No, Different Dog Breeds Learn the Same
“Do different dog breeds learn differently?” is the most asked question, and it’s usually asked by purebred dog pet owners. As a professional dog trainer, I’m always happy to answer this question. If you’re curious if certain dog breeds learn differently, read below for a professional dog trainer’s take on different-breed dog training.
Okay, here it goes! Each dog, regardless of breed, is an individual; and all dogs learn by following the same principles applied to human learning.
Yup, we use the same learning principles to teach:
- Rhinos to hold their feet up for nail grinds
- Silverback Gorillas to open their mouths for flossing
- Fish how to perform tricks
- Butterflies how to put on a show
- Children to tie their shoes
I’ve trained hundreds of dogs, and each dog was able to learn the same behaviors given the same learning principles. While a dog’s specific breed can determine his ultimate dog training reward or reveal some aspects of his personality, it has nothing to do with his ability to learn new behavior.
But What About Bouviers Being Lazy or Pit Bulls Being Aggressive?
I cringe when someone mentions that Bouviers are lazy, Basset Hounds are slow, Terriers are untrainable, Rottweilers need a firm training hand or Poodles are the smartest breed. I also find it unsettling when I hear people say all Beagles howl, Irish Setters are ditzy, Chihuahuas are ankle biters, all Pit Bull Terriers are aggressive or other certain breeds requiring special training skills. These statements are simply not true, and I’m sure pet owners living with these different dog breeds would disagree too.
Let’s think about the question on whether or not different dog breeds learn differently another way. If certain breeds of dogs learn differently, how would we train mixed breed dogs? About 20-plus years ago, dog trainers were successfully teaching thousands of mixed breed dogs new behaviors—and that was before dog breed DNA testing. The only thing DNA testing for specific breeds has taught dog trainers is we were incorrectly assuming a mixed dog’s breed of origin. 🙂
Easiest Way to Train Any Dog Breed
Positive reinforcement is key and it works quickly! You’ve probably heard of positive reinforcement before and wonder what it had meant. Positive reinforcement is one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning, and it increases the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated.
Positive reinforcement means rewarding with a good thing whenever someone does a behavior you like. It’s important for professional dog trainers to have a thorough understanding of each quadrant and how it applies to dog training, as this is the foundation for all learning. If your dog trainer doesn’t know that, it’s time to find a better dog trainer.
Picking a Good Thing to Motivate Your Dog
Just because dogs are a certain breed, don’t assume certain breeds all like the same things. As pet owners, it’s our job to find each dog’s favorite “good thing” or ultimate reward and use it to teach polite behaviors.
Ignore your dog’s breed type and discover what your dog truly loves. As an example of how dog breed type can become quickly confusing, some Terriers may love bits of hot dogs instead of fetch, some Basset Hounds may find a fast game of tug more rewarding than treats and some Chihuahuas may find a game of fetch more rewarding than hugs and treats. Remember, learning depends on each individual dog’s personality and not his breed.
While your dog looks like a specific breed, he learns just like every other living being!