A woman's hand holding out a treat

Classical Conditioning for Dogs

Building Positive Associations

Classical conditioning is all about making associations–understanding that two things are linked and that one predicts the other. No matter what a dog is doing, they are always making associations, regardless of the behavior. Some things naturally trigger responses, such as when a dog starts to salivate at the smell of food or begins to shiver when it’s cold. Other associations are learned, such as your dog getting excited when you put on your shoes or when they hear the treat jar open. 


Marking behaviors in training sessions is important because of classical conditioning. The marker is meant to signify when something has been done correctly. This means, that a “click” of your clicker equals correct behavior and a reward is coming. Classical conditioning allows us to connect cue words to behaviors.