3. Come Back When Called

Exercise 3.2 Classical Conditioning

This is the last exercise for Week 2 and the good news is Exercise 3.2 is exactly the same as Exercise 3.1!  That’s right, I’d like you to do a second week loading the whistle!


With recall training in particular we’re not aiming for a rational, well thought out decision from your dog.  We don’t expect him to make a moral choice about coming back when he’s called - what we want from the dog is an unthinking reaction to a cue, in all manner of situations.


Getting that reaction takes some time and effort and the finished product is an automatic trained response and that’s why we’re going to condition the whistle for another week to really embed the sound of the whistle in our dog’s mind as being associated with the best food in town!


We’re making use of a type of learning known as classical conditioning or associative learning but by any name quite simply, it is learning by association.  Classical conditioning is not used to train a dog to consciously act or behave in a certain way, but rather conditions them to unconsciously react in a certain way.  


Classical conditioning happens everywhere all the time, without our help.  One of the most obvious examples of classical conditioning is the dog that goes crazy every time he hears the jingle of the car keys.  A set of keys by itself has no special meaning for dogs but when those keys are linked with going for a walk, they can trigger as much excitement as the walk itself. 


While classical conditioning occurs naturally, we can also consciously use it as part of training and it’s one of the most powerful training tools available. Classical Conditioning does not focus on what the dog does or how he behaves instead classical conditioning focuses on how the dog feels and that’s why it’s so powerful.