Emotional cognitive dog training

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Dogs are not just animals that respond to stimuli in a primitive and innate way. All the behaviors they perform are learned, in one way or another. Are conscious animals, with high learning abilities and complex emotions. Therefore, it is normal for them to suffer from behavioral problems, due to misinformation or mishandling of it..

Before adopting it is essential that we inform ourselves about the behavior of dogs, guided by up-to-date scientific methods do not harm these sensitive animals in any way.

In this AnimalWised article we will explain what is emotional cognitive training in dogs and how, through knowledge about the nature of our pet, we can help it to be happy.

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  1. Differences between ethology, education and training
  2. Canine cognitive training
  3. Other types of training
  4. Factors influencing dog education and training

Differences between ethology, education and training

Faced with a problem with our dog's behavior, we must know what type of professional to go to. There is a totally erroneous popular belief that trainers are out of date and that now an ethologist is often visited. This, in addition to being uncertain, can cause us a loss of time, resources and that our dog does not improve.

To know where to go, we must know what each of these canine behavior professionals does:

  • Canine ethologist: ethologists are veterinarians or behavioral biologists who study the behavior of an animal in its natural environment and are in charge, above all, of the instinctive behaviors, usually treating behavior disorders in dogs based on canine ethology.
  • Canine education: a canine educator is in charge of facilitating the integration and interaction of the dog with human society and his family, teaching basic rules of conduct. The dog, from its birth, receives the education of its mother to know, for example, where it can go and where not. Once we separate the puppy from his mother and take him home, education is on us.
  • Dog training: canine trainers teach the dog to perform certain behaviors and postures, quickly and accurately, when given an order. Also, try to get the dog to learn other rules, allowing him to participate in sports activities, competitions or work.

Canine cognitive training

There are many different types of training that we will briefly discuss later. In this article we focus on the cognitive training of dogs. This method was devised by guide dog psychologist Bruce Johnston, who tried to teach dogs through learning understandable to them.

Nowadays, this method is considered a valid training not only for guide dogs, but also for any dog ​​that lives with humans, since this training works in such a way that the dog act out of affection his guardian and not for a prize, be it food, a toy, or fear of the guardian.

In addition, the training seeks understanding on the part of the dog, since this is an animal with emotional capacities because they feel emotions, with cognitive abilities because they think, with social abilities since it is able to establish relationships and with communication skills, the dog is designed to receive and send information.

This type of training, in the beginning, does start with positive reinforcement of food until you learn what we want to convey. Once you understand the concept, you remove that reinforcement that is replaced by affection. If he fulfills the order correctly, he receives affection, if not, we must show an expression of anger, ¡eye !, just an expression, no fuss, no vocalizations or physical damage. The dog, facially, also shows moods.

The exercises that are most used in this type of training are:

The walks

When we go for a walk with a dog, we go out for him, not for ourselves. The strap should never be tight, something that causes, for example, flexi straps, nor tied to the neck, always harness. The length of the strap should be about 3 meters of length so that the dog can go wherever he wants (as long as there is no danger) and smell all the walls, streetlights, plants and trees that he wants and we follow them.

Issues such as dominance or submission have no place here, since dominance only occurs within the same species and before a resource and it is very rare to observe it, so the dog can go in front of us, behind or wherever it wants.

In guide dogs, at a certain point, the type of leash is changed, through specific training, since they will have to be an extension of another person in the future, but always through affection..

Smell exercises

A happy and balanced dog must always have an active nose. For this, daily tasks of environmental enrichment of smell are carried out. For example, offering him his food divided into small mounds inside crumpled newspaper, or inside an egg carton, or taking him to the park and throwing his food on a lawn..

This ensures hours of entertainment and work with the nose, which will greatly relax the dog, keeping his brain very active. Offering a dog food in a bowl is very boring, you do not have to do anything to get it, it is just there. In dogs with anxiety at mealtime, they will devour the bowl in ten seconds and those with a light appetite will always have the bowl full. Therefore, food should always be offered in such a way that the dog has to work a little with his nose and mind..

Later you can teach the command of "search ", indispensable for guide dogs.


Playing with our dog is essential to create a positive bond. There are many toys with which to play with our dog, always keeping in mind their interests and priorities.

Games like the "tug of war " do not encourage aggressiveness nor any kind of predatory instinct. It is a game and, as such, it can be played, bearing in mind that the dog must win 90 percent of the time, otherwise he will lose interest. It is important that guide dogs are taught the commands "look for " and "release " within games..


Dog socialization is a stage in the puppy's development in which he learns to communicate with other dogs, humans, and other animals. Here they learn the behaviors and guidelines necessary for the rest of the dogs and humans to understand them, how they are, the calm signals, the play signals, the introduction with a new dog and other behaviors.

It is not necessary for our dog to meet hundreds of dogs during this stage. With you meet two or three balanced dogs and that they know how to behave properly like dogs is enough.

At this point we must also think that there are dogs that, due to their physical characteristics, will have more difficulties to communicate with other dogs. These are the dogs with the tail cut, since many of the emotions they need to show they do with this limb, dogs with long hair on face that hides their facial expressions from other dogs and brachycephalic dogs that, in addition to having very prominent eyes, tend to appear directly from the front due to the physiognomy of their nose, without going around the other dog's anal area.

We must remember that emotional cognitive dog training, as its name suggests, is training. For it to work, the dog must be properly educated or in process. For example, it is very important to work on self-control, how to wait quietly for us to give him his food or leave the house relaxed, regardless of whether he leaves before or after us.

Other types of training

Throughout history our way of relating to dogs has evolved according to our needs and the end that we seek. Thus, there are other types of training, some of them totally obsolete..

Traditional training

It was created by the Colonel Konrad Most and William R. Koehler before the First World War, in 1906. The method was developed without any scientific basis. Hanger, electric or spike collars were used, all as part of negative reinforcement. Other types of physical punishment were also used, such as pulling or hitting the ribs if the dog pulled on the leash.

All of these methods are either banned in many countries or they end up with an emotionally unstable and heavily traumatized animal. Although many trainers consider it an effective method, in fact, we can see some of these techniques today on some television shows, disguised as "alpha-roll ".

Positive training

This technique is based on studies of the psychologist E. Thorndike. Where animals (cats and dogs) learned with operant conditioning through a positive reinforcer (a reward). The problem with this technique is that it does not treat animals as beings loaded with emotional connotations, more as mere robots that respond to a stimulus, and it is not like that..

Training by timing

This technique is combined with the use of the "clicker ". It is based on a synchrony between a given command and the animal's response. If you get it right you are rewarded. It is used to teach basic commands for dogs such as "sitting ", "tumabado ", etc..

Training by attraction guide with lure

It is also known as "Luring ". I know guide the dog with a decoy (food or toy), until you perform the given order. The dog should concentrate on the reinforcer or decoy and ignore the rest of the stimuli.

Capture training

This method consists of rewarding the dog when by chance perform some behavior that we find desirable. For example, lying down, dropping an object that we do not want him to pick up, etc..

Training by molding, modeling or modeling

In the first case, the dog is guided until it performs the behavior we want, for example lying down, we reward it until it does. In modeling, we gently push the dog to lie down and in modeling, the dog learns by imitating another dog.

Extinction training

It consists of preventing the dog from performing behaviors that we do not want. We stop reinforcing the behavior by avoiding paying attention to the dog when it is performed or by reinforcing it indirectly, for example through fighting or a simple "no".

Counterconditioning training

This technique is used to change certain negative emotional states that have been born due to trauma. It is always accompanied by the systematic desensitization. It consists of gradually bringing the dog closer to the focus of the negative state and rewarding it with food when it relaxes.

Training "Tellintong TTouch "

Created and Developed by Linda Tellington – Jones, Trainer. Consists in movements and touches unusual that help the dog to relax. It fosters the bond between the guardian and his dog, increases the dog's self-esteem, never with negative reinforcement and totally ignoring the false belief of "dominance-submission ".

Factors influencing dog education and training

All dogs can improve in their behavior, some more easily and quickly, others will need months or even years of therapy, support and affection.

Some of the factors that can influence the process are:

  • The race: the physical characteristics of the breed can cause the dog to not communicate properly. Something very recurrent in brachycephalic dogs.
  • Temperament and character: temperament has a strong genetic basis, but it is the character that is molded and formed according to the experiences that a dog goes through throughout its life and that prevails over temperament.
  • Sensory limitations: a dog with problems of sight, hearing or smell, that does not understand correctly the emotions of his guardian or with some physical problem, will work worse than other dogs and will need more time of training.
  • Sterilization: in very few cases aggressiveness problems are linked to non-sterilization. In any case, this sterilization should be done early and not when the animal is already an adult. Most of the aggressiveness problems are environmentally related or related to an incorrect education.

Before any problem of education, training or behavior we must go to the right specialist.

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