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Train Your Dog Like Pavlov: The Power of Classical Conditioning

Accidentally discovered by Russian experimenter, Ivan Pavlov, classical conditioning is a learning process where learning occurs by association.

Pavlov conducted an experiment in which he conditioned dogs to associate the ringing of a bell with the arrival of food.

The experiment involved presenting the dogs with food, then ringing a bell as the food was presented.

After repeating this process multiple times, the dogs eventually started to salivate in anticipation of the food when they heard the bell, even if the food was not present.

The conditioned response becomes like a reflex, a behavior that requires no thought.

Classical conditioning is occuring everywhere, all the time, whether we mean for it to or not.

However, it can be especially useful when strategically & methodically applied in behavior modification plans for dogs struggling with fear, anxiety or aggressive behaviors.

When a positive stimulis (food / toys / play) is paired with things the dog previously feared or had negative associations with, we can create new associations & more positive emotional responses in our dogs. Thank you science and neuroplasticity!


How can we apply classical conditioning in dog training?


We can use counter-conditioning to create more positive emotional responses from previously negative ones


We can pair a neutral recall 'cue' with our dog's absolute favorite things, so they always come running!


We can help dogs overcome fears by systematically desensitizing them and creating more positive associations over time


We can use classical conditioning to help our dog ENJOY and CHOOSE to participate in nail trims, grooming, taking medication, etc.


About the Author: Ashley Diaz is a dedicated pet owner and animal lover with over 10 years of experience providing professional pet care. With certifications in applied animal behavior & training, she shares her knowledge and insights on pet ownership, behavior, and welfare in her blog. Outside of her work with animals, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, practicing yoga and playing the piano.


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