Category: Canine Cognition

Social Learning in Dogs

Why do we need to allow our puppy to watch others learn?

Social learning is an indirect method of learning. This is where someone watches another learn to do a particular task. For example, a puppy or a younger dog.

Sometimes undesirable behaviors can be copied or emulated. For instance, one puppy in a litter could observe the litter mates barking or playing and biting with human learning that’s acceptable. Or a puppy looks at an older dog who is aggressive and has learned that it’s normal to copy the behavior.

Projects have been done with police dogs whereby the offspring are allowed to watch the bitch work doing bite work, obedience, or a track. So by the time, the puppy comes to start the training for bite work, obedience, and search work. They have some good grounding.

two yellow labrador retriever puppies
Photo by Chevanon Photography on

Indirectly, the puppy sitting in a crate in a van, car, or at home is taking it all in via the senses. Working out what is happening in the environment. It is all an observation exercise and puzzling about what the world is all about from the puppy’s perspective.

Social learning happens with humans as some groups of people watch others before they do an activity to learn.

The puppies’ mind is like a sponge taking everything in via all their senses such as sense of smell, hearing, sight, and touch. The smell is the strongest, hearing second, and sight just to confirm a smell or sound.

Domestic Dog is a social animal and observes other puppies, people, and situations around them all the time. So social learning has an important part in developing the puppy.

We offer puppy training and you can view the pet training events and updates at the following address:

“Sometime undesirable behaviors can be copied or emulated”

Alistair Spinks, Manager Director, Animal Behaviourist

pack of dogs in sled harness resting in a park

Puppies have a desire to learn and want to please the owner/s. They will watch other dogs, littermates, and children to see what is out there in order to obtain their primary reinforcements such as food, water, and playing with a toy, or human affection.