How do dogs remember? How do dogs learn? How many times do you have to repeat a specific command for a dog to memorize it?
You have probably noticed how dogs understand almost everything when you talk to them as if they were humans.
This is something that is usually linked to their ability to perfectly read human body language.
Not only that they can master non-verbal communication perfectly, but they are equally amazing at verbal communication as well.
If you have ever wanted to know – Do dogs understand when you talk to them?, know that the answer is yes, as they pay attention just like humans do.
Numerous studies shared insight into how dogs learn and what they can remember.
Various types of research showed that dogs respond to two major factors:
- Words, and
- The tone of human voices
Even without these studies, experienced dog trainers and dog owners would tell how the best way to keep a dog’s mind alert is to teach him tricks.
All dogs can master a specific skill or command thanks to repetition.
- Did you know that dogs usually forget events after about two minutes?
- Or that puppies don’t remember licking themself five minutes ago?
If this is true, how do they learn new commands over and over again? Or, more importantly, how do they remember them?
Do Dogs Remember?
If dogs forget so easily, how do they manage to perform ‘sit‘ or ‘come‘ command constantly?
It turns out that they might not remember how to ‘sit,’ but they can definitely remember the positive association between sitting and receiving a treat.
So, treats are the key to having a smart and well-behaved dog.
Treats are a mandatory part of a dog’s training. Thanks to treat dogs are actually capable of learning.
Through every training session, your dog goes through procedural and associative memory, making a connection between the behavior and the reward.
As mentioned above dogs learn through repetition. How many tricks can a dog learn depends on how often you train your dog.
Let’s see how many repetitions there must be to train a dog.
How Many Repetitions To Train A Dog?
Training a dog of any breed can be challenging, especially if you are a first time dog owner.
Different breeds have different physical needs, intelligence levels, and specific temperament traits which means that the approach of one-size-fits-them-all doesn’t apply.
Do your research on the breeds first. See what makes them go and what their drives are. From there, you can build further.
If you have a Pomeranian you will discover that they love to please, which means that they will enjoy various tricks and prefer short training sessions.
On the other hand, if you have a Great Dane, you will discover that any physically hard or demanding exercise should be avoided due to any hip or joint injury due to their size.
So, the most intelligent dog breeds like the Border Collie are quick to learn commands, and they usually can pick up a command after only two repetitions, and less than five.
Some dog breeds might need fewer repetitions to learn a command and execute it, while some would need even more.
Still, there is no strict rule of thumb stating how many times is the maximum you should repeat commands before your dog gets it – but if you find that you’re repeating a command more than three times and still aren’t achieving your goals, go back to the start and start again.
Your dog needs to understand what you want him to do. Once you get that first command right, you are good to go. Repetition can do wonders.
How Do Dogs Learn?
How long does it take for a dog to learn a command?
There is no strict rule but bear in mind that once your puppy arrives you need to invest at least the first four weeks in proper training.
This period should provide enough focus and attention so puppies can master new skills.
What is the hardest command to teach a dog?
The top five hardest commands how dogs to learn are:
- Army crawling
- Stand tall on hind legs
Luckily, even these commands can be mastered with the right guidelines and five stages of successful dog training.
Five Stages Of Successful Dog Training
Puppies and adult dogs, and even seniors, learn through five training stages. These stages are:
They need to acquire a sense of what behavior they expect. Simply said, they must associate the expected behavior with the command. You need to demonstrate to them what to do.
Communicate with dogs using your body language because words don’t mean a lot to them.
Keep training sessions simple so that they can reach the association.
Dogs love routine and consistency.
For them, inconsistency is frustrating and confusing. Inconsistency is the best way to have a poorly behaved-dog.
Dogs need to acquire the correct association for following commands or well-mannered behavior. Consistency makes training easier, stress-free, and effective.
Bear in mind that consistency doesn’t apply only to training classes, but to house rules as well.
If you don’t want your dog sitting on the couch, don’t invite him to jump in when you feel tired, or you want to pet him.
Off-limit areas should be off-limit all the time, no matter your emotional state. If possible, an entire family should attend training classes – your dog will appreciate it.
Brace yourself because you might hear yourself repeating ‘sit’ and ‘come’ a hundred times per week.
Repetition is vital when it comes to well-trained and behaved dogs. The key to learning associations is consistent repetition.
Once your dog understands the expected behavior, you can make things more interesting and eventually raise the bar. It’s important to keep training sessions fun and challenging.
Dogs are pleasers, and they will want to please their humans, as long as there is enough patience, a safe environment, enough treats, and consistency for them to enjoy. Therefore, challenge a dog’s mind by expanding and varying commands.
Pro tip: Do not expand and vary the repetitions until your dog responds appropriately to the simple command at least 90% of the time.
Giving a command over and over again verbally will become boring to your dog eventually.
Reinforce your command with a physical gesture to help your dog read your body language as well.
Watch your hand commands to keep your dog focused on you. Gestures might also reinforce the behavior you are expecting without boring your dog to tears.
Nothing lasts forever. Teaching your dog command is one thing while maintaining it is a whole other level. You should know that dog training is a labor of love.
No matter how much money you invest in puppy or dog training classes, you can’t expect it to last forever when you are young.
The very final stage of the dog’s training is maintenance.
The most well-behaved dogs are the ones that learn to respect boundaries and interact with people and other animals on an ongoing basis.
Last, but not least – old dogs can learn new tricks!
Start small, work with your dog for a few minutes daily, and build from there. Incorporate training into their daily routine. You and your dog will enjoy the training time.
From time to time, present a new toy, a new game, or even agility training. Only use positive reinforcement training, and never use harsh methods.
The Smartest Dog in the World
You have probably heard about Chaser, a Border Collie who earned the title “Most Intelligent Dog In The World.”
He could correctly distinguish over 1,000 different words.
Did you know that most two-year-old toddlers know about 300 words?
Chaser passed away on July 23rd, 2019 surrounded by loved ones in her hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, but stories about him continue to live.
Chaser’s learning process is what fascinated scientists even today.
His learning process was very similar to babies learning new words. The more Fido learns, the faster he gets.
Still, to achieve this level, you should work with your dog a few hours per day, every day.
Not even then, you can’t be sure that your dog would learn everything because there are other factors to consider, such as breed.
A breed has a lot to do with the dog’s capability of learning.
Top Three Smartest Dog Breeds
Stanley Coren, a canine psychology professor at the University of British Colombia and a book author, has a specific way of measuring a dog’s intelligence.
He measured it by testing 80 breeds on how quickly they could learn a new command.
Coren published that specific breeds need fewer than five repetitions, such as:
- Border Collie (Chaser!)
- German Shepherd
These breeds were named the most intelligent.
Some breeds are classified as least intelligent because it took them between 80 to 100 repetitions to master a new command.
Some of these breeds are:
If you want to adopt a Basenji, don’t let this discourage you because each dog is an individual. Plus, every dog is a master at something. After all, they were bred for different tasks.
Every dog is talented at something; it all depends on what type of companion you need.
Some breeds do have a steeper learning curve than others, but ancestry and pedigree aren’t everything.
Persistency, well-designed training, timing, and consistency have a lot to do with positive reinforcement training that can help dogs build strong associations between rewards and behaviors faster.
The Bottom Line
Training your dog takes time, but it doesn’t have to be an exhausting process.
Be organized and consistent. Train your dog every day for a few minutes at first, and build up from there.
Keep in mind these stages and follow them. Always double-check if reality is aligned with your training goals. If not, you might want to take a step back and do it again.
Now, let’s see what are the most common questions about a dog’s learning process and skills.
Frequently Asked Questions On Dog’s Learning
1. Do Dogs Remember Their Siblings?
Once puppies are separated from their littermates they may remember them for a while.
In fact, they may even recognize them a few years later. This is an option if dogs stayed together for their first 16 weeks of life.
What about parents? Do dogs remember their parents?
Some experts claim that this is possible via scent and that puppies can remember their parents’ scent up to two years after separation.
2. Do Dogs Remember People?
As long as a dog can smell, he will remember you. In other words, a dog show spent a significant amount of time with you, and will not forget you.
Do dogs remember their owners? Dogs will recognize and remember their owners, even if owners are absent for years. As long as there is a familiar scent around, a dog will associate it with a person.
3. Do Dogs Remember Other Dogs?
In general, dogs remember other dogs. They can recognize dogs months after they met them.
Do dogs miss other dogs when they are gone? If a dog shares a home with another dog or dog, and he loses a dog companion, he will grieve and react to changes in his life.
Some may even become depressed, lose their appetite entirely, and even lose their playfulness.