Canine Psychology & Shaping Behavior: Part 1 – Your Dog’s Brain Capacity

Welcome to Part 1 of a brand new series!

As promised in the previous series “8 Things Your Dog Needs” this new season will introduce how your dog’s brain functions (canine psychology) and how you can work with your dog to get the best results (shaping behavior).

First things first then, we need to understand how information is coming into your dog’s brain, how it is different (or similar) to the way that you perceive things, and then what is the fundamental mechanism that dogs use in order to process information and make decisions. This video will change how you think about your dog!

When we talk about brain capacity, there are two parts for consideration, firstly Perception & Awareness, this is how the information comes into the dogs brain. The second part is Cognition & Learning, how the dog takes that information and processes it and learns from it (or sometimes doesn’t). Understanding how it works will set you up for better success when helping your dog to develop.

Just like humans, dog’s have 5 senses. Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch & Taste. However, the way that they use them and their comparative strengths and weaknesses are quite different to humans, for example, did you know that a dog’s sense of taste is far weaker than yours?

Next, we want to understand how is it that dogs process the information that you are giving them. There are two key factors here, firstly that instinct is still driving a lot of the decision making about whether an experience is positive or negative, and secondly that dogs allocate a value to just about everything that they experience. If the “value” of the experience saves their life for example, it obviously will sink more deeply into their psyche, compared to an experience that has little to no value to them at all.

Five top tips to keep in mind when considering your dogs brain capacity:

  1. Don’t expect your dog to immediately understand what you want, they learn best with time and repetition
  2. Be punctual with your feedback about your dog’s behaviour, then learn best when the feedback comes immediately after the event
  3. Help your dog develop good habits. Habits become the foundation of a dogs learning and lead to confidence as they can predict the future
  4. Keep your training techniques relatively similar, massive changes to technique set the dog’s learning back as they can’t bridge the gap
  5. Take small steps in the development on their training program. Little reliable consistent steps leads to faster learning in the long run.

Watch the above video for a comprehensive look at your dog’s brain capacity and what you can do to improve the relationship with your dog.

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