The Chemistry of Dog Training

Introduction

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For many people who own dogs one common issue comes in training them.  That is why I chose this topic for my chemistry of … project.  I wanted to learn why some dogs react differently to various training techniques and why they respond so well to others.  In my investigation I did not find a definite answer, but it may be more obvious than I thought.   I know personally that my bewitched dog Fancy learns in many ways, but the main question is why?

Composition of ...

To fully understand the chemistry of dog training one must first know the chemistry of oxytocin (C43H66N12O12S2) and dopamine (C8H11NO2).  Both of these chemicals are naturally occurring within the body and are the two main components that are active while training a dog.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Oxytocin

  • C43H66N12O12S2

  • Oxytocin is created in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland.  This peptide is made up of 9 amino acids and reduces fear while also increasing trust.

Dopamine

  • C8H11NO2

  • Dopamine is predominantly found in animals’ brains where it acts as a neurotransmitter.  There it regulates moods and emotions while helping dogs and people learn.


Chemistry's Role

Oxytocin is released in both the trainer’s and the dog’s brain, especially when they maintain eye contact, and helps the dog to trust the owner.  This aids in dog training because the dog needs to know that his or her trainer is a trustworthy person who will not harm them.  While training a dog, the most effective way for them to learn a behavior is to classically condition the action with a treat.  Dogs receive dopamine when given a treat after performing a trick, this helps them to overcome stress and learn the expected behavior.  Humans also receive dopamine while training their dogs by feeling happy when their dog accomplishes a trick.

Background Research

Dogs were first domesticated in East Asia about 33,000 years ago.  It is believed that, much like cats, they domesticated themselves by following humans as they migrated from place to place.  Dogs proved useful because they could ward away enemies, heard sheep, guide people, and even be used for transportation.  Later on people trained dogs to be used in war, help people “see,” and most importantly, be companions.

Resources


About the Author
Brianna West grew up the youngest of three in Billings Montana.  She attended Billings Senior High School and took Chemistry her senior year.  In her free time Brianna enjoyed volunteering, riding horses, acting, singing, dancing, and taking care of her pets.  She has never lived without having an animal around, but because of it Brianna has learned the facts of life by taking different strokes through family matters.  Brianna planned on attending either MSU-Billings or Rocky Mountain College to obtain her general studies, then dreamed of pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle Washington.  As of now she is still living at home, still in high school, and still with the best science teacher ever, Mr. Beals.
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