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Understanding What "Conditioning" Your Dog Means

August 27, 2013     Ed Frawley

It is important to understand the term "conditioning" when it comes to dog training. When I say conditioning, I'm not talking about giving your dog a bath. I'm talking about your dog's behavioral nature and how we can condition it to give the right response. Instead of jumping up on the pen whenever a person is nearby, you can condition your dog to stay calm and collected. Conditioning plays a huge role in clicker training dogs.

Essentially, conditioning is the act of rewarding a dog for its behavior. The classic example is Ivan Pavlov's experiment. He would ring a bell and then feed dogs food. For days, he would do this: 1) ring the bell then 2) feed the dog. One day, he rang the bell but never gave the dogs food. Pavlov noticed the dogs would salivate at the sound of the bell. This astonishing discovery became the classic experiment for conditioning.

With conditioning, you are setting your dog's expectations. You give them a reward, and they will put forth that action again to receive the world. That is the basic foundation of all dog training. It's very simple and certainly not at all hard to learn.

To condition a dog, you need to give them a reward. When we condition our dogs, we use soft training treats like the Zuke's Mini Naturals. You can see our video where Cindy conditions her puppy, Stella in a new environment here. As you can see, Stella is starting to understand that the new environment isn't a bad place. Cindy feeds Stella in new areas to reinforce that the setting here with people and other pets isn't a situation to be afraid of.

With this little tidbit of understanding "conditioning", we hope it'll give you a newer and better point of view when it comes to training your dog.