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Dog Training 101 ~ Memory

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Memory is the ability to relate to new situations from a past experience.

First is the very short-term memory or VSTM. The VSTM acts like a receptionist for the brain; it takes all the information from the outside world and decides on its level of importance. This is why it is important to reduce the level of distractions during training, because the outside distractions all effect what is learned. The second level is the short-term memory or STM. This is the level where it takes information from the receptionist and decides where and how the experience will be stored for later retrieval. The knowledge learned is processed, then put in proper perspective. The third level is the intermediate-term memory or ITM. This is the location in the brain where, in the opinion of the student, there’s a moderate amount of importance. This memory is usually stored for about a week or so. The last level is long-term memory or LTM. After an intensive learning process at the lower levels of memory, finally it is placed in the long-term memory. This is the area in the brain that also shapes the personality of the dog.

Scientists, through the use of laboratory animals, have found that when a pleasant experience follows a learning session, that lesson is easily recalled at a later time. On the other hand, when a session was followed by a shocking experience, that information was not available for retrieval. This is why we suggest that after a session, we play with our dogs to allow the experience to end in pleasure. Also, we never end work through a session when we are angry or frustrated because the dog will sense the unpleasant experience and wish to avoid it and everything associated with it in the future. Always end a session with reward and play for the best-learned experience for the student.

The more frequent the practice lessons, the more reliable the performance.

For the dog to associate the specific commands with the desired behavior it is important to practice often. The more frequent the practice lessons, the more reliable the performance. Also, a dog who is moderately excited and anticipates a reward is a better learner than a dog who is dull, distracted and inattentive. Then to make it even more interesting, their level of arousal is directly related to what is processed in their brain. A dog in a low level of arousal would process relevant as well as irrelevant cues; a dog in a high level would not process all cues. Depending on the exercise, we would require a different level of arousal for each. So we strive for the optimal level for each exercise. We practice the exercises on a regular basis and keep our sessions short and fun. This formula will keep the lessons fresh in your dog’s mind.

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