Human versus Canine Learning
News published in the New York Times in its November 23, 2012 issue, dispels the common myth that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Research undertaken on a 5 year old Border collie named Gable established evidences that it could understand more than 40 words by proper training. But this canine learning is marked to be in contradiction to human learning. Whereas toddlers learn to speak by associating words with shape; Gable associated words with size. For instance, a toddler associates the word ‘phone’ with any object shaped like a telephone. While working on the study dog Gable, it was shown a horseshoe-shaped object, called a ‘dax’.
When trained up for some time, Gable started identifying other objects with similarity of size by the same name. When the object was taken home for about a month, the dog started associating the word with other objects of similar textures. Canine learning faculty is non-responsive to shape. Emile van der Zee, a psychologist at the University of Lincoln in England, after his study opines why humans are more special with regard to learning language.
Dogs are the most domesticated animals and hence need to be trained in order to modify their normal behavior; either for assisting in performing specific activities or for undertaking definite tasks. Most importantly, they need to be socialized so that they justify the word domestication. Dog training is imparted to make the dogs learn the activities and the behavior that are expected out of them.
It learns though interacting with the environment around it; either through classical conditioning or operant conditioning. In the former, sensitization or habituation modifies its behavior. In the later, it associates either with behavior or consequence. There are different training methods named as Koehler, Clicker, Dominance-based, and Relation-based. For the dog to learn better, a number of factors need to be ensured such as qualities and personality of the dog, correct timing of reinforcement, punishment and consistent communication.
Misconception on Dog Behavior
Training of dogs can now be taken up in a more scientific way that would dispel a number of common misconceptions associated with behavior of dogs. Firstly, no age bar for learning as per the study made and the news publication. Since dogs want comfort like human beings, they can be allowed to sleep next to you or even on your lap. If you try to check your dog’s potty accident by rubbing its mess on its nose, she may hide in safety and make the house-keeping difficult.
A cowering dog does not necessarily be subjected to abuse in the past. It might be due negative experiences during its prime socialization period. Older shelter dogs behave well and can substitute the puppies for skipping stages of chewing, potty training and mouthing. Dogs prefer not to come closer to other dogs. Instead of allowing the dogs just to continue fighting, try breaking up the scuffle without being involved physically in the fray.