Elevate Your Dog's Training with These 2 Innovative Tips

I am going to share with you two very powerful training tips that will significantly increase your dog’s response to your training commands.  It works by showing the dog that doing what you ask, will give them access to an activity that they really enjoy. 

The first thing you should do is think about what activities your dog enjoys. I recommend making a list. Your list should reflect your dog’s individual interests. Here is a sample list of activities that many dogs enjoy:

  • Chasing a Ball
  • Going for walks
  • Feedings
  • Going for rides in the car
  • Belly rubs
  • Sniffing the ground during the walk
  • Greeting owner after the owner has been away
  • Being let outside from inside the home
  • Interacting with other dogs
  • Etc. (The more items you can think of, the better)

Tip #1- Create the association

Once you have your list, you will begin showing the dog that certain behavior responses that you find useful will give the dog access to the activities that the dog enjoys. This begins to create a very potent association of:  following your commands= your dog gaining access to the activities they naturally enjoy.

  • Your dog needs to have an understanding of the behaviors you will be asking of them. If you need help teaching your dog various commands, you can go to our member’s area.

Here are some examples of how to begin applying this technique with the list above.

  1. Chasing a Ball- Ask your dog to sit or down before you toss the ball for them. You could also add in short stays. This reinforces all of these behaviors which will make them more dependable as the dog begins to form a positive emotional association to these commands.
  2. Going for walks- Ask your dog to perform a short wait at the door or a sit before being taken out for their walk.
  3. Feeding time- Ask the dog to perform a down stay while you prepare their food. Once finished with preparation, release the dog with “Okay” and let them eat.
  4. Going for rides in the car- Ask your dog for a quick sit before they jump into the car
  5. Belly rub- Ask the dog to perform a down stay for 30 seconds and then give the dog a belly rub
  6. Sniffing the ground during the walk- Ask the dog to perform a quick sit or down and then give them a few minutes to sniff the ground.
  7. Greeting owner after the owner has been away- Ask the dog to go to a dog bed when you come home and then give your dog attention on the dog bed. This reinforces the behavior of going to the bed because they are naturally happy to greet you.

Now that you get the idea how this technique works, I am going to give you a second trick that I use that will make an even greater impact on your dog’s response to your requests.

Tip #2- Surprise the Dog

Implementing this tip increases response time to commands and has the effect of creating a dog that stops questioning whether or not they should listen to your request. i.e. When you call your dog and they look right at you and then decide to go back to sniffing the ground or trot off instead of coming to you.

  • The trick to this tip is to give your dog access to the enjoyable activities in the form of a surprise.
  • I am going to give you two examples that will illustrate how you can apply this tip.
  • Let’s say I want to improve a dog’s response to coming when called. For the sake of the example, I am going to assume the dog (I will call her Bella) enjoys the activities that I listed above.

Coming when called- Example 1
Bella gets really excited when the leash is picked up because she knows that the leash is a good predictor that she will be taken on a walk.  I want to be able to create that same excitement with coming when called. Here is how I would do begin to make this association:

  1. I sneak the leash into my pocket when Bella is not looking or I place her in another room before I put the leash in my pocket
  2. Now, I will go somewhere in the home and sit down or go into the yard and walk around acting like I am doing something else.
  3. At some random point, I will call Bella to me with “Bella Come” and then encourage her to come to me. (Your command needs to be specific)
  4. When she comes to me, I surprise her by pulling the leash out of my pocket and then taking her on a walk.
  5. By repeating this process, Bella will start to form an association of coming when called with one of her favorite activities (being taken out for a walk). Creating this association is extremely powerful. In fact, if your dog becomes excited when you pick up the leash, go over to your leash and pick it up and see if your dog does not come running to you. Now imagine if you could get this same response to your Come command in various situations. Using this tip is one way to get you there.

Coming when called- Example 2
Bella enjoys chasing the ball and gets very excited when the ball is picked up or thrown. I can use this activity to begin increasing the response to coming to me when I call her.

  1. I would start by placing a ball in my pocket when Bella is not looking.
  2. After hiding the ball, I may go into the yard or I may decide to practice inside the home.
  3. At some random point, I will call her to me with “Bella Come” and then really encourage her to come to me.
  4. As soon as she starts coming to me, I pull the ball out of my pocket and toss it for her.  
  5. Before now, the ball has been the only predictor that a game of fetch will ensue. By using the surprise of the ball after the recall command, I have showed Bella that responding to the command “come” begins the fetch game.  In time, the command itself will produce the same level of excitement as the ball does.  This happens because the command “Come” becomes the predictor that activities such as ball tossing will follow.

The preceding two examples are just two ways to increase the recall command. You can use this technique to increase responses to just about anything you want your dog to do.  Be creative and interchange commands with different activities. For example, ask your dog to do a down stay before being leashed rather than always asking for sit.

 It will take a little time before you start seeing the best results, especially if your dog is in a habit of not listening to you. However, once your dog begins believing that following your commands often leads to their favorite activities, they will start responding quickly and reliably. 

This technique is also one of the best ways to begin fading food rewards out of training.

Published on July 23, 2017

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