Wednesday, January 21, 2009

28. Four Stages of Learning in Dogs

Being a good dog trainer is about helping your dog be successful. If you understand the stages that a dog goes through when learning a new behavior or task, it will help you understand where your dog is currently at. This in turn will help you to identify what else you need to do to help your dog be successful.

The Four stages as identified by Melissa Alexander, a respected clicker dog trainer are:

1. Learning the Behavior
2. Perfecting & Generalizing the Behavior
3. Applying the Behavior
4. Living the Behavior

Of course, all of us want to be on the last stage stage 4 yesterday, but in reality, for some tasks it may take many months or more to get to that point. It is critical that you spend the time on the earlier stages to ensure your dog is ready for later one as they all build on each other.

If you get the stage 4 and you find your dog is making many mistakes, it is more likely a factor of speeding through previous levels, rather than your dog's inability to do the task (unless of course he is physically unable to do it.)

Here is a link to Ms. Alexander's original article where she discusses each stage.