Put Positive Training Methods Hand-in-Hand with Heart and Mind

A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron. –Horace Mann 

Instead of teaching the dog, let’s allow him to learn. There is a subtle but important difference between this concept and that of compulsory, dominance-based obedience training. The best we can do for dogs is to present the opportunity for them to learn and to be successful instead of putting them through boot camp. Be willing to enter the realm of that which cannot be taught in a book or a classroom. Happy training combines scientific method and mindfulness, communication and common sense, ethology and ethics.
How Dogs Learn
Dogs come equipped with certain innate knowledge–instincts designed for survival, such as breeding and hunting. Beyond this preordained knowledge, dogs must learn the rest of what they need to know about life. We are their teachers of how to live life in the human world.
Dogs learn from environment and experience, as humans do. At birth, puppies begin to absorb information from their littermates, parents, other dogs, and humans. They can learn by imitating the behavior of other dogs, and they will experiment to find out what behaviors work. They learn the consequences of their behavior.
Effective training takes all of these things into consideration and channels them into learning through open lines of communication and understanding.
Positive Training General Theory and Principle
Positive: Both positive and compulsory training methods work. However, there is a difference between simply acquiring a behavior and having the dog learn. A positive approach does not damage the relationship between owner and dog as other methods can. In fact, it strengthens it. Positive methods respect the individuality and spirit of dogs.
Motivation: A dog must be motivated to do a behavior. Rewards are motivation, a paycheck in human terms. Food is a motivator for most dogs and easy to use. However, don’t overlook toys, play, exercise, praise, and affection as inspiration. Rewards are anything the dog likes.
At times, you will need to increase the motivation by increasing the value of the reward. While lower value rewards work well when distractions are low, situations that are more difficult require a higher-value prize. However, if the dog refuses rewards, he may be too distracted or stressed, and we need to adjust the environment accordingly.
Corrections: Corrections are not punishment, but feedback. They are verbal cues used to interrupt the dog from the behavior and redirect him. Time outs can also serve as corrections by giving the dog a short (30-seconds) break, so that you can both regroup.
Textbooks and scientific research discuss learning theory, methodology, and scientific principles as applied to dog training. It’s valuable information. However, experiments are done in sterile, consistent laboratories with animals (such as rats, not dogs) given limited options for their behavior and monitored by unfailingly accurate, data-spewing computers. That is just not the same as training a dog to walk nicely on leash through a park full of tantalizing, taunting squirrels.
We are inconsistent humans training dogs in an environment with many distracting elements. We need to know and understand the science of the laboratory and how to apply it intuitively to life with Fido. Remember that Fido did not read the research and analyze the data. Training with both our minds and our hearts builds a bridge between the real laboratory and real life.
Training From the Heart and Mind
Successful training comes from the heart as well as the mind and contributes to the wellbeing of both teacher and student. This was vividly illustrated in a consultation I did with a family that had adopted a five-year-old mill dog. The dog displayed fear aggression by barking and nipping, especially at the nine-year-old daughter. The family had been advised to put their hands on their hips, get “big,” and march past the dog when he displayed this “naughtiness.” They were told that doing this would prove to the dog that they were dominant and in charge.
When I explained that we would no longer be doing that (and why), the little girl let out a sigh of relief and said, “Oh, good!” She knew that what they’d been doing was not what was in her heart. Within the hour, using science-based training methods, we had the dog voluntarily approaching the girl and touching her hand. It was something everyone felt good about–a positive, touching experience of nose to hand, mind to heart, and heart to heart.

Pat Blocker, CPDT-KA, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with over 19 years experience. She offers private in-home training specializing in solving canine behavior issues. She is an instructor for dog*tec Dog Walking Academy, training and certifying professional dog walkers. http://dogtec.org/dogwalkingacademy.php

Contact Pat at Peaceful Paws • 303-364-4681 • http://www.peacefulpaws.netpat@peacefulpaws.net. Pat is the author of Taking the Lead with Jerking the Leash available on Amazon. 

Training Tools & Pulling 

As a professional dog trainer and as a trainer who has crossed over from old school training methods I can tell you that it makes even trainers who use adverse methods skin crawl when they hear people say “it’s a great tool if you use it correctly.”

Why? You ask….. 

90% of people who use these tools do not know how to properly fit them or even properly put them on. This is the most basic step in using any training tool.

 Now, I want them to convince me that they’re using a prong collar correctly when it isn’t even on your dog correctly?

It is really hard to permanently scar a dog mentally, create major behavior problems, or create anxious behavior with positive training methods.

I would say 85-90 percent of collars I see while out in public are improperly fit. How do they know how to properly use it if they can’t fit it on their dog? Correct timing that can often takes years to master and tools like prong collars, gentle leaders, and e-collars must be used correctly to be effective.

To correctly use this type of training tool one must haves perfect timing, a strong understanding of training methods comma and a wonderful ability to read a dog once they have learned all this seldom do they need these types of Correction devices.

I often find that when somebody is looking at buying these types of tools and you ask them why they need it their answer is often well, my dog pulls really bad on walks and I was hoping it would help, or my dog lunges at other dogs and I was hoping it would help.

Here is the truth. When I ask these people who want their dogs to walk well on leash, “if you say heel in the house holding something her really wants, does your dog come to your left side and sit?” they often answer, “no”.

If you answered “no”, my question for you is why would you punish a dog for not preforming a behavior you haven’t taught him? If he cannot perform a heel in the house without distraction why would you punish him for not being able to do it outside on a walk with the presence of distraction like squirrels and other dogs? This doesn’t sound very fair to me.

No tool should ever replace good dog training, especially not one that can have adverse side effects.

Here is a list of my favorite pulling tools and how to use them click here

Positive dog training

Focused Heel Flat Collar

Treats, Squirrels and More

You should never limit your motivational tool box to food rewards.

While we use a significant number of training treats in our classes we encourage all owners to think outside the box. You will have far more reliable behaviors if you learn to utilize the other rewards that already exist in your dog’s daily life.
First let’s consider what is a reward to your dog.
 Does your dog get excited when you pick up your keys to go for a car ride? Does your dog get excited when you walk towards the cabinet which holds his food? Does your dog go bananas when you pick up the leash?
If your dog is becoming excited for something consider this a reward. Your dog obviously finds it incredibly enjoyable and it’s a great opportunity to start to build some manners.
Make a list of all of the things your dog gets excited for whether it’s being invited onto the couch, being handed it’s favorite toy or just having a leash snapped on to his collar these are all opportunities for rewarding your dog utilizing something other than a food reward.
How to teach your dog to say please by sitting.
When you pick up the leash and your dog becomes very excited roll the leash up in your hand so none of it is dangling (if it’s dangling your dog may choose to bite at it) and wait. Your dog will probably offer the same behavior that’s worked for him for the last year or the last 6 months which may be spinning around in circles barking or even jumping on you.
I want you to ignore all that, so don’t try this exercise if you are in a hurry.  It may seem counterproductive but allowing your dog to cycle through those behaviors.  That will allow him to problem-solve and learn what behaviors do not work to get the leash put on.
Eventually your dog will offer a, behavior that is calmer.
If your dog was previously jumping on you and biting at the leash then you’re calmer Behavior might be standing and pausing for a second. If your dog was previously just spinning in circles without making any physical contact your, behavior might be a sit.
The moment you get the behavior that you’re happy with say “yes” and snap the leash to your dog’s collar. After a week of this your dog will automatically choose the behavior that gets him his reward having the leash placed on him the fastest.
You will be surprised by how little your dog now have to cycle through the other behaviors that formally earned him the reward of having a leash put on.
 Remember you get what you reward.
training bully dogs

We use all rewards, not just treats!

Faster Training With Markers

trick training

Markers are great for all dogs

Why we use reward markers…. 
When you take a class with Bennett Canine Training you will be asked to select a reward marker during your first session with us. A reward marker is a very clear way of communicating with your dog which increases your dog’s understanding of the content we are teaching and decreases how long it takes your dog to learn new behaviors.

What is a reward marker? 
A reward marker or a bridge word is used to tell your dog the exact minute they performed the correct Behavior.   A great example of this is if you were teaching your dog to make eye contact with you. If you asked your dog to look in your eyes and then simply fed him a treat you would be treating him while he was looking at the treating your hand not your eyes.   The moment you move your hands your dog WILL instinctively look at your hands. Whereas if you were able to use a word to say “that’s correct, now your food is coming” you can Mark while your dog’s eyes are still on your eyes before they look to the treat. Another important example would be if your dog was at a park off leash and you ask your dog to leave something, you want to be able to pinpoint the exact minute they left the object, even if it’ll take five to 10 seconds for your dog to make it across the field to you. Timing on your rewards is critical.

Why don’t we just use good boy? 
Technically you can use good talk good or good boy, but often times this word is used very frequently by strangers meeting your dog or by family and friends when they’re interacting with your dog. We want our marker word to be a special word that is used only when we will produce a reward after it.  This word is only between Handler and dog. If we choose to use good boy and our dog jumps up on somebody and they say good boy then they’re reinforcing that incorrect Behavior.
When to use a marker word? 

Imagine that your marker word is a camera and you want to take a picture of the exact moment your dog does the correct Behavior. If I was working on teaching sit, I would use my marker word the second my dogs butt hit the floor or if I was working on down I would use my marker word the second my dog’s elbows hit the ground.

What word should I select for my marker word? 
It doesn’t really matter as long as you consistently use it before giving your dog the food reward. Timing is more important.  It should go, marker word pause food reward with only one to two seconds in between.   Marker words that I typically recommend for my students are yes, nice, super, yup or sweet.

Good luck in training and have fun!

Canine Good Citizen

I love the Canine Good Citizen test and I know my students that have earned the title love it too. We have a lot of fun in these classes and it is the first title that most people earn with their dogs.    Any dog regardless of if they are AKC registered can earn the Canine Good Citizen certificate.

This is a title that handlers of all ages can participate in.  Our youngest for handler I’m the last testing event was just nine!

This is a great title if your goal is to have a well-behaved family dog or if you’re interested in moving on to Dog Sports like Rally  or IPO.  

Week 1 in our Canine Good Citizen package starts off with a mock test allowing us to evaluate where each dog is in their training.  We work with each dog and handler then the week before our test day we actually go out and enjoy a patio lunch with our dogs after class.  This allows dogs practice holding a down stay while their pet parents enjoy a lunch.  It’s a great opportunity for dogs to practice their training in a real life scenario, plus it allows students to show off the skills with their dogs learned.

There are other benefits to earning a Canine Good Citizen as well such as free City Licensing, discounts on renters insurance and discounts on hotels when you travel with your dog.

Here’s a little about the test!

1: Accepting a friendly stranger
2: Sitting politely for petting
3: Appearance and grooming

4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
5: Walking through a crowd
6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
7: Coming when called
8: Reaction to another dog
9: Reaction to distraction
10: Supervised separation

This intermediate obedience class is designed for dog’s who have already completed formal beginner obedience and formal intermediate obedience classes, or have a very solid training foundation at home.

 Not sure if your dog is ready for this advanced obedience class? Just ask us, we are happy to help! 

For more detailed information about what each test involves, please visithttp://www.akc.org/events/cgc/training_testing.cfm

We offer a 6 week CGC Training Package for $130 and if you only want to test it’s just $15.00

The Hard Breed Myth

I hear the myth all the time that corsos, neos , rotties, american bull dogs and pitbulls are hard dogs on a lifelong quest to establish their role of dominance and they can only be tamed with methods that use bulling and assertiveness. Okay, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but I commonly see new students bringing in bullys and acting like real bullies. Their dogs are seldom thinking about dominance, but are seeking out some fun or self-rewarding behavior. Even though their intention is to provide them with good structure and teach them to be good dogs there are far more effective ways of doing this.  
I often wonder how these highly motivated, drivey, and highly trainable dogs ended up with such a label. I can’t say for sure where these ideas came from. Maybe it came from the fact that these are working breeds not content to lay on the couch all day, maybe because they need more socialization with people and dogs than the average golden, but I think it may have a lot to do with where training has come from.
20 years ago most competitive dog trainers and many pet dog trainers relied on escape avoidance training.  Most people who went to puppy classes or dog classes 20 years ago where handed a choke chain OR told to go buy one. The basic go to training methods taught dogs to turn off pressure. Pressure based dog training required the dogs to be uncomfortable enough that they would actually work to turn off the pressure.

 Many of our breeds that are considered to be “hard” have a high enough drive that adrenaline may make them appear to be more pain tolerant in heightened situations. Which means that in order for escape avoidance training to have worked they had to issue harder corrections than to the lower drive breeds or softer breeds. Which meant in order to successfully get compliance an owner had to be really get comfortable giving a high-level correction.
In recent years even the highly competitive obedience, IPO, agility and ring sport trainers have started switching the way they look at teaching dogs. Even at this year’s police canine training seminar there was a huge focus on making the switch to motivational methods.

 Many haven’t made the switch because they are “bunny huggers” or truly believe a jerk on the collar is going to break the spirit of a 120 lb presa, but because motivational methods create a better product. A stronger heel, a better recall, and a dog who truly wants to dog those things. 

These training methods are built off of harnessing and utilizing the dog’s drive and creating win-win situations that teach the dog to want to work for the things that were once thought of as a distraction.
 I encourage you to go to a trial near you and see what dogs are placing the highest now. It’s the dogs who love what they do and want to work. We are also seeing a switch in what breeds professional trainers are wanting to work. They no longer think of a pitbulls as a difficult breed, but a dog that has so much potential and willingness to work. Maybe that is why this breed has earned more UKC Superdog titles than any other breed combined.
People often see my dog heeling beautifully with joy, animation and engagement. Guess what, that’s what judges want to see too. I think that many people who aren’t familiar with my breed think he is a little bit of a marshmallow when they see how hard he tries to work to get his prized toy. I can assure you he is no marshmallow, just a dog who REALLY REALLY enjoys working for me. He doesn’t enjoy working for me because I shout heel and jerk him when he grabs the leash to play tug, but because he knows if he heels he will be rewarded with a heart pumping, growly, a rough game of tug.
Dogs with harder temperaments are most easily trained through motivational, engagement methods that use the distractions around them as motivators.  

Keep in mind that the definition of dominance is not bulling, aggressiveness or assertiveness. It is simply controlling the resources. You don’t have to be a bully to train your bully. 

Train your dog to stay

The stay cue is one of the most important cues to teach dogs. Everyone would like to enjoy a patio lunch at a restaurant with your dog laying at your feet and this can best be accomplished with teaching a strong stay cue. Stay is great when your hands are full and you need to drop the leash for a minute. Stay is also great if you are inviting guests into the home or if you want to stop and talk to a neighbor while out on a walk. A dog that is in a down stay can’t jump up on someone or be rude!

Before we get started on teaching stay I want to address a common mistake people make when they are teaching their dogs to stay. This mistake actually teaches dogs to break their stay position.

Dogs learn everything through anticipation. If you get your keys may they anticipate a car ride. You get your the dog leash they will anticipate a walk.

If you put your dog in a stay, walk away and call them what do you think you are teaching them?

You are teaching them to anticipate breaking the stay position.

It is fairly rare that in a real life scenario you will have to walk away from your dog twenty feet while he holds a stay then have to call your dog to you.

It is more likely you will have your dog sit stay while you are grabbing your mail, unlocking your car or talking to someone on a walk. It is really easy to call your dog out of the stay position, it is much harder to go back and fix the habit of a dog who has learned how to break the stay. Don’t call your dog out of the stay ALWAYS return to your dog.

STAY DISTANCE STEP 1: Teaching your dog to stay if you walk away

We won’t say “Stay” for this step.

Start with your dog in the down position. Once they are down we can mark with “Yes” and give a treat. Place a flat palm towards your dog and take one step back then immediately one step forward.

When you step forward, if your dog is still in the down position say “yes” and place the treat on the floor where your dog can easily reach it without breaking the down. Go right into your next stay. Don’t reposition them if you can help it. If your dog breaks the down say “at” and put your dog back into the down position. This time when your dog goes back into the down position say “Good”, but don’t treat the down, and place a flat palm towards your dog. Repeat this step you can do five repetitions where your dog doesn’t break.


Great job guys! This next step is going to be much like the last step except now we are going to gradually add distance. Start with our dogs in the down position. Once they are down we can mark the correct behavior by saying “Yes” and treat the correct behavior.

Then use your hand signal (a flat palm facing your dog) don’t say stay yet, and take two steps away from your dog. Immediately walk back to your dog and place the treat right between your dogs front paws on the floor. Repeat this step until you can get five correct in a row without your dog breaking the down position. Remember not to say “stay” yet. We know it is tempting, but it is important that you only say “Yes” for now.


CONGRADULATIONS! You finally get to say the “S” word.

Just like the last two steps we are going to start with our dogs in the down position. Once they are down we can mark and treat the correct behavior. After treating your dog use your hand signal (a flat palm facing dog) as you say “STAY”, and take three steps away from your dog. Immediately walk back to your dog and place the treat right between your dogs front paws on the floor. Repeat this step until you can get five correct in a row without your dog breaking the down position.

For every 5 stays your dog can get correct in a row you can now add another step away from your dog. If your dog breaks 3 stays in a row you have to go back two steps. Just remember that they should be in the same position you left your dog in when you give them their treat.

STAY DISTRACTION STEP 1: Teaching your dog to stay even when there is a reason to get up

I’m excited for this next step because it’s where we really get to see dogs start to exercise their “Impulse control” or doggy self control!

Get your dog into the down position say “Yes” and reward your dog’s down. Have a treat prepared in the hand you have NOT been using for a hand signal. Now, say “stay” as you show your dog your palm. Very slowly take your treat and move it from your shoulder to your hip. If your dog holds the stay position raise your treat hand back up to your shoulder then bring it to your dog. Feed your dog the treat in a place he doesn’t have to get up from the down position. If your dog breaks the stay when you move the treat say “at” and reset your dog in the down position. Don’t treat your dog for a down if he has broken the stay. Instead, repeat stay and slowly start to bring your hand down. If you think your dog will break bring your hand back up. Go ahead and practice these until you can get five in a row where your dog doesn’t break the down position.


This step is going to be much like the last step, but our distraction is going to be a little harder. Just like last time place your dog in the down position and mark and reward the behavior. Then cue your dog to stay using your hand cue and say “stay”. Now lower your treat from your shoulder to your knee very slowly. If your dog holds the down without trying to snatch the treat give your dog a treat. If your dog starts to break the down immediately say “At” raise your treat back up and reset your dog into the down position. Repeat this until you can do five correctly in a row.


This time bring the treat from your shoulder all the way to the floor. If your dog doesn’t break the down position bring the treat to your dog and say “yes” as you place the treat where your dog can easily reach it. If your dog breaks say “At” and reset your dog in the down position. Don’t treat your dog for a down if he has broken the stay. Instead, repeat stay and slowly start to bring your hand down. If you think your dog will break bring your hand back up.

STAY DURATION STEP 1: Teaching you dog to stay for a period of time

Place your dog in a down mark with the word “Yes” and reward. Now, say “stay” and stand next to your dog without moving for 5 seconds if your dog holds it say “Yes” and deliver the treat to the floor in from of your dog. Repeat this stay exercise until you can do five in a row without your dog breaking the position. If your dog breaks the down say “at” and reset them into the down. Repeat until your dog can do five in a row without breaking the down.


For this step we are going to ask our dog to stay for a little bit longer. The longer our dog holds a stay the harder it is for them. Which means that they are learning Doggy Impulse Control. Place your dog in a down say “Yes” and reward with a treat. Now, say “stay” and stand next to your dog without moving for 15 seconds if your dog holds it say “Yes” and deliver the treat to the floor in front of your dog. Repeat this until you can do five in a row without your dog breaking the position. If your dog breaks the down mark with a “at” and reset them into the down. Repeat until your dog can do five in a row.

Once your dog does five, 15 second stays that you can continue to build the length of time you ask your dog to stay adding about ten more seconds for every 5 they can do correctly in a row, but if your dog breaks three stays in a row you have to make it easier by asking them to stay for less time. By making a mistake and breaking the stay your dog is saying “This is a little to hard. I need more practice with it a little easier.”

Once your dog is very solid at preforming the above exercises you can take your training up to the next level by using the 3 D’s of Doggy Impulse Control. When you are practicing the three D’s, distance, duration and distraction try to think of each stay as a question for example….

You might ask your dog, “Can you stay if I take ten steps back?” If your dog holds the stay the first time you attempt this he answered your question with “YES”, if he breaks he says “that’s to hard for me can you make it easier for me?”

Another example might be if you asked your dog, “Can you stay if I lower a treat to the floor?” He may answer that question by holding the stay, so you could also ask your dog “Can you stay if I drop the treat?” or “Can you stay while I lower your ball?” The more questions like these you can help your dog successfully answer the better of a stay expert your dog will be.