Archive | January, 2016

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How to Train New Behaviors

Training your dog to perform a new behavior can be challenging. Depending on the dog and the behavior, it could take quite a bit of time. Different behaviors might require different techniques so it’s good to be prepared with a variety of training methods. The four primary methods for training a new behavior include luring, capturing, shaping, and targeting. Here we will describe each method and provide an example with teaching a dog to lay down. These methods can be used to train a wide variety of behaviors, including tricks!

Luring: Using a treat in your hand to entice your dog to follow it into the desired position. For down, start with your dog already in a sit. Hold the lure close to your dog’s nose so they know there is a reward, then move your hand down to the ground then away from the dog. Ideally, the dog follows the treat down, placing its elbows on the ground into a full laying position. You don’t want to move the lure so fast that they lose interest or so slow that they get frustrated. Each dog is different so pay attention to how your dog is reacting to maximize learning.

Capturing: Waiting for your dog to perform that behavior on their own, then clicking and treating. For example, with down, some dogs just do not like to lay down but at some point throughout the day they will. When they do, you should be ready with a click and a treat. After the first reward, the dog may continue to stare at you, trying to figure out how to get more treats. Wait patiently until they perform the behavior you want then click and treat again. It might take a while for the dog to catch on, but when they do you will be able to start pairing a cue and asking for that behavior.

Shaping: Shaping involves teaching a behavior in small increments. Some behaviors are too complex for animals to learn at once, or some dogs just need a little more encouragement and direction. For dogs who have a hard time understanding the down lure, shaping is a good method. For this you can use the lure in the same way, but reward for small victories. For example, if your dog makes any movements towards the floor or bends their elbows, click and treat.  Then wait for them to crouch more and more until you’ve successfully taught them to lay down. This method helps keep your down positive if they get frustrated easily.

Targeting: This method is used a lot in zoos and aquariums. The first step is teaching your dog the ‘touch’ command, where they touch their nose to your palm. You can then transfer this behavior to a targeting stick or other tool. To train down using this method, you would try holding the target out and towards the floor, so you dog has to bend down or lay down to touch it. Then you click and treat.

Another important thing to remember when training new behaviors is the order in which to teach. Always start by training the behavior before introducing the cue. Dogs do not speak our language. They learn behaviors and gestures quicker than words. Start with getting your dog to perform that behavior reliably, then start introducing hand or verbal cues. Once your dog seems to understand the behavior, you can start verbally asking for it. Moving too fast will confuse and frustrate your dog.

How to Use Your Dog’s Obedience

How to Use Your Dog’s Obedience

Now that you’ve trained your dog not to jump, pull, or beg, what’s next? How else can you use dog training to enrich both of your lives? Once our dog knows the basics, we can sometimes forget that they could benefit from more training. Training isn’t only used to improve obedience, but is also an excellent way to provide mental stimulation. Here are some ways to continue incorporating training into your dog’s life:

Sports & Jobs

There are so many activities you can participate in with your dog. To decide on one, think about your dog’s breed(s) or their favorite activity. Nose work classes are great for hunting dogs. Dock jumping or fly ball are great for retrievers. Mushing breeds like huskies love to pull, so teaching them to pull carts (or even to pull you!) can be very fulfilling for them. Agility or rally classes are fun ways to incorporate obedience. You can also think about what kinds of activities YOU like to do. If you like to hike or camp, train your dog to do these things with you. If you like to run, turn your dog into a running buddy. If you love music and dancing, musical freestyle is an awesome activity to do with your dog.

You could also train your dog to do jobs around the house, such as putting their toys away, bringing grocery bags in from the car, and finding your keys, just to name a few. The possibilities are endless.

Here is a list of potential activities:



Tricks are a lot of fun for owner and dog, and great for showing off to your family and friends. Below is a great list of behaviors to train, including instructions and how to fix common issues for each behavior. For information on the best ways to train new behaviors, keep an eye out for our blog article!

52 Tricks to Train:



Want to be your vet’s favorite client? Train your dog husbandry behaviors. These are behaviors that allow your pet to participate calmly in their own health care. This can greatly reduce any stress or anxiety related to seeing the vet. For example, train your dog to open their mouth for teeth checks. Train them to hold still for checking in their ears or eyes. Train them to offer each paw on command for nail trims. Teach them to stand, sit, and lay on their side. Your vet will appreciate the effort!

Benefits of Positive Training

Benefits of Positive Training

Training is one of the most important things you can do with your dog to ensure a harmonious relationship. Many behaviors that come naturally to dogs are inappropriate in a human-centric world, such as jumping, pulling, and begging. Many issues that arise with dog ownership stem from miscommunication or inconsistent communication between owner and dog. One of the reasons APDT launched National Train Your Dog Month was to address the reason why so many dogs end up in shelters every year, and to give dog owners the tools they need to prevent this from happening.

There are many ways to train your dog, along with lots of conflicting information. At TGDS, we strongly believe positive-reinforcement based methods are the only way to train. With a scientific backing, it has been proven to work on many species of animals, not just dogs. Positive training focuses on rewarding the behaviors you want and ignoring the ones you do not want. Evolution has shown that animals will only expend energy on behaviors that work for them. Therefore, the more your dog gets rewarded for a behavior, the more they will perform that behavior. Behaviors that are ignored will become ‘extinct.’


There are other benefits of using this training method. Here are some of them:

  • Dogs trained with positive-based methods tend to learn new behaviors faster. Think about it: when you are learning something new, is it more helpful for someone to tell you what you are doing right or to tell you what you are doing wrong? They are also performing the behavior on their own rather than being physically manipulated. This makes the learning process more permanent.
  • Positive-based training methods teach impulse control and problem solving skill One of the major tenets of positive training is that animals should only participate if they want to, rather than being forced to. So when you ask your dog to sit, they have the choice to sit or not. If they don’t sit, they simply don’t get rewarded. But if they want that treat, they have to figure out what it is you want and perform that behavior.
  • Reward-based training creates a tremendous bond between you and your dog. They learn to trust and respect you as a leader, forming positive associations with you and with training! Punishment-based training breaks down that bond, causing the dog to see you as irrational and unpredictable, and work for you out of fear. This causes stress and anxiety that could lead to behavioral issues.
  • Builds a confident, well-balanced dog. They know what to expect from you and how to communicate. Being rewarded for behaviors, rather than punished, makes the dog feel safe to be themselves. This leads to less anxiety in new situations, and helps prevent reactivity and aggression.
  • You are happier and calmer as well! These training methods are pretty stress-free for both you and your dog. Understanding the science behind positive training sets you and your dog up for success because these methods work. The actual act of training is less stressful as well because it’s based on you being POSITIVE! This will improve your mood and make training fun. Punishment-based methods have the owner yelling, yanking, and pulling at their dogs which causes frustration and tension.