Applied Psychology in Dog Training

Thanks to applied psychology -- that takes a dog's personality into consideration -- you can train your pet more efficiently. Using positive reinforcement is the key to this method
Applied Psychology in Dog Training

Last update: 03 December, 2018

Properly training your pet is essential because it will affect their behavior in the future. Applied psychology in dog training is very important.  It consists of identifying their thoughts and emotions in order to train them better.

What’s applied psychology in dog training?

This isn’t some new idea among celebrities or anything like that. Instead, several studies have shown the relationship between dog training and dog psychology. There are even books about it that can help you train your dog yourself.

Basically, it’s a matter of teaching certain basic obedience exercises based on the animal’s personality. This can be complicated for some dogs, especially for puppies that have just been introduced to their new home. However, it may be very helpful for owners that have had their pet for years. It might be just what they need in order to teach their dog something new or to correct a certain behavior.

Regarding psychology applied to dog training, you have to know a little bit about positive dog training, which is characterized by eliminating punishments and rewarding them when they do something right.

This type of dog training has changed the paradigm of teaching. Trainers have come to realize that dogs respond better when you reward them instead of punishing them. Why? Because it’s not a good idea to relate teaching to a traumatic experience or something “painful.”

You also have to consider that it’s fundamental to respect animals and it says a lot about who you are as a person. It doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible person if you yell at the dog when they do something wrong. However, you should do everything possible to avoid that kind of reaction.

Happy dog looking at his owner

Dog training a few years ago didn’t really respect dogs. Therefore, positive methods are becoming popular worldwide and they are now the only ones that give positive results.

Many “new” trainers use treats to reward good behavior. And they modernized some “old” methods so they didn’t get left in the dust. Of course, extremes are never good and they only work moderately.

That’s when applied psychology in dog training comes in to play. Each animal has a different personality and using only one method — whether it’s positive or negative — won’t always work. You should avoid punishing them, but occasionally you may need to use a more strict tone of voice to get your pet to learn.

How to use psychology in dog training?

Even if you aren’t a professional trainer, you can still teach your pet what we want them to learn by using dog psychology. One of the mistakes that people tend to make when using treats as a reward is overusing them. Your dog won’t actually be learning, they’ll just be doing the actions in order to receive the treat.

Woman using applied psychology on her dogs

Also, if you don’t happen to have a treat with you, your dog probably won’t follow your commands. Also, your pet won’t actually be learning if you’re only teaching them with treats because they’re not thinking about this what your command, just what they’ll be getting in return.

So, it’s best to combine positive techniques with some more “neutral” ones. That means, only non-violent punishments, but using a firm voice and body language to make the pets know they should listen.

There are several techniques you can use to get your dog to come, to stay quiet or to walk by our side on the street. It depends on the animal’s personality and the owner’s commitment to understanding when to use each type of teaching. It’s just a matter of knowing your pet well and doing what’s best for him!


  • Barrera, G., Elgier, Á., Jakovcevic, A., Mustaca, A., & Bentosela, M. (2009). Problemas de comportamiento en los perros domésticos: aportes de la psicologia del aprendizaje. Revista de Psicología.