Charlie Brown’s Teacher

13 Aug

I used to LOVE watching Charlie Brown – and of course always loved Snoopy.

A friend of mine recently got a new puppy. She mentioned to me that she “said” no to her young puppy – but the dog didn’t seem to understand what “no” mean. That is correct! Dog’s don’t understand english 🙂 Dogs learn to understand us by associating words, sounds, movements, cues etc to an “event” (good or bad) whether you are trying to teach them something or not.

Take your dogs bowl and add kibble and fido will come running. Put your walking shoes on and rover starts going nuts – knowing they are about to be walked. Your dog is very observant – and after experiencing the same pattern over and over with the same results (sound of kibble in bowl means chow time) they pair what they are hearing or observing with what is  about to happen.

The same can happen with not so fun experiences. It starts to rain and you thunderphobic dog starts to shake (observing in the past that rain may lead to thunder) Luggage coming out from the attic could mean being left behind…

Your dog is always watching, observing, and learning from your patterns. The more consistent a pattern is – the quicker the dog will learn it – and the earlier in the pattern the dog  will anticipate what is going on.  When I am going to take the gang for a walk – I always get ready the same way. Get on my walking duds, get water, poop bags, baseball cap, shoes, leash.  I am so consistent with this pattern – the dogs now jump up when they hear the “walking clothes drawer” open.

After you have developed a relationship with your dog – most dogs will learn how to read you and whether what they are doing is something you want them to stop doing.

In the beginning though before you dog had experienced your patterns like – YES GOOD BOY  being followed by treats and petting- whatever you are saying to them sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Just a series of words and sounds that mean nothing.  Dog’s don’t generalize well. Yelling NO after they have had an accident on the carpet means absolutely nothing. Your dog might look up at your terrified when you are yelling – but it’s not because they are “sorry” for the mess. It’s because they are upset and confused as to why you are acting like a crazy person. Dog’s can only associate words or sounds (lets call them markers) with the event is happening at the EXACT time the marker happens.  If your dog had an accident 10 minutes ago and you stumble upon it and yell NO, your dog will associate something not so pleasant  (your yelling) with what is happening at that moment (dog probably standing there staring at you) Saying the word NO also doesn’t mean anything if your dog is chewing on your furniture, digging a hole, or shredding your wallpaper.

If you have a new dog and are just starting to teach him how to be a great pet just remember – if you are loudly explaining  to  him at the end of the day how chewing up your shoes while you were are work was “BAD” – all your dog is hearing is WAH wa WAH.

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2 Responses to “Charlie Brown’s Teacher”

  1. Ashutosh Chia August 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

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  1. Rats! Camera! Action! « No Kids – Just Dogs - August 13, 2011

    […] jump to the next weekend and my prior post about dogs learning from patterns The set had hay bales all over it. I hadn’t really even […]

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