Q. Rescued a dog almost two weeks ago, and now that her kennel cough is gone her personality shines!! No previous training, how should I start?


After your dog is familiar with the behavior you lured from scratch, and taught to your dog, you can start to use the "no-reward marker" I talked about. What you do is ask the dog to perform the behavior, and if the dog does not perform the behavior, you simply say your no-reward marker (choose one: eh-eh, hey, uh-oh, oops) show them the treat, put it behind your back, and BRIEFLY ignore your dog. Just turn your back for a second or two, before turning back to your dog and saying, "let's try that again." When you're ready to start over with your dog, make sure you move around. If you are repeating the same cue while in the same position, while your dog is in the same position, you are likely to receive the same results. The more you move around, and start fresh, the better your chances are of having your dog listen to your cue the second time around. BIG rewards when they dog it successfully! Lots of praise and treats.

My no-reward marker is "hey." When my dog does something wrong I say, "hey" and she immediately understands that she needs to offer a different behavior. This is clear to her. I don't have to say it in a mean way, I simply say, "hey" in a normal tone of voice and she understands what the word means.

Once you've built up that connection and communication with your new dog, you can work on all kinds of fun behaviors! I personally enjoy the more zen-like behaviors:

I like to teach my dog fun tricks that offer her a "job" to do of sorts like object retrieval:

(object retrieval training completed; what it looks like:

Scent-games are fun too! Very confidence building. Hide a REALLY smelly treat in a box, and place that box in a line of boxes. Let your dog go in the room while saying something like "search!" or "find it!" and watch them hunt for that smelly treat! Lots of rewards when they find it!

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Personally, I think clicker training is very important. I think it makes each behavior we are trying to teach the dog very very clear to them. I think it helps form a bond/connection between you and your dog because of very clear communication. Communication is very important, and it is what we will talk about first.

Before you can start with training any fun tricks, or competition-style obedience (long stays/downs. heeling. Solid recall. etc) you need to first be able to communicate with your dog. You should work on something called a "no-reward marker." This is a clear way to let your dog know that what they did was wrong during training. To do this, there are a few things you can do.

First, teach "sit" (or any behavior) by LURING: the behavior using treats. You lure with treats (and reward with multiple treats pure successful lure) a few times, then you eliminate the treat and lure with an empty hand, rewarding after the dog follows the empty hand lure. Then, after that is successful, you add the cue. You say the cue, pause for a split second, and THEN lure the behavior, then reward. You "click" the clicker RIGHT when the behavior you want to see happens, for instance, when luring sit, the MOMENT the butt touches the floor is when you "click." Almost as if you're taking a picture of the very moment the action occurred. Reward immediately after the click. One or more treats per click no matter what, and remember, a clicker is not a remote control, do not click it in your dogs face, and do not click it to make the dog perform a behavior. The clicker is behavior marker, and nothing more.

I use the clicker a whole lot in this video where I talk about how to teach a life-saving cue: Leave it - watch as I use the clicker, and teach the leave it cue to your dog to further your communication with one another!

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*Negative Reinforcement: The act of adding an unpleasant stimuli in hopes that your pup will perform a certain behavior in order to avoid that stimuli. For example, spanking your puppy until he sits, and once he sits, his reward is no more spanking. Or rubbing your puppy's nose in her urine in hopes that she will not want you to do that again, and therefor will not urinate indoors again. This is totally inappropriate during training. You do not want to use spanking, yelling, scolding, jailing, your dog in order to get your point across because your pup will end up terrified of you. A scared dog is an unpredictable dog. Your message will not get across to your pup.

*Positive Punishment: The act of adding a negative stimuli when the dog engages in unwanted behavior, in hopes that the pup won't engage in that behavior ever again. This should not be used on dogs under six months of age (or on any dog of any age for that matter). This includes choke collars, prong collars, electric collars, shock mats, startle techniques (clapping your hands with the intention of startling your puppy), harsh corrections, spanking, yelling, etc. Do not use these techniques, even if sometimes you are frustrated with your dog. Always take a few deep breaths, remain calm, and remember that dogs do not do things on purpose to bother you.. They need to be taught (through calm, positive reinforcement, negative punishment, and redirection) that those behaviors are inappropriate.

These are inappropriate to use during training. Everything you do with your dog should be done in a happy way. If you feel like you are too stressed out/frustrated to be happy when training, take a break, it'll be better for the both of you.

Use high value treats as motivators. Things like cooked white meat chicken, mozzarella cheese sticks, hotdogs, cooked fish, cooked turkey bacon, turkey pepperoni, ham, etc. Human foods make great treats!

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A. Excellent! Congrats for adopting, and helping your dog through her kennel cough. This is POST ONE of a few posts I will share with you!

To start, you want to be sure you are focusing on positive reinforcement, and negative punishment during training.

***Positive Reinforcement: Rewarding the pup for certain behaviors in hopes that the behavior will occur again! The more you reinforce a good behavior, the more likely the dog will perform that behavior again. This is the best method to use when training. This is how dogs understand what we want from them, and then feel that that behavior is rewarding enough to perform for you again! This makes dogs want to work for us. It also strengthens our bond with our dogs because you are communicating in a more positive manner.

***Negative Punishment: Taking something enjoyable away from the pup when the pup offers an undesirable behavior. For example, ignoring a puppy who is jumping in attempt to gain your attention. This is appropriate to use during training as well. If your puppy is jumping all over you for a ball in your hand, place the ball behind your back and ignore the puppy until he settles down. This helps the puppy understand that engaging in those behaviors is unrewarding.

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