Influential People in the Development of Learning Theory Part II

May 18, 2010

Influential People in the Development of Learning Theory Part I

By Robert Forto, PhD

Pavlov, Thorndike, and Watson

Many attribute the beginning point of modern theories of behavior to Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936).  A Russian physiologist, and Nobel Prize winner, Pavlov studied digestion in dogs.  While conducting this research he observed his canine subjects salivating before the food was presented.  Pavlov reasoned that his dogs were displaying this behavior in response to either the presence of his lab assistants, or the sound of the door opening.

Pavlov then conducted a series of experiments where he rang a bell just prior to feeding his canines.  After a number of trials, the ringing of the bell by itself elicited the reflexive salivation of the canines.  This phenomenon became known as Pavlovian or classical conditioning.  Pavlov had succeeded in taking a reflexive action and putting it on cue, thereby creating a “conditioned reflex”.  This new science became known as respondent conditioning, and was an important predecessor to modern operant conditioning.  Respondent conditioning and conditioned reflexive responses explain why a dog begins to salivate when its owner begins the feeding ritual.  The understanding of this type of conditioning can enhance a trainer’s procedure.  Most training procedures are indeed built upon the principles of operant conditioning, which will be discussed in greater depth in a later part of this chapter.  Respondent conditioning on the other hand is most useful when trying to change a dog’s behavior.  Some examples might be habituation, counter-conditioning, systematic desensitization, and flooding.  These principles will also be discussed later in this chapter.

Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949) studied the effect different consequences have on behaviors.  Thorndike is known for the Law of Effect, which simply states that responses or behaviors that produce pleasant rewards are likely to increase in frequency.  This law is the foundation on which operant conditioning is built, and is the predecessor of all the “treat training” now being advocated in modern dog training.  Thorndike’s experiments were being conducted in the United States near the time that Pavlov’s dogs were salivating in Russia.

J.B. Watson (1878-1958) has been credited as the father of modern behaviorism.  A psychologist who worked at John Hopkins University, as well as, The University of Chicago, Watson emphasized the need to move the study of behavior away from the concentration on thoughts and feelings towards a more scientific, experimental study of behavior.  Watson is best known for his “Little Albert” study in which he and his colleague, R. Rayner, conditioned a fear reaction in an eleven-month-old boy named Albert.  The study went like this:

“Initially, Albert was allowed to play freely with a white rat.  Then, a loud noise was presented whenever Albert reached out and touched the rat.  The noise was loud enough to startle Albert.  In one week, whenever the rat was presented Albert would cry, even without the noise.  He also generalized his fear to other things, including a dog, a rabbit, and a Santa Claus mask.  Watson used respondent conditioning (in this case, the startle reflex) to modify Albert’s behavior.”

This is will be a multi-week series on the influential people in learning theory and the dawn of modern dog training.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you at

Tags: Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director of Denver Dog Works and the host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at

Therapy Dog Training at Denver Dog Works

May 18, 2010

Therapy Dog Training at Denver Dog Works

By Michele Forto

Denver Dog Works has been training therapy dogs for the past decade.  Our first therapy dog was Ineka.  Some of you may have read the blog posts or heard us talk about Ineka.  He was a natural at getting the kids we would visit in local schools to open up and ask us questions. Ineka has since retired but it is our hope that his legacy lives on within each and every therapy dog and service dog.

Recently, we have been asked to assist people in training their dog to become a therapy dog.  We quickly let people know that the training involves them just as much as it does their dog.  When you have therapy dog; you are a team.

At Denver Dog Works we pride ourselves on all of our training and its many benefits to our clients.  But in particular we pride ourselves on the work that we devote to our service teams and our therapy teams.

Michele Forto is our lead trainer and program designer for both our service team program and our therapy team program.  She is recognized as an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator; a registered service/therapy team trainer with Service Animal Registry of America, and is a Registered Service team evaluator for the Foundation for Service Dog Support.

There is a significant difference between therapy and service.  The most recognizable difference is that a service dog goes everywhere with his handler.  A therapy dog only goes to a prescribed, volunteered facility/location.  A service dog may work for his handler up to 24 hours a day with little or no breaks.  A therapy dog is only allowed to work a certain number of hours per week and only at their prescribed location.  In other words, if your therapy dog accompanies you once a week to the local library and you participate in a therapy dog reading program, you as a therapy team cannot stop off at the local diner and grab a bite to eat inside at a window table.

While there are many therapy training programs and associations to choose from out there; choosing Denver Dog Works Therapy Training Program is a unique opportunity.  We certify teams for psychiatrists; psychologists; therapists, and other medically related professions.  In fact, Denver Dog Works is on the cutting edge of a new approach in the use of dogs in therapy sessions, assisting the doctors in the treatment of their patients which is being scientifically tested in several areas of study. But don’t let that stop you if you’re just a regular citizen looking to go into volunteering with your dog, Michele can help prepare you for registering through Denver Dog Works or any other company for that matter.  Michele has also prepared teams for re-certification with other companies.  Our philosophy here is simple; we believe dogs truly bring joy into people’s lives and we’d rather help that team succeed than sit by and watch it fail.

The therapy team training program at Denver Dog Works is a relatively simple process. We begin by giving your dog a temperament test to ensure that he is capable of what will be required of him.  Depending on the type of therapy team you are training to become depends on the depth of obedience training as well as public access training.  Denver Dog Works utilizes the AKC Canine Good Citizen test as our preliminary test.  Once your dog is certified as an AKC Canine Good Citizen we begin working on public access training as well as work environment training.  The entire time the team is training they are developing their work ethic. This means that they are learning how to work together and the dog especially is learning to exhibit the best possible manners in all public settings.

Becoming a Dog Works Therapy Team is hard fulfilling work.  It should be noted that this type of volunteering is not for everyone.  Our evaluation process is intensive so that we are able to determine that the potential team can build their work ethic and be able to maintain their work ethic at a level that will be required of them at the facility they volunteer.

If you’d like to learn more about Dog Works Therapy or Dog Works Service, please contact Michele directly at

Tags: Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works | Therapy Dog Denver


Michele Forto is Denver’s Dog Training Examiner and  a certified canine trainer and the business manager for Denver Dog Works. Michele is also the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show. Michele can be reached through our website at

Organic Turkey “Breast” Strips

May 18, 2010

Organic Turkey “Breast” Strips

Price: $8.00 (plus shipping and sales tax)

Our K-9 Kraving dried Organic Turkey Breast Strips are an all-natural, healthy and substantial treat, a great addition to our raw diet for extra texture or a simple midday foraging option.

Dried in our vintage smoke houses, the Turkey Breast Strips average 5″-7″ in length and 3/4″ in width and provide a crispy, chewy, high protein, low fat, tasty experience for your dog.

Excellent snack for the dieting canine.

Available through K-9 Denver Dog Works

Packaged Sizes Available: 5 oz and NEW – 15 oz

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein: 81.5% (min.)

Crude Fat: 8% (min.)

Crude Fiber: 0% (max.)

Moisture: 15.% (max.)

Tags: all natural treats, canines, High Protein, Low Fat, Organic Turkey

K-9 Kraving’s Canine Cookies

May 18, 2010

Canine Cookies

Price: $6.00 (plus shipping and sales tax)

K-9 Kraving’s Cookies are like Flintstone Vitamins for dogs; a nutritionally enhanced combination of muscle meat and organ meat, vegetable fiber, egg powder, PLUS essential vitamins and minerals; they smell terrific, digest beautifully and dogs of all sizes love’em.

Excellent for a snack, tracking and/or use with obedience training.

Core Flavors (all Gluten & Grain Free):

  1. Beef  – Real USDA Meat
  2. Duck – Steroid & Antibiotic Free, USDA
  3. Green Tripe – from USDA Inspected sources
  4. Trachea – UDSDA
  5. Sweet Potato – Meat-free, Human grade. Low-fat
  6. Salmon – Carbohydrate Free, Human grade

Liver Cookies (all Gluten & Grain Free):

  1. Bison Liver – Free-Range, USDA
  2. Duck Liver – Steroid & Antibiotic Free, USDA

Available through Denver Dog Works

Guaranteed Analysis: (see individually marked packages)

K-9 Kraving Chicken Bites Available at Denver Dog Works

May 18, 2010

Chicken Bites

Price: $5.00 (plus shipping and sales tax)

K-9 Kraving’s Chicken Bites are  all-natural and made from 100% USDA, human-grade, unprocessed chicken meat. These high protein, low fat tasty bits of varying size and shapes make for a great anytime atta’ boy or midday forage for all dogs, big or small!

Average Per Piece Size: 1″-2″ wide x 1″ long

Available through Denver Dog Works in 1/2 pound packages and bulk.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Protein: 73% (min.)

Fat: 5.4% (min.)

Fiber: .5% (max.)

Moisture: 15.9% (max.)

Tags: Tags: Denver Dog Training Examiner | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works Add new tag, all natural treats, all-natural dog treats, Canine, Dog Treats made in the USA, Grain Free, K-9 Kraving, Training Treats, USDA Certified