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Stages of Learning

When a dog is being taught a new behavior, he goes through several stages before he can be said to have completely learned the behavior.

The first stage of learning is acquisition, where the dog is first making the association between the stimulus, behavior, and consequence.  The second is consolidation, where the associations are made stronger and the dog gets “better” at performing the behavior on cue.  Finally, there is maintenance, where the dog can be said to have completely made the association, and it only needs to be prevented from extinction.

Different reinforcement schedules are recommended for the different stages of learning.