Last week we talked about puppy zones and spatial learning, and how understanding those concepts when your puppy arrives home can set your puppy up for success. Today we’ll cover another pillar of training a “Super Pup” – Conditioning.
What is conditioning?
Conditioning, according to Brittanica.com, is the behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent, more predictable, or instinctive in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement being a stimulus or reward for a desired response (Brittanica). If any of you remember Psychology 101, you can recall the 19th century psychologist Ivan Pavlov, who observed that dogs learned to salivate when presented with different stimuli (bells, white coats) because they learned that the sound of a bell or sight of a white coat meant food was on its way. This is called classic conditioning, and it is one of the tools that we can use for positive reinforcement in training our pups to get the behavior we desire. Classic conditioning is achieved through routine and consistency. It is why, as you may have probably noticed, that we at Habibi Bear Pup Academy (Go Bears!) talk incessantly about routine and consistency. We may even sound like a broken record! Our goal, in all honesty, is not to bore you, we promise! We are trying to pass on our many years of observation and experience on to you so you and your pup can benefit and cruise through puppydom with the minimum of bumps and scrapes.
Consistency and routine are used in:
- Potty training
- Meal times
- Nap and Bedtimes
- Tricks and Tasks
In short, any desired outcome can be achieved through classic conditioning and a predictable routine.
Consistency and routine can be fun and bring real opportunities for strengthening our bonds of affection with our pups. I like to make a game of it! For example, after performing a task or a request, I like to tell puppy “go to your kennel” (I like to call it “the condo”) and when they do, they get their treat! If I am giving them their special toy, they get it only in their crate. To get them to enjoy their crate, they get only high value treats (real chicken breast, a filled Kong) while waiting inside. Through positive reinforcement and classic conditioning, puppy associates positive things with being in their crate. It is a place where they get yummy treats. It is a place where they get their special toys. It is a place that is their own space with their blanket where they get to be comfortable, warm and safe. When puppy is warm and safe, they grow in confidence and security. A secure and confident pup is a Super Pup!
I even have a funny story about classic conditioning and off limit zones! About ten years ago, I had a large dog who was not allowed in the bedrooms of the house. I had baby gates and a chair blocking the rooms that were off limits. The rooms were off limits because there were two semi-feral cats that slept and ate in those rooms away from the bigger dogs. One day, after getting out of the shower, I heard one of the dogs howling but I couldn’t determine the type of howl it was, it was decidedly different from anything I had heard before. Then as I walked into the living room, my largest dog (a naughty teen at the time–see our August 12th post, “What Happened to my Puppy?”
), rushed past me from where she wasn’t supposed to be and ran straight into her kennel and sat down! Since she had come from behind me, I realized that she had broken down the baby gate and got into the cat food. Knowing she would be put on a “time out,” she ran into her crate herself, and licking her chops, waited for me to close the door, while the other, older and wiser dog, kept tattling and scolding her for her naughtiness.
Someday, maybe very soon, you too will have a wealth of stories and memories of your shared experiences with your Habibi Bear puppy. Maybe you already have a favorite story to share! Leave us a comment and let us know!