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Conditioned Behaviour

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Every so often, we hear of pawrents complaining that their dog is “acting up”. It could be anything from “my dog does not like to go for walks” to “my dog is fussy about food”.

With all these issues, we always need to go back to the beginning. Pets don’t just change their behaviour overnight. It is always brought on by some form of conditioning by their humans.

case 1

Couple buys a new puppy, puts it on a leash and tries to walk it. Puppy sits down after a few steps. Couple thinks puppy is tired out and so, picks it up and starts carrying it all the way home.

Every single day for a couple of weeks, puppy has the same reaction to the leash and the pawrent scoops it up and carries it home.

And this in turn, has morphed in to a habit! Instead of continuous training with treats to encourage the puppy to walk on a leash, the puppy will associate not walking equals being carried.

case 2

The preparation of food can get anyone excited, let alone a dog! Family gathers at the table for dinner. Dog comes over to check out all the smells, then sits close by and looks at the family. A member feels “sorry” for it and throws him some bits. It tastes heavenly!!

Compared to what he eats daily, he can’t stop thinking about what he had tasted. So from that day on, he would sit close to the person who always throws him a couple of pieces. And in no time, the family will notice that he will decide to stop eating his regular meals altogether.

Family then goes out to buy a new brand of food for the dog. If they are lucky, the dog will be interested for the first couple of days or weeks. Not too long after, the dog refuses to eat anymore of it. What does the family do? Change his food again.

what happened?

In both cases, the human unknowingly started the cycle of conditioning their dog by “giving in” instead of proper training.

Hence, the puppy refuses to walk more than a few steps each time. As for the “fussy” dog, who wants to eat the same food everyday when he can get a change?

Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.

Corey Ford

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