Burbank Veterinarian Breaks Down Classical Conditioning Training for Dogs

Burbank Veterinarians at Rainbow Veterinary Hospital welcome you to visit us for classic conditional training for dogs, but before you come in we would like to recommend a few at home tips. This is one good way of conditioning your dog against the problems that crop up in adolescence. Eight week old puppies are universally accepting of people but adolescent dogs can become fearful and reactive. The world becomes a scarier place and they become wary of children, men, any strangers, nail clippers, veterinarians etc. To prevent dogs from getting like this, take your time when exposing your puppy, adolescent or newly adopted adult dog to unfamiliar stimuli and condition your dog to tolerate and enjoy all these maybe scary new stimuli.

How To Start With Classical Dog Conditioning Training

Classical conditioning helps your dog form positive associations with all sorts of stimuli. Say your dog is showing a fear of men. Don’t feed your dog his kibble in a bowl but use it for conditioning. For one week, take your dog to dine outside somewhere where people are walking by. Offer the dog a piece of kibble every time a man walks by. The second week ask a male passerby to give him a snack. You could say, “excuse me, would you mind hand-feeding my dog? He’s really shy of men.” In no time at all, your dog will form a good association between men and FOOD and decide he likes them.

This conditioning is really important when visitors come to your house, on walks, in dog parks and especially during dog training classes.

From puppyhood onwards, it’s a good idea to have every visitor to your house offer your dog a few pieces of kibble (one of our dog’s needs a better treat than that when she’s being trained). This will help keep your puppy from becoming antisocial as he gets older. You could also teach each visitor how to use the treat to teach your dog to come, it and/or stay. It’s often a great way to reinforce their puppy training.

When walking a dog, on or off-leash, you should stop every 25 yards, let the dog take his time to look, listen, and sniff and then wait until he establishes eye contact and accepts a couple pieces of kibble before saying “Let’s go” and continuing to walk. Then sit somewhere and let things come by. Give them a bite of kibble every time someone comes by.

When dogs visit unfamiliar environments, offering kibble (we use jerky treats or other pork treats) is a good way for trainers, veterinarians and owners to check if the dog is at ease. If the dog refuses kibble from the owner, he is probably anxious about his environment so give him time to adapt. If the dog takes kibble from the owner but not from the veterinarian or trainer, the dog is ill at ease with the veterinarian or trainer so you have to proceed very slowly.

Do Dog Treats Reinforce Bad Behavior?

People often say that offering kibble all the time inadvertently reinforces bad behavior. If you use your voice when conditional training and say things like “there’s a good boy, it’s O.K”, you could reinforce all sorts of unwanted behavior. The classical conditioning works but the operant conditioning works against us and makes the problem worse. (The doc’s wife has had this problem and she has been trying not to say “It’s OK all the time. If fact, she’s noticed that she talks way too much when training Apples and Jacques. She’s trying to stick to “Nice try or Good Job”). The dog will feel O.K. about the situation but keep barking or whatever else he’s doing wrong. However by using food, you can only reinforce good behavior because the dog will stop barking or whining or whatever he’s doing in order to face you to get the food.Try this as part of your reward training and see how well it works.

Visit Burbank Veterinarian to Practice Your Classical Conditioning

We are proponents of training dogs all through their lives and, of course, of making dogs O.K. with strangers. We welcome people coming in just to acclimate your puppies, adolescent and new to your dogs to the hospital and everyone here. We would love to be a practice where you can practice classically conditioning or reward training your dog. Please contact Rainbow Veterinary Hospital if you have any questions about Classical Dog Conditioning Training or would like to schedule an appointment.


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