How to Train Your Dog to Sit using Positive Reinforcement

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

As a new dog owner it is perfectly normal to see your recent addition to the family as a complete mystery. Particularly with so much, and often conflicting, dog training advice available.

It is true that we are a completely different species to the canine and that we don’t speak the same language. It is possible however to communicate perfectly well and develop a great relationship with your new dog.

Dog training

Even when researching the command that we all initially teach our dog, how to train your dog to sit, you will encounter many training methods and lots of different advice. This advice can range from;

  • Push the dog’s rear to the ground
  • Lure with a treat
  • Punish if the dog doesn’t sit on command – (even a tug on the dogs collar is punishment)

To be a good dog trainer and kind to your new canine ignore all of the above. Methods that involve punishment are dated and unfair to the dog, any dog training type that is based on dominance and wolf behavior is also inaccurate. The only ethical way to train your dog is with kindness and positive reinforcement. Teach your dog with a suitable reward to ensure his attention and motivation during training sessions.

Reinforce with reward

Positive reinforcement is based on rewarding a behavior with pinpoint accuracy, often with a treat or toy. It can be very difficult to give your dog either of these rewards quickly therefore difficult to pinpoint a particular behavior. So we use a cue word or other sound to show the dog that this particular behavior has provided the reward.

It is fairly easy to teach your dog to associate a stimulus or sound with reward. In the early 1900’s Scientist Ivan Pavlov learned that dogs in his laboratory would salivate at the sound of a bell. This was after a short time ringing the bell before meals because they associated the bell sound with feeding time.

In modern dog training we utilize this association to teach our dogs how we would like them to behave. Clicker training is a prime example of this, the dog is taught to associate the click with a food reward. The click sound can then be used to pinpoint a behavior with accuracy and show the dog exactly which behavior earned him the reward.

How to train your dog to sit-the importance of timing

When working out how to train your dog to sit using reward and reinforcement timing is crucial. If your dog offers three different behaviors in succession it is easy to reinforce the wrong one. Positive reinforcement is based on accurate timing for reward. So if you are training your dog to sit and within two minutes he sits, jumps up and barks it is easy to reinforce any of those with inaccurate timing.

So to train your dog to sit for a reward be careful with your timing. It is easy for your dog to associate anything he is doing at the time with reinforcement. If you say good boy and give him a treat for any behavior he will always repeat that behavior in the hope of getting a treat.

How to train your dog to sit:

  • Decide on the association sound or word that you will use as a reinforcement tool (The prelude to the treat)
  • Show your dog a reward, something that he really likes and that will motivate him.
  • When you have his attention with the reward simply wait whilst he works out how he can get the treat from you.
  • Your dog may offer behaviors that he has already learned, if he does just ignore them
  • Eventually your dog will sit to try and work out what to do next, immediately reinforce with your association sound (click) or word. Then give him his treat.
  • Repeat this and each time you will see that your dog is offering the sit sooner. Your dog has learned to sit by working it out for himself in order to gain a reward.
  • Now you can introduce the command word sit, your dog will soon learn that this particular word is a prompt for the sit response.

When your dog learns with positive reinforcement he has to really think. The thinking involved ensures that your dog learns thoroughly and effectively. Each command you teach your dog by using this method will stay in his mind forever, for it is learned with motivation and a pleasurable experience.

Train your Dog Not to Bark by Getting the Behavior on Cue

By Sally Gutteridge | Behavior , Posts , Training

An incessant barking dog is sufficient to drive the most patient and loving dog owner slightly mad. The most tempting thing to do in this circumstance is to shout at the excited dog to stop. By doing this though you are only getting the dog more excited. In many cases he will believe that you are joining in and bark louder still.

The owner of a persistent and random barker in the home may develop a nervous twitch, never knowing when the next noisy tirade will be provoked. The dog that barks out on walks is just as distressing. Muttering apologies towards huffing strangers whilst dragging along a hollering canine is upsetting and infuriating for the most resilient of dog owners.

If you are the owner of a dog that seems pre-disposed to bark you may be surprised to learn that to stop this behavior it is necessary first to reinforce it. Yes, to train your dog not to bark you will first need to train him to bark on command.

Your dog needs to first associate a command to the behavior, then when that command is learned he will need to learn a specific command to stop the behavior. With my dogs I use the command word “speak” to encourage a bark, followed by the command word “quiet” to encourage the cessation of the barking.

Train your dog to bark on command using the clicker

  • Tune your dog into the clicker, ensuring he knows that every time he hears a click he will, without doubt receive a reward.
  • With your clicker and dog training treats wait for your dog to make a sound and reinforce with a click then reward. Begin to introduce the cue word that you want to use (speak)
  • Each time your dog makes a sound reinforce the behavior and soon your dog will begin to realize that to get his treat he will need to bark. Keep using the cue word too so that your dog associates it with the action.
  • By teaching your dog to bark you are introducing control over the action and eventually this will progress into your everyday lives.

Train your dog not to bark on command using the clicker

Now that he can bark on command it should be easy to train your dog not to bark using the same method.

  • Begin the training session as you did when you were teaching him to bark.
  • Give the command word that prompts him to bark and reward the action as usual then when there is a pause in his barking, pinpoint this with a click and introduce the other cue word (quiet).
  • Repeat this a few times then eliminate the cue for barking altogether, the aim now is to associate silence with the second and more useful cue word.
  • With practice you should be able to command a bark then command a silence.

You can now proof the command words by asking the dog to “speak” and “quiet” in many areas and situations. Build this up gradually to keep his excitement levels under control and make sure he is focused enough to obey them. Excellent dog trainers always set their dogs up for success; this builds confidence and enables more effective learning. Similarly, a good dog trainer will not issue a command word if the dog is too excited and is unlikely to respond.

When both of the command words are learned and proofed, you can begin to use them in situations where the dog would normally bark out of control. Begin by setting yourself and your dog up to succeed. Watch your dog and be aware that once his excitement levels are too high he will probably not respond. By keeping distractions and triggers for barking low to begin with, you can maintain his attention on you whilst you train your dog not to bark.

Eventually and when you have trained your dog not to bark, you will be able to use the command word effectively in all situations. Ensure that you get the command in quickly though and maintain the dogs focus on you with reward and reinforcement. This technique can be used alongside other obedience commands to maintain control of the behavior of your dog both in and outside of the home.

Recall Training – How to Train Your Dog to Come!

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

Recall training with your dog is crucial. The majority of dogs need to be able to run free to use up their energies on a daily basis. If your dog will not come back when called, then exercise can become a worrying and frustrating time.

The biggest thing to learn about recall with dogs is that you must be interesting and rewarding. If you are either irritated (by your dog’s lack of response) or offering your dog nothing worth coming back for, your attempts are unlikely to be successful.

Think of it this way, if someone is trying to get your attention and they look angry you are probably going to avoid them. You will not meet an aggressive look if you can help it. This avoidance also applies with an angry owner and a disgraced dog. The dog will be even less likely to come when called if he has previously experienced punishment on his return.

Body language

Look at your dog’s body language when he approaches you. If his head and tail are held low then he is uneasy returning. This reaction is often seen in dogs that have been rescued or suffered abuse in a previous home. To a dog lover this can be an upsetting behavior to encounter.  If your dog is displaying this behavior then you can work to change it with plentiful reward, praise and positive physical contact. Get low to the ground and gently guide him into you with a food or toy reward. Make coming back to you a fun and pleasing exercise.

Reinforce by Reward

A successful recall should be rewarded and reinforced. When learning how to train your dog to come back, you must keep this in mind throughout. If your dog has bounced around you just out of reach for 20 minutes it can be difficult to reward, but you must. The frustrated dog owner that grabs a reluctantly returning dog and tells him off is simply teaching more reluctance to return.

Recall can be taught in effective stages. Learning how to train your dog to come will be new for you too. The exercise is particularly enlightening if you have a new or difficult dog to train.

Stages of successful recall training

Begin calling your dog back on leash and rewarding him.

  • When you call your dog back guide him in to you with a treat. From the moment you ask him to come you must work hard to keep his attention only on you. So say his name, show him the treat and holding his reward at nose level guide him right back to you.
  • When he has recalled successfully hold his attention until you release him with your voice. This will prevent him learning to grab his reward and leave again. You can refine this by taking his collar, giving him the treat then partnering the release command (off you go or similar) with release of his collar.

When this process is smooth you can incorporate it into longer recall opportunities. These are best practiced first with no distractions then progressively including distractions such as dogs, people and other animals. Using a combination of techniques when working out how to train your dog to come will firstly get the best results and secondly help you decide what works for you and your particular dog.

  • Have someone hold your dog and then you run away, short distances at first then longer, dependent on your dog’s capabilities call your dog and as they release guide in with the reward as before. Take the dog’s collar and give reward then release command.
  • Recall races are great to improve motivation, two dogs held side by side and shown the treat in the same way will race keenly to you for the reward.
  • Changing direction when out walking with your dog off leash will encourage him to watch you, as will taking the opportunity to hide if it arises.
  • Call your dog back at random intervals during a walk. Reward and release will show the dog that he is not only called at the end of a walk, this will prevent him running away to prevent the walk ending.

Different breeds of dog will need varying training techniques in order to get the best from them in all areas. All dog training should be positive and reward based. With research of your dogs breed traits you will easily work out how to train your dog to come back. Remember that consistency and kindness paired with motivation and reinforcement will get the best results.

Dog Training Treats, The Cornerstone of Positive Dog Training!

By Sally Gutteridge | Food & Treats , Posts

Positive dog training is reward based and motivational. Training your dog in a positive manner will ensure that the two of you have a great relationship. Communication is increased immensely by reward based training, and reinforcement alongside reward is a really enjoyable way to teach your dog.

Some dogs have little interest in training treats. The toy motivated dog will work nicely for a tennis ball or tug on a toy rope. Most dogs however will become quickly and easily motivated by a whiff of smelly cheese or liver sausage.

Dog training treats – motivation for reward

By introducing dog training treats into your training sessions you will see the difference in your dog immediately. He will become motivated and want to earn his reward. He will be alert to the potential result of his behavior and responses. Your dog will perform knowing that a reward is possible.

It is a similar response to the human pay increase.

Pet shops sell many varieties of dog training treats. Some catered to the dog’s great sense of smell. Scent of nice treats can be extremely motivational to your dog. Similar to a freshly cooked meal that will make our mouths water in anticipation. Some pet shop treats are already catered to dog training and use with the clicker.

It is not necessary to buy pet shop dog training treats. Leftover meat or cheap sandwich meat will easily get a dog switched on to learning for his reward. Small squares of cheese will present the same result and for hungrier dog’s part of their daily meal.

Working out the value of dog training treats

The best way to use treats as reward is to work out their value to your dog. Dogs, like human beings have preferences. I know a Yorkshire terrier that becomes completely manic for a lick of an empty cream tub; he prefers sweet rewards such as doggy chocolate drops. (This is a special blend of dog training treats since pure chocolate can be quite toxic to dogs.)

When you know your dog you will be able to tell if his interest is piqued by a particular treat. You can test him out with various small amounts and see which he likes the best, and then you can use the favorite for ultimate motivation.

Dog Training Treats – Optimization of effect

There is little point using the treat that your dog likes best to carry out easy tasks. Reward should reflect motivational level needed. By beginning with lowest level of reward you can gradually build to higher value dog training treats to build your dog’s motivation.

Here are some ideas for reward treats beginning with lower value treats and working to the elite and tastiest food reward.

  • Carrot chunks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Daily ration of kibble
  • Small dog biscuits
  • Dry dog treats
  • Dog chocolate drops
  • Soft pet shop bought dog treats
  • Cheese
  • Cooked meat’s i.e. ham, sausage, hot dog sausage
  • Cooked liver and liver cake

Be careful with some human food. Any chocolate that is not specifically for dogs carries a toxic ingredient that is poisonous to the canine so steer well clear of this. Also be aware that much excess food in the form of dog training treats can cause weight gain.

Size of treats

To provide an effective motivational reward dog training treats should be tiny. A taste will leave your dog wanting more. Slivers of ham just big enough for your dog to taste will be sufficient reward. Think how the first tiny half square of tasty chocolate makes you feel, much better than you feel after devouring a large block of the same treat. It is paramount that you leave your dog wanting more throughout and at the end of a training session.

If dog training treats are too big your dog will lose learning momentum whilst the takes the time to eat them. He will also tire of them quicker therefore his motivation will wane sooner.

You can utilize the value of treats during training sessions. By having a stash of mixed treats ready your dog will never know if he is getting an average treat (piece of kibble) or something really special (square of liver) By alternating reward value you will maintain the motivation of your dog.

German Shepherd Puppy Training

By Sally Gutteridge | Breeds , Posts , Puppies

The German shepherd is a charming puppy. Loyal and humorous the shepherd is cute as a youngster and dignified as an adult. All puppies need socialization and basic positive learning experiences in order to grow into well rounded dogs. The German shepherd is no exception.

If you have a new German shepherd puppy or are thinking of getting one then you will not be disappointed. A loyal and brave dog with intelligence and attentiveness the Shepherd is a great canine companion. There are guidelines that you can follow to ensure that your new dog grows into a happy and well trained friend.

Socialize your puppy

German shepherd puppy training should be complemented with suitable socialization. The shepherd by nature can be reactive and protective when scared therefore he must be introduced to as many new things as possible, from a very young age.

With socialization of a puppy you are teaching him that there is very little to fear in the world around him. A puppy is generally friends with everyone and everything when he is born. If he learns to fear particular things as he grows into an adult dog then those fears will stay with him forever. This fear can be just as intense for the dog if he has few social experiences as a puppy. A natural reaction from an under socialized dog is fear. This reaction can be very difficult to modify in an older dog.

A puppy that has many different experiences that are all pleasant and stress free will grow into a confident and happy dog. The German shepherd puppy that is allowed to play at the park, with other young dogs (and under supervision) will benefit greatly. Also, playing with adult dogs will teach your puppy manners and etiquette.

Socialization should begin as soon as possible. The first few weeks of a dog’s life are crucial for learning. There are mixed opinions around taking an unvaccinated dog out of the home, but a puppy tucked under your jacket is still getting social experience. If you are happy to carry your dog into social situations before vaccination then it is well worth the effort.

Good puppy socialization will include regular contact with

  • Other dogs
  • Children
  • Other animals
  • Travel in moving vehicles – this is especially important because a German shepherd can be prone to barking during travel.
  • Walking alongside moving vehicles
  • Crowds
  • Noisy areas
  • Household appliances
  • Visitors to the home

You can obtain a socialization CD to play in the background at home. Fireworks, storms and other noises that may cause stress will then be introduced to your dog slowly until they are simply not noticed at all.

Your German shepherd puppy training requirements

Training your dog must always be a positive experience for him. German shepherd puppy training must be based on reinforcement and reward of good behavior and non-acknowledgement of unhelpful behavior.

Good, kind and affective German shepherd puppy training is based on:

  • Motivation- Prepare a suitable reward and always have it to hand
  • Reinforce – Pinpoint the behavior that you would like your puppy to repeat then instantly reward.
  • Ignore – Any unhelpful behavior must not be acknowledged at all. By ignoring any behavior you are showing the puppy that there is no point displaying that particular behavior. The dog will soon look for something more rewarding to do.

The above technique can be employed within dog training in most circumstances. For instance toilet training, by taking your puppy outside and ignoring him until he toilets, then instantly rewarding him, you are encouraging the behavior that you want. You can then add a cue word as he begins to toilet which you can use each time he goes out.

A highly intelligent dog, the German shepherd puppy will learn quickly and thoroughly if taught properly. Remember that your puppy is a responsive and loyal blank canvas. He will be biddable and eager to learn, so it is up to you to shape him into a happy well trained dog.

There will be times when you must intervene in an unwanted behavior from your puppy. If this occurs then it will be most useful to offer him something different to do. Take his mind off the unhelpful behavior by capturing his interest with a toy or something similarly distracting. Be careful though, that you don’t allow him to confuse the distraction with reward, and therefore reinforce the unhelpful behavior.

German shepherd puppy training is essential if you are offering a home to this breed of dog. A well trained shepherd is easy to live with, but untrained or under socialized the shepherd can develop fear based and reactive behaviors.

Dog Aggression Training, Understanding Your Dog.

By Sally Gutteridge | Behavior , Posts

A dog that shows signs of aggression can become a problem within a family environment; therefore any dog owner should have a basic understanding of why and how a dog can become aggressive.

If your dog has suddenly developed aggressive behavior it is paramount that he is checked by a Veterinarian to rule out any physical reason for his behavior change.

If a fearful dog feels threatened and unable to remove himself from the threat then he may resort to aggression as a defensive behavior. This can progress, over time, to the point of an aggressive reaction before the perceived threat is even apparent to the human eye.

A dog who has learned that aggression provides the result he would like may resort to a threatening growl or bark purely as a learned behavior. An example of this is food or resource guarding. Although guarding behavior this can also be based in fear, the fear of losing a needed resource.

The behavior of any dog will respond to the circumstance he is in. Different dog breeds have differing levels of reaction. Some breeds will not resort to aggressive stance or behavior until the absolute last resort whereas others will seem to become aggressive immediately on contact with a trigger circumstance. Successful dog aggression training will modify the dog’s immediate response to the trigger.

External signs of aggression

The early signs of aggression can easily be missed by an unaware owner. This is usually what happens when a dog is reported to have bitten with no warning.

The following points are progressive and generic signs that an aggressive response is building within your dog. Calming signals may prelude this behavior which would include yawning, glancing away and attempting to leave the situation. This depends on how reliant on aggression the dog is to produce a result.

  • Narrowing of eyes
  • Shifting of body weight
  • Raising of tail (The dog with a docked tail can struggle with communication)
  • Raising of hackles
  • Posturing to look bigger
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Air snapping
  • Biting

Somewhere between posturing and biting the dog may show a slight freeze. This moment of being completely still is the dog’s natural fight or flight reaction. If the freeze is displayed and the dog cannot leave the situation he is likely to feel that he needs to bite next.

Trigger for aggressive behavior

Aggressive behavior displayed by your dog is almost always a response to a stimulant. Before commencing any type of dog aggression training it is vital to first recognize the dogs behavior and the external trigger that leads to it.

A trigger for aggressive behavior in a dog can be anything at all. It will depend on previous experiences and is usually based in fear or uncertainty. Some of the more common triggers and their possible learning processes are listed below.

  • Dog aggression – Fear caused by under socialization or previous attack.
  • People aggression- Fear caused by lack of social contact, often with children. Fear aggression with people can also be a result of abuse.
  • Guarding behavior – Resource guarding, this can be learned. Or a response to past hunger or struggling for food, comfort or attention.
  • Territorial aggression – Guarding the home, once again often learned. The excitement or fear response of visitors to the home can easily become reinforced. Certain breeds will as a natural response guard the home more than others.

Dog aggression training

If your dog is showing aggressive behavior, it is vital that by using positive and reward based conditioning that this behavior is changed. To modify any behavior type you will need to go deep into the roots of the problem, know exactly why the behavior is manifesting and treat the cause and not the symptoms, which in this case is the aggressive behavior.

Never confront a dog that is showing aggressive behavior. It is essential that the dog is not forced to carry out the behavior that he is threatening.

A behavior modification process for aggression will usually follow the stages below. Each dog will need slightly different handling depending on many factors including the dogs past, breed type and nature.

  • Trigger recognition – Finding out what causes the behavior
  • Observation – Watching the dog before he resorts to aggression. Noting the point of change in his body language.
  • Modification – When observation is carried out a dog’s limits can be identified. For example aggression directed at another dog may only be displayed towards a dog within a range of a few meters. If this is the case modification can begin by working on keeping the dog relaxed whilst getting closer gradually to another dog. This can be done by rewarding calm behavior and increasing distance if aggressive behavior appears to be developing.

If carrying out dog aggression training is likely to put you, your dog or anyone else at risk it is imperative that you seek professional one on one advice from an established dog behaviorist or reputable positive dog trainer.

Focus Your Dog with Dog Training Games

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training , Tricks

Dog training games provide so much more than mental stimulation to your dog. They enable handler control and encourage the dog to focus. They build the relationship between you and your dog and bring the same relationship onto another level.

A Dog’s Eye View

Imagine a dull lesson where you become confused and learn very little. No motivation is offered to encourage you to learn and the whole scenario leaves you feeling a little dull and dispirited. The person teaching you may look disappointed and frustrated throughout. You would certainly not look forward to the next lesson. In fact you could easily begin the dread these sessions and want to avoid them or withdraw into yourself.

Now imagine the same lesson taught in an upbeat and interesting manner. Fun is involved in the learning process. You are given a reward when you get things right and motivated by the promise of this reward. During this session you are encouraged to learn in stages that you can understand easily. You will leave this type of lesson with a sense of achievement and look forward to the next one.

Dog training games

Using dog training games to teach your dog anything will work. In my humble opinion the word games should be used far more frequently at the end of the phrase “dog training”. Even the word gives a good feeling and certainly accentuates the level at which a dog should be taught. By making any learning experience a game for your dog you will be employing positive dog training.

Control and Focus

Old fashioned dog training has claimed that a dog must have respect and be shown dominance. This is neither modern nor proven dog training. Many problems that people encounter with pet dogs can be controlled simply by teaching the dog control and focus. We have all witnessed the frustrated dog walker repeatedly and almost desperately issuing a sit command to an over excited dog. A dog that is that is neither looking at nor paying attention to him. At some point we have probably all been that poor dog walker, I certainly have.

There is no point in asking a dog to do anything if you do not have his attention. There is little point asking for his attention when highly distracted if you have not trained him to focus on you. By using dog training games you can bring your dog to a point where he looks directly to you for a reward when he sees a distraction.

Dog Training Game to Encourage Focus

A brilliant game to encourage control and steady focus is based on reward. It is a simple game that can be carried out over a few minutes, a few times a day and will provide quick and effective results. You will need a reward that the dog likes and a quick hand.

  • A food reward is probably best for this game, tiny pieces of something that the dog likes will be easy to work with and encourage the dog to want more. Smaller frequent treats are very motivating.
  • Get your dog in a sit position (I assume that you have taught your dog to sit), and then drop a treat on the floor. What you will want to do at this point, is reward a good choice on your dog’s part. If your dog lunges or tries to get to the treat, then immediately put your foot over the treat.
  • But on the other hand, if your dog is able to ignore the treat and looks at you, then give him another (and different) treat to reinforce this behavior.
  • When the game is over, you can tell him to “Get It!” so that he can get the treat on the floor, or pick it up and give it to him.
  • By proofing the command and lengthening the amount of time before rewarding, you are establishing focus and control and at the same time playing fun dog training games that allows your dog to think and gives your dog the opportunity to make a choice.
  • Try this with many different distractions, including toys, other people and even other dogs. As long as you have your dog on a leash and that he can’t leave you for the distraction, you should be able to reward the right choice.

When your dog knows to look to you before reacting to something, in this case his treat, he will eventually learn to do the same with other distractions. By employing this focus technique to all your dog training games you will obtain the best results.

Basic Dog Training 101

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

Basic dog training is not complicated. To train a dog is simply to teach him to do something. Dog training is often seen uniquely as teaching a dog to behave nicely, or do specific tricks to impress. What many people do not understand however is that is just as easy, if not easier, to train a dog to misbehave.

Simply put, much of the dog training that happens within the average home is not of the formal variety. If we react to our dogs behavior in a way that he finds rewarding, then we are training him to repeat that behavior. To a dog there are no good and bad behaviors, simply rewarding and non-rewarding behaviors. If we keep this in mind we can never accuse our dog of naughtiness for he is only carrying out an action that benefits him, often with reinforcement from us as his handler.

Unplanned rewarding behavior

With basic dog training, we need to work out what the dog may see as a reward. You may be surprised by the amount of human reactions that the dog may see as rewarding for instance;

  • Pushing the dog off when he jumps up – the dog receives physical interaction
  • Shouting at the dog – vocal interaction
  • Chasing the dog if he is running away – A really fun game

When interacting with your dog in any way begin to assess whether he sees the interaction as a reward. You will then be able to work out whether you are unwittingly reinforcing his behavior therefore encouraging it to continue.

One simple rule

A great rule to adhere to throughout your life with a dog, is simply ignoring the unhelpful behavior and reward the behavior that you would like him to repeat.

This rule is probably the most important thing to learn when you are carrying out basic dog training with a pet dog. Professional dog trainers that use reward and reinforce techniques apply this rule to everything they do.

Add motivation to the rule and you can teach your dog everything from perfect pet dog behavior to competition obedience and everything in between.

Positive dog training

The best basic dog training is positive and reward based. There is no room for any type of punishment within positive dog training. Punishment does not work and will produce a confused and unhappy dog.

Basic dog training commands

Basic commands can be easily taught in a positive manner. By reinforcement of a particular behavior, or specifics that may lead to the behavior, you are allowing the dog to work things out for himself.

Here are some of the most basic dog training commands and how to teach them using positive reinforcement:

  • Sit – Show the dog a reward then wait for him to sit. That’s it! Do not ask him to sit or lure him, do not touch him in any way and if he tries to jump up to get the treat hold it up higher. Take the treat further away if he tries to help himself to it.

Your dog will eventually sit. It is inevitable and when he does sit then reward him with the treat immediately.  Timing must be perfect for him to make the connection between action and reward. When you reward him add the word sit.

Repeat this and soon your dog will be sitting much sooner. He will work out what prompted the reward previously and offer the same behavior, easy.

  • Down – The down command can be taught in the same way. It may take longer as lying down will take more thought than sitting. An easy cheat to provoke your dog to lie down is to pop the treat under your foot. He will then lie down in order to try and get to the treat, when he is on the ground reward by lifting the foot and add the command word.

You can even tap your foot whilst it covers the treat. This will associate the tap with the lie down for a treat in your dog’s mind. You can then use the foot tap without a treat and reward the lying down directly from your hand.

  • Leash walking – Positive reinforcement can be used to encourage a slack leash when out walking. Simply by using reward when the leash slackens. There are various ways to encourage a slack leash. Changing direction, stopping walking and calling the dog back will all slacken the leash and then correct timing and reward can reinforce the behavior.

Basic dog training should always be a positive experience for both dog and owner.

Positive Dog Training

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

What is positive dog training? Is there such a thing as a positive or negative dog training?

Basically, the terms negative vs negative come from Skinner’s operant conditioning. You may already be familiar with the four quadrants of operant conditioning, if you are not, click here to learn more.

But basically it means that you are either giving something (positive) or taking something away (negative). It has nothing to do with either good or bad.

Positive Reinforcement Training with a Box:

Many dog training sessions can be catered around a simple box. Each day you can teach your dog to do something different involving the box. You can place the box in the training area and sit with your clicker. When your dog offers even the slightest behavior towards the action you have decided to train on any particular session then click and offer a reward. Then build on the first action by watching and offering a click for progress towards your goal.

For example if you would like your dog to touch the box with his front paw you should only click when his paw is lifted from the ground. Gradually the paw lifting will increase as it is reinforced. By ignoring any behavior the is not linked to your goal you are correctly using positive dog training. Eventually after working out that he needs to use his paw somehow for reward your dog will begin to tap things. He will at some point tap the box.

Other options with the box can include

  • Nose nudging
  • Pushing
  • Placing objects in the box
  • Taking objects out of the box
  • Getting on
  • Getting in
  • Walking around the box
  • Walking backwards around the box
  • Jumping over
  • Open the box
  • Close the box

In fact anything that you can think of and is safe can be taught. Be warned though each new action learned involving the box will probably be offered at the beginning of each positive dog training session. As a dog trainer you will thoroughly enjoy your dog’s repertoire and be very proud of your mutual achievements. If you teach your dog to do 101 things with the box then you may need to put plenty of time aside for his pre learning repertoire.

Training An Older Dog New Tricks

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Tricks

A saying used daily in many circles is “you can’t teach old dog’s new tricks”. This is simply not true. A dog of any age will learn when motivation and circumstance permits. A human being can obtain a higher degree whilst simultaneously drawing a pension. A middle aged or elderly dog can learn equally well.

It is undoubtedly true that a puppy is usually very trainable. Alongside the training of a puppy an owner must also tend to the socialization needs of their dog.

Many adult dogs are re-homed or rescued every day. Each of these dogs will learn to cope and interact within their new home. Many settle with few problems. Even if no tricks are taught or formal obedience learned, the new owner is training an older dog.

Military and some assistance dogs are all trained as adult donated or rescued dogs. The learning process often begins late in life for them.

If a hearing dog moves from one deaf recipient to a different one in latter canine years he will learn new things. Each hearing dog is catered to a particular recipient therefore new sounds have to be learned. Using the motivational technique of reward based training the older dog usually learns quickly and easily.

Training an older dog – The benefits

There are great benefits to training an older dog. Learning can help focus your dog’s thoughts, mentally stimulate him and help to slow any onset of confusion or dementia. Training will make your dog mentally happy and healthy regardless of his age.

Training an older dog can be a culture shock for both of you. It can be harder if you have lived with the dog for a long time. Asking your dog to do something out of the ordinary can come as a surprise. The dog will usually enjoy the change of routine and individual attention very much.


As with all dog training regardless of the age of dog, positive and reward based methods will get the best result. Motivation is sometimes more effective for an under stimulated older dog than a young keen puppy.

Work out what best motivates your dog. If he has received no training for some time or is a new dog to you then this can take a while.

You will see when your dog is motivated by something by his behavior when the thing is produced. His eyes will light up, tail will wag and he may become physically excited and attempt to take the rewarding item from you.

Treats are a regularly used motivator. If you are considering treats for motivation it is worth starting by experimenting with the less tasty end of the scale. By doing this you will leave yourself with the option of a further and more motivational reward later on.

Toys are another good option. If your dog likes toys then find a great one that he prefers. Only get the special toy out during training times. Put the toy away at the end of each training session whilst your dog is still excited by it.

Physical praise and handling is all some dogs need for motivation.

Training an older dog that has not learned anything new for a while means that you must put some effort into motivation. A dog that is in the habit of settling down and staying in routine for many years may not be keen to change this.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is a fabulous activity for dogs of any age. It is also great fun for a handler. Watching a dog that you have known for a long time display new facial expressions, whilst they learn, is wonderful. Clicker training provides an “I am working this out” look. It builds confidence and makes dog training fascinating and fun.

Bad Habits

Training an older dog that has established bad habits can be difficult. Removing unhelpful habitual behavior and replacing it with something more useful usually calls for an approach of ignore the bad and reward the good. The dog needs to learn to offer a different behavior to the unhelpful one.

By completely ignoring any unhelpful behavior you remove attention away from the dog. If the behavior is to seek attention your dog will not receive his reward until he offers a different behavior. If the better behavior is not automatically offered then it should be quietly prompted.  This is an approach that works well when training an older dog.

Human benefits

Local dog training classes are not all full of puppies. Many providers offer specific sessions that include training an older dog. Training classes are fun and social.

Stimulating your dog and working out how to help him learn is great for the human mind too. Research on positive dog training will open up a new world to you. You will certainly wonder why you didn’t teach your old dog new tricks before.

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