Understanding dog psychology and behavior is the key to successful dog training and therefore developing the best possible relationship with your dog.
For thousands of years there has been a mutually satisfying relationship between humans and their canine friends, one based on loyalty, protection, companionship, and, not the least of which, the ability to in various and effective ways communicate with each other.
Even the most dim-witted of dogs are able to let us know if they are hungry, need to go out, or want to play frisbee. My dogâ€™s way of letting me know his water bowl is empty is to drop it in front of me with a loud metallic clang. There is no mistaking what he wants.
Dogs are very intuitive as well and have the amazing ability to interpret and react to human tones of voice and body language. They are capable of learning complicated tricks and procedures, and of course they have enhanced senses of hearing, smell, and low-light vision, thought they perceive colors differently and with less complexity than humans.
Even with all of these abilities and attributes we will still have a hard time understand dog psychology unless we understand that dogs deal with and process their world in a way very unlike that of people.
For Example: My dogs are routinely fed at 7:30 AM and again at 5 PM. They have been conditioned to expect to be fed at those times, and if I forget and let the deadline pass by even a few minutes, they will remind me. In dog psychology terms this is a classical conditioned response.
Always in the past when they reached a certain level of hunger or their â€œstomach alarmâ€ went off, they got fed. If we are riding in the car at those magic times of the day and have no access to their food, they cannot process the idea that food is not available and they will have to wait until we get home. All they understand is that they are supposed to be fed and itâ€™s not happening.
Dogs are very good at learning certain cause and effect relationships, and this understanding of dog behavior psychology can be used extensively and with great success in the training process using positive and/or negative reinforcement. But here again there is an obvious difference in how far this information gets processed by dogs.
Dogs can learn to respond to an amazing number of voice and hand commands and learn to perform complex tricks and service tasks such as guiding the blind, search and rescue, police work, and explosives and arson detection using positive reinforcement.
On the other hand, most if not all dogs will have a hard time understanding the cause and effect relationship of eating garbage and getting sick. They will do it every chance they get and therefore an additional and more immediate negative reinforcement may be needed to manage that behavior.