The Association of Professional Dog Trainers


Introduction to Learning Theory

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Start Date: February 09, 2017
End Date: March 15, 2017
Cost: $300.00 for APDT Members
$399.00 for Non-APDT Members
$100.00 for APDT Members - AUDIT ONLY (what's this?)
$125.00 for Non-APDT Members - AUDIT ONLY (what's this?)
Subject(s): Animal Learning, Behavior (Canine, Other Species)
Instructor(s): Kristina Spaulding, PhD.
Registration: Purchase Online

Course Details

Course Schedule & Details

For all course details, including schedule, homework assignments, deadlines, and more View Full Course Syllabus


When most people think of learning, they think of intentional learning, such as taking a class or teaching a dog to sit.  However, it’s so much more than that. Everything dogs (and humans) do is affected by learning.  This includes unhealthy or maladaptive behavior such as aggression and anxiety as well as simple, everyday behavior such as walking on leash, playing and interacting with people. In addition, learning is affected by everything dogs do and experience.  Things like stress and trauma, as well as enjoyable experiences, all impact how dogs learn.  This course will cover the basics of classical and instrumental learning and how to apply those principles to working directly with dogs (and people).

View recorded lectures, participate in online discussion, & submit homework assignments at your convenience, regardless of schedule or time zone. Full Students must complete assignments by weekly deadlines. Auditing students do not have deadlines.

Level of Knowledge: Prior to attending this course, it is assumed all attendees are:

  1. Unfamiliar with, unable to define, and/or do not know how or when to apply:
  • Classical conditioning and instrumental conditioning
  • Emotional conditioning
  • Reinforcement and punishment
  • R+, R-, P+, P-
  • US, CS, UR, CR
  • Pattern and rate of learning
  • Flooding, systematic desensitization, exposure therapy, and counter conditioning
  • ABC Sequence

Learning Outcomes: After attending this course, attendees can expect to:

  1. Define learning and explain how it is influenced by biological and environmental factors
  2. Define, recognize, and apply various components of classical conditioning, including but not limited to conditioned and unconditioned stimuli and responses, flooding, systematic desensitization, and counter conditioning
  3. Define, recognize, and apply various concepts of instrumental conditioning including but not limited to positive/negative reinforcement/punishment, reward, pattern and rate of learning, and ABC Sequence
  4. Define and differentiate between classical conditioning and instrumental conditioning
  5. Define emotion, explain how it is produced, and identify its influence on memory encoding and recall
  6. Assess flooding, exposure therapy, desensitization and counter conditioning and the proper application of each

 Course Evaluation & Completion: will be determined based on:

  • On-time completion of all required homework assignments (see details below).
  • Participation.on the discussion boards. (5 points)
    • Participating students are required to make two posts each week
    • You will get .5 points for each discussion post, for a maximum of 1 point per week
    • Discussions must relate to course material (questions about due dates, technical issues, etc., do not count toward your discussion requirement)
  • Completing weekly assignments. (50 points)
    • There will one assignment each week.
    • Each assignment is worth 10 points
    • Grading will be based on understanding of the course material, critical thinking and application skills and grammar, punctuation and clarity of writing
    • Each assignment will be graded using the following scale:


Total points

High honors



8 – 8.5


7 – 7.5

Unsatisfactory (no pass)

Less than 7


    • Late assignments
      • Assignments are due on Tuesday at 12 pm ET.
      • Unexcused late assignments will be assigned a 2 point penalty for each day they are late
        • Assignments submitted at 12:01 pm ET on Tuesday are considered one day late (2 point deduction).  Assignments submitted at 12:01 pm on Wednesday are considered two days late (4 point deduction), etc.
      • Extensions without point deductions will only be granted in the case of emergencies and with proper documentation.
  • The overall course grade will be determined as follows


Total points


High honors

49.5 or more

90 and above



80 - 89


38.5 - 43.5

70 – 79

Unsatisfactory (no pass)

Less than 38.5

Less than 70%



Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

  • CCPDT: 20 CEUs
  • IAABC: 20 CEUs
  • IACP: 20 CEUs
  • KPA: 20 CEUs

Instructor Biography

Kristina Spaulding, PhD.

Kristina Spaulding, PhD. owns Smart Dog Training and Behavior, LLC. She specializes in the prevention and treatment of behavior problems in dogs. Kristina has a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience/Biopsychology. She studies the social cognition, evolution and behavior of dogs. Since 2010, Kristina has taught 14 undergraduate courses including Learning, Evolutionary Psychology, Statistics and Introduction to Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience. In 2012, she earned the Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student Award. She has also served as an invited presenter at several teaching workshops and presentations hosted by the University and was an invited speaker at the Evolutionary Studies Summit at SUNY New Paltz in 2012. She is also on the APDT’s education committee.  Prior to opening Smart Dog in 2001, Kristina obtained her B.S. in Wildlife Ecology at the University at Wisconsin and served as an assistant trainer at Dog’s Best Friend, then owned by Dr. Patricia McConnell.

Additional Information

APDT Chronicle of the Dog

Chronicile of the Dog

The quarterly APDT Chronicle of the Dog keeps APDT members abreast of contemporary pet dog training techniques and provides a lively forum for discussion of dog training and behavior issues.

Annual Conference

Annual Educational Conference and Trade Show


Date: Oct. 18-21, 2017
Location: Richmond, VA.

Richmond Marriott.
Richmond, VA.

APDT Foundation

The corporation is organized for charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

The purpose of the foundation is to raise funds for scientific research and of education  of dog trainers.

Visit Foundation website

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