The Pavlovian dog and classic conditioning

The so-called Pavlovian dog stands for an experiment with which the famous natural scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov demonstrated the phenomenon of classic conditioning. The doctor Pavlov discovered how conditioning works in dogs - Shutterstock / IrinaVol

The Russian professor Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (born on September 14, 1849 and died on February 27, 1936) not only received the Nobel Prize in 1904 for clarifying digestive processes, but was also the discoverer of classic conditioning in dogs. In this phenomenon, an innate unconditional reflex through training becomes a conditional, i.e. deliberately induced, reflex. In order to prove that the principle of conditioning actually works, he conducted an experiment that became famous as the Pavlovian dog.

Pavlov discovered the phenomenon of classic conditioning

Dogs salivate more during food intake. The increased flow of saliva is a natural and compulsive reaction to the food stimulus - i.e. to the smell and sight of the food. This involuntary reflex of the four-legged friends cannot be suppressed. Now Pavlov observed in his research on digestion in dogs that an increase in salivation occurred in the animals not only during feeding, but also as soon as he only approached the dog kennel.

A dog actually has no reason to drool at simple audible steps - unless he has learned to combine the insignificant attraction of the steps with the feeding of food. Pavlow now wanted to prove the theory of this learning process in dogs - conditioning. That is why he set up a simple but relevant experiment: the Pavlovian dog.

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The supporting experiment: the Pavlovian dog

For his experiment, he used a simple bell to create an acoustic stimulus by ringing his dogs. This sound alone, as the scientist observed, did not trigger an increased salivary reflex in the four-legged friends. Subsequently, he always fed his dogs shortly after the bell sound, which exposed them to the attraction of the feed, which made them salivate more, as well as the attraction of ringing.

After a certain time of getting used to, Pavlov only let the bell ring: as he expected, the dogs reacted to the sound stimulus alone with more salivation because they learned that there was food after the bell rang. So he had successfully trained his dogs to a conditioned reflex to a stimulus that was actually insignificant for dogs. The animals could no longer suppress this accustomed reflex just like an innate one. Thus the principle of conditioning has been scientifically proven. Without this discovery, an essential part of today's dog behavioral training would be missing.

Would you like another small summary? The experiment by the famous scientist, the Pavlovian dog, is briefly explained here:

And here is the brief explanation of classic conditioning:

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