Dog Attention Training

Whiteshepherd writes to me with a question about dog attention training:

Hi, I’ve just finished reading your dog training book and had a few questions about dog attention training: I have a 9 months old white German shepherd dog. He’s been pretty dominant compared to the previous two dogs that I had a few years ago. I used the techniques described in the book and fixed his pulling issue on leash and got great results with the sit and down-stay. I also tried to build up his ball drive.

Dog Attention Training Fails Once Her Dog Gets The Ball

dog attention training
dog attention training

The problem is: he’d totally focus and fixate on the ball and ignore me for the whole time. Once I let him to have the ball, then he went wild and became dominant again and tried to correct me if I touch him or put him into a sit or down stay. It’s like the ball represents gaining the controlling power back. Meanwhile, without the toy, he looks so bored and lays down very slowly, but at least he listens to me and would not break down stay without the release command. I gave him praise when he did a good job. I did the watch me exercise and even spit food from my mouth. it helped a little bit, but didn’t get a significant result like I see when you teach dog attention training.

I hope i described the situation clearly. I just wanna him pay more attention and be happy. he’s a really smart dog and once he pays attention he learns things very fast.

Adam replies:

Hi, White Shepherd:

What you’re going to need to do first is: Resolve the relationship issues you have with your dog. He should not be correcting you for going after the ball. You are the Alpha dog, not him. It is YOUR BALL and he is YOUR SUBORDINATE (in the pack). The subordinate dog never corrects the Alpha dog, in the wild. If he does, then it is interpreted as insubordination and a direct challenge to his leadership… which can affect the SURVIVAL of the entire pack.

So, it needs to be addressed, immediately.

You need to correct him with 2X the seriousness that he corrects you.

It’s only after you’ve established yourself — and let him know that if he even thinks about correcting you, that it’s not going to be in his best interest– that you can start working on the obedience and building him up to make him flashy in his obedience routine.

DPTrainer4 adds:

Something you might also do is work with the presence of the ball, but not it’s inclusiveness in the exercise (hold on, I’ll explain…not as complicated as it sounds at first!). This takes away the cumbersome-ness of trying to hold a ball AND give a motivational correction.

Work attention and stationary exercises with the ball on the ground. Walk near the ball, sit next to the ball, and make sure that he’s paying attention to you. Do anything you can with the ball on the ground, and once you have that down, start moving the ball with your feet like a soccer ball to make it more appealing.

J&J sells a waist-clip to hold a ball hands-free, but it only works with tennis-ball or Chuck-It-type balls. It might be of help too, depending on your needs and the size of the ball he needs.

If at all possible, I’d also recommend a ball on a string. I believe Adam has, in the book, some instructions on how to make one yourself. It’s just a good toy to have, and the string adds something for you to grab a hold of.  Please keep me updated as to how the dog attention training progresses.

Dog counter surfing and jumping up on the backs of people legs

Phyllis writes to me:

Hi Adam, I have read your book on dog obedience training twice and searched the forums but haven’t found a good answer to my questions. I have a 4 1/2 month old German Shorthair/Lab mix named BooBoo. She is an assertive but not really aggressive dog. She has already become dominant mostly to our 5 year old Shepherd mix. My questions are: 1) how do we keep her from counter surfing. We have tried the mousetraps on the counter but she wised up to those after just one snap. She simply ignored any “set up” food we place behind a mousetrap (even when we hid it in a folded paper towel) or if she can, she gets around the trap to get to the food. She has even moved the trap to get to the food before. She is not frightened by loud noises so I can’t use the loud pans trick. I have also tried putting a tab leash on her but she just chews on the end of it whenever she can. And it is hard to grab her tab when I am several feet away from her while she gets her paws up on the counter. By the time I get to her, she is already down. Should I be correcting her even after she has gotten down? One more thing, I have gotten her to stop jumping on me in front, but she’ll come up from behind and bounce off my the back of my legs and be gone before I can turn and correct her. Other than these problems, she is adorable, I must say! Thanks for any help. Phyllis

Adam replies:

Hi, Phyllis:

What you’re going to need to do with this dog is: Use the crate when you cannot supervise her, until she is 100%. When you set her up, correct her with the pinch collar and tab/leash. If she’s chewing the tab, this tells me that you’re not keeping a close enough eye on her. (Hint: To make it easier on your pocket book, use a harness snap and a piece short piece of rope you can buy from a hardware store, both for under $1).

Just to make sure you’re understanding correctly: Take the collar and tab off, when you put her in the crate.

In regard to correcting her after she’s gotten down: That’s where the bridging technique comes in. As soon as she does the behavior — even if you’re on the other side of the room– you need to yell, “No, no, no” as you run to her and administer the behavior. By saying “No,” right at the moment she does it, you’re creating a virtual snap shot in her mind, and by continuing to say “no, no, no” as you run to her, you’re forcing her to remember what she’s being corrected for. Studies I’ve read suggest you have at least 7 to 9 seconds after the behavior, as long as you’re using that bridging technique. So, yes; You should be correcting her after she’s jumped back down off the counter, as long as you’ve said, “No!”

In regard to the jumping while behind you: Same deal. Say, “No!” and then grab that tab or leash and administer your correction. If you’re using the pinch collar and leash correctly (loose-tight-loose) this behavior should be eliminated, very quickly. If not, then your correction isn’t firm enough.

Keep me posted,
– Adam.

Dealing with your dog’s prey obsession problems

Andersenm writes to me:

Hi Adam – Just joined and started on the book – I adopted from a rescue orginization a Border collie/Golden retriever mix of 15 months of age. he definitly needs work but has learned some commands while indoors – problem is his prey obsession, I have had to cover some windows and door windows because he has become totally obsessed with the squirrels outside. Since this is entering week four of our relationship I still use a leash on him in my 1.5 acre fenced yard. I realize I cannot rid him of this as it is natural but do have to temper it some. Anything that would help while I digest your book cover to cover would help. I did raise and train a border collie that we had for 15 years before he passed and do not remember having this much trouble with him.
Mike Andersen


Adam replies:

Hi, Mike:

Most likely, with this breed mix, he’s got a pretty soft temperament– which is a good thing– so it shouldn’t be too hard to correct this.

First: Make sure his exercise requirements are met. (This means: A lot of cardio).

Second: You’re correct in keeping the leash (or a long line, outside) on him… until he’s 100%. I would start with correcting the behavior in the house, using the tab (as described in the book). This is mostly an issue of making your corrections motivational, and then keeping him in the dog crate (in the house) or kennel (outside) when you’re not home. This allows us to make sure the dog is getting corrected CONSISTENTLY until he drops the behavior.

You’re actually quite lucky, because you can channel that prey drive into a ball or a toy, and use it as a motivator to get him to respond to commands extra-fast and with a positive attitude.

Read through the book. I think it’ll make a lot of things clear for you. If you still have questions, please post again and I’ll try to extrapolate on any issue that might not be clear.


Teaching Your Dog the Off Collar “Come” Command

Elizabeth writes to me:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. You helped me realize that I can trust my instincts with Mollie. I really noted your idea of the dog gaining “respect and trust” for the owner. I see that in Mollie as she matures. She is seven and half months old now.

Speaking of “collar smart” I guess I still don’t have the concept of how to avoid it. Mollie does well with her collar but since we keep her in our large fenced back yard, she doesn’t usually have it on when we walk out and interact with her on an informal basis. She definitely acts differently with the collar and I guess my real question is how to “off leash” train.
Adam speaks of never giving a command unless you are close enough to the dog (and the tab) to give a correction, but how does one accomplish this is you want to teach the ‘come’ command from a distance? I’ve watched the video of teaching “come” with the lunge line, and I’ve done that, but how does one move away from that to off leash? Maybe I just need to reread Adam’s directions but I can’t visualize how this is accomplished. I realize I’m repeating myself, but again, how can I teach her to come, off leash, from a distance, if I always need to be close enough to give the correction?

Actually, Mollie is pretty good with the command, but not perfect. I don’t fully trust her with this one yet.

Thanks again for the last response. I find the debate about training to be interesting. I am teacher and we have that same debate in education. Yes, positive feedback is always best, but sometimes we all need that “negative” motivation. I think it’s a law of nature.


Adam replies:

Hi, Elizabeth:

Think of it this way: The leash and collar are just a tool to help YOU teach the dog that he cannot run away from you, and that he cannot ignore commands.

I knew a woman in Missouri who did the following: She would take a young dog and put the dog in a small, enclosed yard. No leash, no training collar. Just a buckle collar. Every time she called, she’d go and MAKE the dog come. The dog learned that he could not run away, because she’d catch him– EVERY TIME.

With the long line, you’re playing a MIND GAME on the dog. You’re getting the dog conditioned to respond every time– just the same way you get conditioned to pay attention and reach for the telephone, every time it rings.

Once the dog is conditioned, you can take the long line off and sub the tab. But remember: Reinforcement is forever, so if you start to see the conditioned response get slower– that’s when you pull out the long line (or the e-collar) and brush up.

Make sense?

– Adam.

Is Eight Weeks-Old Too Young To Crate Train Your Dog?

Hi, Adam: I got an 8 week old puppy from a person that just let him run free in his house. I am assuming that the puppy was free to potty any where and it was just cleaned up instead of working on training him to go in a certain place. Now enter me who is trying to crate and potty train. I put him into his crate and he sits there and whines, cries, and scratches at the door. I know 8 weeks is young but he potties everywhere and anywhere, doesn’t matter, in the pen or on the floor. I take him outside and he sits at my feet whining until I bring him in and then he potties. I just purchased your book and am reading it but I need help fast and there is just so much to absorb. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I just got a new house and can’t have him going everywhere.

Adam replies:

Hi, Gini:

No, it’s never too late to start. In fact, we recommend that you start as soon as you get your new dog– regardless of his age.

In the beginning, expect it to take 2-4 days, before the puppy acclimates to the crate.

Watch these videos. It’s a good “quick start”

You might want to focus on this department, too:

Some of the articles jump back and forth, between mentioning “adult” and “puppy”. I’m trying to clean this up. We hired a search engine optimization company, and they ended up doing more harm than good. I think you’ll get the general idea, though. If you have further questions, just post a new question at the top of the forum. We’re here to help you.

– Adam.


Help With House Training Her Dog

Skahler writes to me:

Hi, I just downloaded the secrets book yesterday and am just about finished. We are having some issues with going in the house. I am home during the day with our 1 year old lab mix dog. We have only had her about a week and a half. I bought Poochie Bells and am trying to teach her to use those when she needs to go out. One problem is she rings the bells even if I know she doesn’t need to go out to go to the bathroom. I want to know if the bells are even a good idea, and how can we teach her to let us know when she needs to go out if we don’t use the bells? I take her out every time she rings the bells, which is becoming a pain. She peed on the carpet this morning and I am not sure when. I keep such a close eye on her I don’t know when she did it. My other question is how do I correct her for this, isn’t it too late since I am not sure when it happened, and how do I correct it?

Adam replies:

Hi, Skahler:

Take a look a my video, “HouseBreaking In A Hurry” (divided into five part)

I’m going to copy and paste your post, and comment in-between:

SK: One problem is she rings the bells even if I know she doesn’t need to go out to go to the bathroom. I want to know if the bells are even a good idea, and how can we teach her to let us know when she needs to go out if we don’t use the bells?

>> Adam replies: I don’t think they’re a good idea. More hassle than it’s worth. She’s old enough to hold it, until you let her out. (At regular intervals). Also– as a general rule: If she gets super-animated and is ripping around the house, that’s probably a good indication she needs to go out, too. But normally, after a few days– if you put her on a set feeding and watering schedule (no free feeding!) you’ll have an idea as to about how frequently she needs to go outside. Once every four hours or so is typical. Many dogs can hold it, even longer.

I take her out every time she rings the bells, which is becoming a pain.

>>Adam replies: Agreed.

She peed on the carpet this morning and I am not sure when.

>>Adam replies: This is a handler error. You need to keep one eye on her LIKE A HAWK if she’s not in the crate or outside. Otherwise you’re being inconsistent.

I keep such a close eye on her I don’t know when she did it.

>> Adam replies: If you need to, keep her on a leash, and attach the leash to your belt, until you’re more confident about your ability to keep her from eliminating in the house, without getting a correction.

My other question is how do I correct her for this, isn’t it too late since I am not sure when it happened, and how do I correct it?

>> Adam replies: See above.

Does what I’ve written make the process easier to understand for you? If not, keep asking me questions until it’s crystal clear. For the dog, it’s a process of:

1. Getting her conditioned to eliminate outside, where she gets both relief, and praise for doing it in the right spot.


2. The contrast with #1 and getting a correction for doing it in the house.
(Plus the other elements I talk about in the video).

Keep me posted,


Train Your Dog to Stop Licking

DancingFlame writes to me: “Hello, I have a pug/chihuahua mix and I would like to thank you for the solutions you’ve already given me. My dog was whining in her crate and having a hard time learning the down command. We bought her a comfy bed and began feeding her inside the crate, and now she actually enjoys napping in it and will go inside at bedtime without being prompted. We’ve also got a good start on the “down” command.

I’ve looked over your games to play section in order and would like to teach her to locate hidden items. I started with smelly salmon treats, and she was unable to find them. Do you have any recommendations of tricks or techniques that can help us to develop her sense of smell? I would love to work up to her bringing me my keys (when I lose them).

My husband has a question for you. Our dog will often lick his hands, face, and arms while he’s petting her. He doesn’t like it and says he feels like a jerky treat, but hasn’t corrected her yet, as he doesn’t want to discourage her from feeling confident in our pack. Should we train her not to do this, or is it normal behavior for her place in the pack?

Thank you in advance!”

Adam Replies Hi DancingFlame:

Hi, DancingFlame:

Thanks for the feedback.

The trick with teaching her how to find hidden objects is to start by getting her excited about the treat, and then let her see you hide the treat — but pretend like you’re really hiding it. Tell her, “Go find it!”

Do that a few times, and then hide it in pretty much the same place, but don’t let her see you put it there. (She’ll go back to the same place! LOL).

After a few times, hide it maybe a 1/2 foot, and then a foot from that same location.

The rinse and repeat in two more locations.

Then mix it up, so that she goes to check the old locations, too. At the same time, you can help her out by saying, “Check here,” and snapping your fingers at the spot.

As for the licking: It could be from a vitamin deficiency. You might talk with your vet about changing food. If it is behavioral, usually the easiest way to fix it is to just say, “No!” and pinch the tongue when she licks you. (This licking behavior isn’t submission, because the submissive behavior does not continue for more than a couple of seconds, when it’s that!)

If pinching the tongue doesn’t work, you can use the collar and tab to give a LIGHT correction, and then offer her a toy to chew on.

Keep me posted.




Why do we debate dog training methods?

By Lynn –

I unintentionally got into a dog training debate at one of my favorite blogs, and promptly stepped back to state that I refuse to do tit-for-tat arguments, and my participation in this string of comments was over. (Amazingly, the other party continued to rant and rave while providing support that I was nothing short of one mean, son-of-a-bitch for daring to correct my dog. Speaks to the maturity level of some, doesn’t it?!)

I do not do such debates. There is no gaining ground, unless “you” have more supporters than “they” do, and of course “they” always tend to be more vocal because “you” are, quite frankly, abusing dogs and have no business putting your hands on any dog because it will only end up cowering, urinating all over itself, tucked tail, and repsonding out of only the fear of the highest degree.

Simply put, “they” are out to make “you” think that you might be able to drive a car, be a parent, own your own home even…but you are not fit to own, much less train, your own dog without ruining it.

How can one gain ground against such a flood?

Easy: not get dragged in dog training methodology debates!

It’s not always the easiest to stay out of them, if nothing more to offer support to someone whose point of view happens to mirror yours, and of course once you start following them, it’s hard to not interject your opinion here or call shenanigans there.

On doing some serious thinking about this issue, my thoughts were drawn to WHY we dabate these things the way we do. Heaven knows that no side will win, and the only way the debate ends is when we all go our separate ways and continue to do what we love.

Consider this my own official good-bye to the dog-training debate:

Why exactly DO people get so hot under the collar when debating dog training, especially in regards to the 3 main types of training commonly mentioned (those being the William Koehler-type methods, the positive-reinforcement-only/clicker methods espoused by popular authors such as Karen Pryor, and the balanced methods popularized by the likes of the Monks of New Skete and Cesar Millan)?

I have rarely found it necessary to get defensive or overblown because I am confident in my results. I see no need to compete with someone else’s ability to train a dog for many and various reasons. Of course the dog is trained, and some are trained to a better degree than others, and we all know that training can all be accomplished toward different ends (agility vs Rally vs Schutzhund vs generic obedience that most families desire). I know why my method works, versus why it is superior or inferior to other methods. I’m not using my chosen method of dog training just because I was told to or because it’s “tradition” or because I’m just a mean bitch, I’m using it because it’s given me good results and can be tempered to individual dogs without losing the overall philosophy.

The problem comes when someone says that they use “what works” in their training. I can see where this might cause a rift…I understand that hitting a dog “works” to make it stop doing something, and I can understand that redirection also “works.” For some dogs, using a food treatie is what “works” to help teach a concept, while praise “works” for the majority of ones I have met. Without elaboration of the technique, it’s easy to hear where “what works” can go awry and cause some people to automatically go on the defensive, just in case that one person is one of those types who can do everything but own/train their own dog correctly.

In fact, one of my favorite comments on a dog-related blog was directed at anyone who uses corrections: the entry was centered around a video filmed by a security camera in an elevator that showed a man walking in with his dog, literally beating the snot out of it while the car was moving, and calmly walking out with it when the ride was over. The person who posted this video unabashedly announced that anyone who trained using Koehler’s techniques would soon end up like this man. A follow-up comment was something to the effect of “And people still believe in training with “what works” rather than taking the time to learn more positive methods.”

Far be it for me to see the remote connection between outright abuse such as that and the Koehler program from start to finish (instead of the other way around, as most people are more likely to read it), but I had to laugh at that, and I still do today. Sadly, my laughter is not so much of the humorous variety, more of the “I do feel sorry for you” type: some people are just never meant to craft out logical arguments.

I think this person summed it up quite nicely in regards to what someone means when they say they use what method “works” to train any particular dog:

“If you define “works” as reliable, single-command performance (and we’re talking obedience here, not sheep herding) at liberty (off leash, in public, around distractions, and without batteries) well, then, your list of training methods that “work” gets very short indeed.”

[From the comments section in this entry]

Any training method will work, and yes, backfiring counts…it’s working, but it may not be in the way that the trainer or owner intended. The dog is being trained to DO something, even if it is to not listen, keep doing what it is doing, or, at best, do something else but still not listen. To make a method really take off and go far, though, it needs to really work. As this lady put it, when compared to the long list of various ways in “how to get a dog to [do this behavior or not do this behavior]”, when speaking in terms of what the average family is asking of the average family dog, some methods are definitely better than others. Which ones, of course (without taking into consideration the method being advocated by the commenter), will always be under debate.

I think of it as the “I’d love to do that, I love animals” line used by people who have no idea what is involved in certain animal-related professions other than playing with cute doggies or kitties: loving animals is a start, but any such job is far from just receiving animal therapy all day. It’s how you can further yourself in their care and learn as much as you can about anything related to them that really sets you apart. Similarly, positive reinforcement techniques are a start, and should always be present in training: but it’s how you can vary the reinforcement and really polish commands using both rewards and corrections (seriously, who wants to use such a thing as punishment in training?!) in a way that benefits the dog the best that can take the relationship as well as performance to new levels.

And to tie it all together: as for me, I will stick with what I know to work, strive to make it better for both me and the dogs I will one day work, and not engage in tit-for-tat arguments over how to teach/unteach certain behaviors simply because someone believes that, without meeting me or judging the perfomance of my dogs rather than judging me on what tools I use, they can do the job that much better.

“Different Methods for Different Dogs”?

By Lynn –

It’s no myth that every dog is different, and I would hope that no one (well, who doesn’t have dollar signs dancing in their collective eyeballs) would perpetuate that myth by using a one-size-fits-all approach. Heaven forbid their approach fail: the consequences could range from absolutely no change in behavior (and hence a call for euthanasia because the dog is “unfixable”) to an extreme opposite in presentation, with maybe a few successes in between.

The problem comes when people try to justify that dogs with different personalities, temperaments and drive require different METHODS in training.

I’m as bad with intriguing lead-ins as I am with dramatic endings, so I’ll start with the obvious conclusion: Different dogs don’t require different METHODS as much as they do the VARIANCE of one basic technique.

It irks me when trainerettes (hat tip to Linda Kaim for the term) insist how pure positive is the way to go for many dogs, but others could benefit from some use of aversives (provided they are applied GENTLY so as to not cause the poor pup any lasting psychological damage), while still others are beyond help and worthy of nothing but a quiet, humane ending.

Then there are the myth-perpetuators who insist that if their method fails, there is no hope, none whatsoever.

It’s at this point I call bull plop.

These are extreme examples, but then again the industry is filled with some extreme ideas in this era. What these people are missing is that, for all the different methodologies and techniques out there, they are still training a basic animal: a dog. After acknowledging what is on the end of the leash, we must now look at what breed or type or dog: is it a herder? A hunter? A retriever? An independent Spitz-type dog? One must have SOME idea of the type of dog on the end of the leash in order to use potential drives and desires to the best of one’s ability, as well as knowing approximately what general temperament should present itself. Knowing the individual personality is going to be a definite plus: is this particular dog neurotic and shy or nervous? What about the one that is cocky and doesn’t mind flipping the bird now and then? Do you have a paper tiger on the end of your leash or a real one? Now let’s think again why the dog is in training and what particular problems exist, both to be solved and to be learned. The question is not “What METHOD would be best for this dog?” but “What VARIANCE of technique will be the right fit for this dog?”

The above paragraph has the unfortunate effect of looking like a formula, and while some parts of training are procedural, the actual teaching and learning are anything but formulaic (although they might become repetitive!). Most of you can probably zip off the buzzwords by heart now, all together now: Exercise, discipline, affection. (However, this is not training as much as it is a way of life, but it’s still an oft-repeated concept.) Behavioral researchers have attempted to turn what is really an art into something that can be measured and categorized, and while a small part of this is beneficial to the industry, it’s actually more of a disservice to what true trainers consider is an art.

Now, I don’t mean “Art” as in the class where you got to get dirty with clay and glaze, use fancy watercolors, pretend to get high with markers, or splash around in the darkroom. It’s fun to think about, though. I certainly miss those days.

The art of dog training is to first know, for example, the basic language, instincts and motivations of dogs. I’m not going to explain all that, since theSecrets of a Professional Dog Trainer! book goes into detail with that quite nicely in the first section. But once one understands how dogs WORK (to use a rather general word), the question arises: “How can I use dogs’ own workings with the right technique and vary that technique to suit this individual dog?”

The average pet-owner is taught to think in terms of positive and negative, and I’ll completely drop the psychobabble here, Positive will mean good, happy, kittens-and-rainbows etc while negative will mean bad, aversive, thunderclouds-and-death kind of things. Of course these things are usually placed in linear mode, so that the Bad is on one end and the Good is on another. The average owner is taught to think in terms of a sliding scale: if you are not using enough Good in your training, then clearly you are using more Bad than necessary, and must use less Bad and more Good or else your dog will hold a grudge and hate you for life. (Which might be true for serious yank-n-crank techniques used on the wrong dogs!) They’re taught that, by using enough Good, they can stamp out that awful, evil Bad, just like in the movies. And if they DO in some way/shape/form have to use any Bad, it must either be used gently and/or as an ABSOLUTE LAST RESORT because if it doesn’t work, your dog must be euthanized or rehomed to a farm where it can have all the room it wants to run around.

If only it were that easy. To make it easier on me, I’m going to keep using Good and Bad just so I’m not using the more Biased And Confusing Behaviorism Terms.

In situations regarding basic training and obedience, I do not accept the sliding scale, nor do I accept the “All dogs need different methods” argument. The sliding scale is just unrealistic, and the “methods” argument is just a way to appease people who may disagree with the fact that you have no problem using such a thing as a pinch collar when training your dog. The truth is, when someone uses a different “method” on a dog, they are not reinventing the wheel…just making it more refined to their needs.

Someone who drives a race car is going to need a specific type of wheel. The off-roader riding in the ATV is definitely not going to use those same wheels. An average city driver is pretty much not going to have any use for either of the aforementioned types of wheels. Yet, if you remove the wheels, even just one, NONE of these vehicles are going anywhere. But it’s the same thing moving them forward…just different types.

And so, I come to my dramatic point: training involves using the SAME METHOD on EVERY DOG, but varying the degrees to which we use our Good and Bad.

An extremely soft, insecure or underconfident dog might need a whole truckful of reserved, calm Good and not a lot of Bad. A hyper dog going a mile a minute might need a lot of Good and and a little bit more Bad to teach control and restraint. A stubborn dog might need a lot of Good and some Bad in order to teach that when asked to jump, one must do so. An extremely aggressive dog (whether handler- or dog-aggressive or anywhere in between) might need a lot of Good along with a lot of Bad to teach that any aggression is absolutely unacceptable in any situation.

What passes as Good for one dog might be Bad for another: not all dogs enjoy a high-pitched happy voice, a hearty thump on the ribs, or even the consistency of a clicker and treat. Some might find them too boring, too scary, or just not motivational enough to keep going. Our shy dog might suffice with a treat, some calm physical contact and soft “Good.” The hyper dog, is, of course, going to thrive off attention and maybe find Good in the throwing of a ball. Our aggressive case we might not use happy praise either: for this dog, Good might simply be communicated through the lack of Bad (which should not be interpreted to mean “lack of praise”).

What passes for Bad as some dogs might be WAY Bad for another: a stern look for our shy, insecure dog will more than suffice, while our aggressive case will just throw us the finger and proceed as usual. However, it we gave a heavier correction to even our hyper dog as we would give to the aggressive dog, that would be a little too much–and let’s not consider what it would do to our shy dog. Underkill would result in no change from status quo, while overkill results in total shutdown.

I hope everyone noticed the pattern on our respective dogs: they ALL receive Good in some form, whether it’s from praise, food, or play. However, they all also received varying levels of Bad based on their temperaments and individual needs, and whatever FORM that Bad takes is up to the dog: does it require a stern “No”? What about a collar correction, and if so, to what degree? Is there a particular stimulus that is NOT right for this dog? (Case in point: My dog wears an e-collar. I do not stim her. She is too soft even for a lower-level stim, but responds to the pager just fine. She also will wear a pinch collar occasionally. A light tug is all that is necessary. Anything higher will shut her down.) THIS is training. Remember that Exercise, discipline, affection thing I wrote earlier? Training is not a lifestyle, and this particular lifestyle is something that I do recommend in that order for every dog.

Between using a balance of Good and Bad along with a proper relationship with your dog, there is no need to use any other “method” to train. What’s important is not how you appear to others: anyone with a pinch collar on their dog is automatically assumed to use it in the most severe manner, and anyone with an e-collar is assumed to be lighting up the poor animal like a Christmas tree. Others are not the one living with your dog, vetting your dog, or sharing a healthy dog/owner relationship with your dog. If you are training your dog in a balanced way that the dog understands and that gets you consistent, reliable and reasonably quick results, then the only worry others should have is how come THEIR dog won’t respond to commands after watching yours do so flawlessly, with a wagging tail, a spring in his step, and the willingness to do it all over again.

And their worries should start at the source: choosing a trainer who specializes in the ability to vary a single, traditional, time-tested technique (and the tools used, if necessary) to suit the individual dog. There is no such thing as a “different method.” There are only different dogs.