How Does Your Dog’s Brain Work?

A dog will not make connections between one action or the other unless you state the obvious. The reason you have to make things obvious and repeat your commands so much is because dogs are not very intuitive or logical. Their brain works by association or reward.

If you toss a ball and say fetch many dogs will chase the ball and then not bring it back to you. They crouch over it and start gnawing it.  It doesn’t occur to them to bring the ball right back to you (unless the dog is exceedingly willing to please). You need to “tell” through a verbal or visual command that you want that ball brought back.  This takes some training.

For example, if the dog grabs the ball into his mouth and takes a step towards you, you say ‘Good boy!’  or “Good girl!” If he drops the ball or runs away from you, you give the command again. Then, when he takes even one step towards you, you praise him. This is how the dog gradually realizes what you want him to do.  Praise the dog repeatedly for doing even the littlest thing right and keep a pocket full of treats. However don’t use a treat that is so appealing that it makes your dog drop the ball.

This thought process, which is called chaining, is a process of association that unfortunately, with some dogs can take some patience before he makes the relationship between the command and the praise. Once the dog has made this kind of “connection’ between events, he will soon start to repeat them just to be lavished with your approval.

Sometimes there is just no way to accelerate this learning process for a dog. It really does depend on the dog’s breed and the dog’s personality type.  All you can do is be patient.

Most dogs will see training as a game at first. It is recommended that you give both your dog and yourself time to learn about each other. If the do does seem to be unable to get it then just settle for some quality time together

If you do encounter problems, go back a stage or leave it for a few days and try again. Never show anger and keep it fun – this is a way of spending quality time together after all!  You simply have to be patient and take it step by step; otherwise you risk confusing your pet.

Another key is to make sure you are gratifying the dog with a reward he or she will appreciate. Some dogs love treats, some dogs don’t care about food that much but may prefer to play with their favorite toy for a while as a reward. Others will simply be satisfied with approval and a nice pet on the head. The height of successful dog training however, is when you can get your pet to do what you say without any physical reward and just use visual or verbal cues.