For instance, my son is a little over 4 months-old now, so routine trips to the doctor now include shots. They are painful and usually send him into a wailing fit whenever they happen. If this continues, then I’m almost certain that we will end up with a baby who may tolerate going to the doctor (at best), but one that will certainly never love the doctor. It’s quite simple, if I take a child somewhere and bad stuff happens to him every time he goes there, then I’m creating a future phobia. That's classical conditioning.
- After his shots the best thing in the world is going to happen. If he really loves eating, this could actually make him look forward to shots.
- The doctor’s office is a place where people smile a lot and he gets to eat food.
This is actually one of the cornerstones of dog and human behavior and the reason that if you have a child who is a little older than Hugo, your doctor may even give her something awesome like a sucker or a fashionable band-aid right after shots.
In the dog world, this is why most vets have your new puppy come in for an examination where everyone is really nice to him, he gets treats until he’s stuffed, and no one sticks him with any needles. Because in that first visit, your vet has the opportunity to take a neutral building and either make it a house of horrors for your dog or his favorite 5 star restaurant and spa.
This concept doesn’t just apply to vets and doctors, but everything your dog will encounter in life. If your puppy has a relatively balanced temperament from the beginning, then your job in socializing him is to make places and people a good thing.
If you’ve been to a dog trainer or searched the web for how to solve dog problems, I would bet that at some point you have come across the simple to understand concepts of classical conditioning or counter-conditioning. These are what I like to refer to as the subliminal methods of dog training that focus more on how your dog feels on the inside about people, places or things.
This should be a guiding idea as you raise or rehabilitate your dog, and I like to think of it in very simple terms – if I take my dog somewhere, did my dog have fun? If my dog meets someone, did they have a good experience?
That’s really the science behind it, the art of training comes in figuring out how to stack the deck in your favor.