Understanding the Principle of Chaining During Dog Training

Doberman Pinscher

One of the fundamental building blocks of successful canine training, is a process known as chaining. This process involves dogs responding or reacting to a certain stimulus, that may also be the stimulus for another response. Dogs think differently than humans, and much of their lives are filled with a series of chain reactions. Understanding chaining or how these chain reactions work can be instrumental in the successful training of any canine.

Examples of Chaining

A simple chain reaction in a dog is different than a dog being trained to elicit a certain response. For example, a trained dog may move his food bowl to a certain area of the home in the morning, to have it filled by his owner. If that owner feeds the dog both in the morning when the food bowl is moved and in the evening when the owner gets home, and the dog retrieves his dish when he sees the owner in the evening, his master is a stimulus. The presence of his master evokes a reaction from the dog. This is training, but not a chain reaction. If the dog learns the sound of the owner locking their car indicates his owner is coming home, and the dog realizes this is a stimulus to fetch the bowl, then this is a chain reaction, or chaining.

Why Chaining is Important

As a pet owner, it is essential to first have an understanding of how dogs think, before it is possible to effectively train a pet. Since dogs react to stimuli in a series of chain reactions, this must be considered during the training process of any canine. Effectively training a dog is about more than teaching a pet to do tricks. Saying “sit,” and getting a direct response from the dog is not training, it’s simply teaching the dog a novelty trick or command. In order for there to be the strongest bond possible between the owner and the pet, training needs to occur. Teaching your dog that putting on your tennis shoes means he should grab his leash, go to the door, and sit and wait for you to come take him on a walk, is effective training that utilizes the chaining principle.

Using the Chaining Principle While Training

Dogs are highly intelligent beings, and while they may not have the same type of critical thinking skills as humans, they do have a strong sense of the basics of chain reactions. When it comes to training and communicating with a dog, it is important to remember that a dog is an animal, and does not approach situations or think in the same manner that their master does. The dog does, however, approach most situations as a long string of events. Most dogs understand the domino effect and know that when a situation is in front of them, a chain reaction of events can lead to their desired outcome.

Using the shoes and walking example, when a person wants to go outside on a walk and needs someone to go with them, they will typically attempt to reason with the other person, or think about the problem critically. A dog, on the other hand, knows that there is a series of events leading to their ability to go on a walk. A dog’s solution may be to fetch their owner’s shoes to start the series of events that leads to them going on a walk.

As a dog owner, it is important to remember, during all interactions with a canine companion, that their approach to thinking is much different than a human’s. Comprehending this basic idea and the fundamentals of the chaining process can help any master have more success during training and a better overall understanding of their pet.

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