I now want to introduce other containers to increase difficulty level and to promote learning. Raising one criteria I place that odor inside a different container. A piece of of pvc tube. Lowering another criteria that he previously had. I will lessen the amount of boxes that I would normally use so I am in one way making it easier for him to help ensure he will indicate on the new container with the same odor in it. As soon he not only searches the new container and demonstrates that he recognises the odor I will immediately reward him.

Just like the baby learning to walk a dog needs to learn any new behaviour incrementally for him to be successful.

We are also constantly measuring between prior, current success and failure.

Almost any response or behavior pattern within a dog’s behavioral capability can be shaped as long as a few basic rules are followed. An excellent introduction to shaping dog behaviour through differential reinforcement of successive approximations is provided by B. F. Skinner (1951).

Dogs do not have the capacity for meanings to words instead they form an association to an event and that event means if told to sit the dog would place it’s bottom on the ground or to the dog ok I do this. If he had the ability to reason he would be able to think to himself why? And if the dog had the ability to think like that he certainly would behave differently.

I am always looking for better way to not only teach dogs but more importantly to teach people as this is the place where information becomes of real value to anyone one or anything. Being able to teach people and for those people to teach others takes a lot of practice yet if the explanation is correct then followed by the practice of it with some guidance everyone can be successful in teaching and learning.

I am not just looking to teach a dog behaviour I am simultaneously conditioning how the dog feels about that behaviour.


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