Learning Theory

Learning Theory is a model of psychology that scientifically explains how people and animals learn. Understanding and applying Learning Theory allows us to construct experiences for our dogs that allow them to learn about their environment and our expectations of their behaviour.

Learning Theory explains different tools trainers have at their disposal to shape the behaviour of your dog.

Below are examples of a few of these tools:

  • Classical Conditioning forms an association between two stimuli such as Pavlov’s dog, who learned that the sound of a bell consistently preceded his being fed, the sound of the bell eventually evoked the dog to salivate, even without the presence of food
  • Operant Conditioning forms an association between a behaviour and a consequence
  • Desensitization helps your dog overcome fear or anxiety and is very helpful in socializing young puppies
  • Extinction occurs when we stop rewarding a behaviour that was previously rewarded, causing the behaviour to decrease in frequency and then finally stop all together
  • Extinction Bursts occur when we stop rewarding a behaviour that was previously rewarded, causing your dog to increase this behaviour as he works harder to get the reward he believes is coming, and typically precedes extinction itself

Learning Theory forms the foundation of our training program. It has established specific methods of precipitating behavioural change via an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each specific method. This allows our trainers and behaviourists to make educated decisions regarding which techniques are best suited to your dog’s specific training needs.

As we explained on our Methodology page, we believe that Learning Theory must be balanced with the social structure that is genetically inherent in our dogs. This social structure within the group is called a dominance hierarchy.

A dominance hierarchy serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation within the group.

In our training program, Learning Theory is used to teach the behaviours we want while we work on producing a social hierarchy within the home that will allow us to extinguish the behaviours we don’t want. Doing one, without the other, will not produce significant, sustainable change.

At K9 Montessori, we believe that the most effective way to foster the relationship you want with your dog is to use Learning Theory to teach new behaviours and communicate your expectations within a healthy social structure with your dog!

K9 Montessori
5542 St. John's Sideroad Stouffville, ON L4A 7X4
Phone: (416) 427-0225