Is Your Dog Driving You Crazy? Working Toward Stronger Dog Training

I often get asked, and sometimes get argued with about which type of training makes for a stronger “final” behavior.

So let’s break that down in a way that I hope I can explain well so that you understand who to achieve the strongest behaviors while training your dog.

First Let’s Talk About The Three Basic Ways to Train That I will be Describing

  • 1st Force or Correction
  • 2nd Luring
  • 3rd Shaping

Force or Correction

Although it sounds bad, to those of us who don’t like leash corrections; force or think of it as “help” isn’t always a bad thing.

Let’s take Sit

Many people hook a leash up, yank the dog up or snap back on the leash while pushing the dog’s rump down.

This is how most of us were taught to train a puppy or dog to sit.

Say “sit” yank, push and then reward (some people reward).

Do dogs learn this way?

Yes, of course they do!

Some people still mainly train in this method.

It seems quicker because we are forcing it to happen quickly and on our time.

The problem is that the dog WAITS for the command, and the dog often waits for the correction or force.

You see in the beginning the dog the dog thinks that the force is part of the equation.

You say sit and he waits for you to do your part, the push and the leash correction.

He learns through aversion, usually, to eventually avoid the “correction” because it increasingly becomes uncomfortable and distasteful and will eventually act on his own when he hears the command.

Think of the owner who gets angry because he has issued the command and yet the dog is not responding so his correction gets more and more harsh.

The dog learns because he is avoiding the harsh correction.

LuringMaster and her obedient  dog

Luring is a better way to get a solid behavior but it still has it’s flaws!

Luring requires showing the dog the treat or reward and luring him into completing the behavior.

Let’s take “Sit” as an example again.

If a person wants their dog to sit and they are using the luring methodology they take a treat, put it up to the dog’s nose and then slowly begin to raise the treat up into the air.

The dog or puppy’s butt will naturally hit the floor, at which point the behavior is marked (hopefully with a clicker for more on why that is important click here) and the treat is delivered.

I prefer to add the cue/command AS the puppy is performing the behavior not prior to his completing the behavior.  I believe this helps the puppy to understand.

Remember it may take a few times to get your puppy’s rump to successfully hit the floor and if you give the command first the puppy may not remember that the command or the cue goes with that specific behavior.

After a few sessions, the dog or puppy will hopefully begin to naturally sit on his own in hopes of being rewarded.

I say “hopefully” because sometimes, especially with more complicated behaviors, the dog or puppy may wait to be lured.

Although since there is nothing unpleasant about luring, if the owner waits, the dog usually will learn to show the behavior that was once rewarding.

Even with complicated behaviors, usually, the dog will at least try to perform at which time the owner can reward the steps toward the goal.

*For instance the dog may not automatically turn on the light switch (the complicated behavior you were hoping for) but he may jump up on the wall and motion toward the lights; then that step can be rewarded as part of a complicated behavior chain.


Pet Owner Training Dog Using Clicker

Pet Owner Training Dog Using Clicker

Shaping is actually the strongest way to condition a behavior!

When you shape a behavior, you are waiting for the dog to show part or all of the behavior.

Let’s go back to “Sit”.

If I wait for my dog to sit, and then I reward him for the behavior; my dog learns to show the behavior ON HIS OWN and he learns that is it rewarding!

That is the big difference.  He isn’t waiting for you to “force him”, he isn’t waiting for you to “help him” he learns that the behavior in and of itself is rewarding.

Once you have marked the behavior with a clicker or a marker word (hopefully a clicker), then you gain control of the behavior and can add the cue or command.

So, I wait for my puppy to sit and I click and reward him.  He learns that sitting brings rewards and begins to do it often around me.  At this point, I tell him what he is doing as he is doing it so he understands that the word goes with the behavior.

Soon, I can use the word/command/cue and he will understand the rewarded behavior is what I desire.

I much prefer this way of training.

I like a dog that wants to show the behavior because he knows I like it.  I want a dog that chooses to do things that he feels are rewarding.

I don’t want him to wait for me to use the command or cue, or wait for me to force or lure him.

If you think about it; you will see how powerful shaping is in difference to other ways of dog training!

The Thing to Remember

The thing to remember is, that good dog training probably uses all of these methods; yet relies on as much shaping as possible!

For instance:

I am probably never going to catch my dog rolling over so that I may capture it, or shape it.

Instead, I am probably going to lure him into a down and hopefully from there lure him over onto his back and then fully around.

But, I may have to help him when he is partially there.  Many dogs panic when they are learning to roll over (since this is not a normal feeling or behavior for a dog).  And, I often help the dog by calmly and gently taking those flailing legs and helping the dog back onto his other side while feeding him.

I remember as a child about 12 years old, trying to teach our pet Chow Chow how to roll over.  We (my sister and I) would have her lay down, shout roll over and then simply grab her legs and toss her over.

She balked at first, and it took a very long time; but eventually she too learned to roll over on command.

We didn’t realize that dogs and people learn faster, the more positive the experience!

Remember that!

Your dog might learn if you use “not so positive methods” but they learn faster and the behaviors are more solid the more positive the experience is and the less they think they need help from you or anyone else!

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  1. Lynn Koehler says:

    My 9 month cocker is good except this 1 thing! As soon as I get up from couch etc she automatically jumps up and takes whatever fits in her mouth and runs with it and I’m out of ideas and it’s to the point I’m out of ideas! Help!


    Minette Reply:

    First I would strap on a leash so that I had control!

    And, read this for another perspective


  2. Randy says:

    I have started click training. I have a female 3 yr old schnauzer. Sounds, noises scares her. The crinkle of a water bottle expanding. A smack of the lips will send her to her safe place. In click training the first step is getting my dog to realize that the treat comes after the click. One click sends her to the safe place. What can I do to get her not afraid of the common noises! Also the click?

    Note I do not have the clicker near her its in my pocket or behind my back. Also I got the quietest clicker I could find.


  3. Gonzaga Gonza says:

    very good lessons for all dog owners and trainers.Giving people alternatives helps them pick what is best for their character and respective dogs.And a bove all saves poor animals from abuse in the name of training by some trainers.


  4. Bebe says:

    Move anything that fits in her mouth (remote control?) out of the way before you get up, or pick it up as you go. If she finds nothing to run off with often enough, she’ll stop looking for something. Since she’s asking you to play, perhaps as soon as she stops looking for something she shouldn’t have, throw a ball or offer a tug toy, have a quick game – then she’ll focus on what you might be doing rather than looking for things to steal. But the easiest on the nerves when you have a puppy that steals everything is to hide everything you can out of reach. Then you’re not rewarding her by chasing to get it back, or yelling at her all the time.


  5. Bebe says:

    You need to get her unafraid of noises before trying the clicker. Cuddle her while proffering an empty plastic bottle, let her feel how nice it is to crinkle while feeling safe in your arms. Do the same while friends or family make other common noises, cuddle, murmur, offer treats. Only when she doesn’t associate noise with running to hide can you use it in training. There is a plug-in scent that soothes nervous dogs you can get – Adaptil; that might help. But you’ll never clicker train her if she’s scared of the clicker.


  6. Christina B. says:

    I am trying to train my 5yr Red Heeler to not poo indoors and the clicker is not working. The only plus is he will poo by the cat’s litter box but once we go outside nothing. I am going out of my mind, I have tried treats, the clicker and crying and nothing seems to help. The videos seem to only work for new puppies not old ones. What do I do?


    Minette Reply:

    Search for our potty training articles in the search bar at teh top of the page. And, honestly age doesn’t matter


  7. John says:

    My Yorkie runs out the door every time it’s opened


  8. Diane says:

    I would also like to know what to do with a dog that is frightened of the clicker. I have a 4 month old yorkie/chihuahua/shih tzu mix and she is terrified of the sound of the clicker. She jumps and runs away even when she knows I have a treat in my hand.


    Minette Reply:

    Read this


  9. Linda Hoffecker says:

    I, too, hate the clicker. It is very annoying to me and my sensitive ears…..But, I don’t like anything loud so since dogs and cats have more sensitive hearing that humans, I can only imagine how they feel.. Did you ever think that maybe the clicker works because once the dog does as he/she is supposed to do and the click is clicked they are happy that it’s over with !?


    Minette Reply:

    Not at all, read all the research!


  10. Grant says:

    I thought the words that appear above the comment section said “There are 12 Commands”. I was like: what?
    Under fairly loose scrutiny I realized it said “Comments”.
    That being said, my good friend, Kenna, The Border Heeler (Border Collie, Blue Heeler) understands more than 60 verbal commands and Hand signs, including “bang” and “alive” (you can probably figure out what she does when I say those particular words). She is an extremely smart Dog, and has been trained using the positive reinforcement, Clicker and Shaping methods. That also being said, I haven’t met a dog that wouldn’t eventually offer behaviors using these methods.
    How many Cues, Commands and Hand signs does your friend understand?


  11. DR G B Ross says:

    I have an 8 Year old registered mini Schnauzer that was given to me a year ago.
    Being her 4th home, she had a few issues, most of which were health oriented.
    She is fearful of any abrupt noise, and hates finger snapping more than any other. She quickly responded to my haphazard training (much illness and death in my family), but, for some reason, that eased her training. I used the clapping thigh method with her and am teaching whisper training that I used with 3 of my blind dogs. (Olivia is blind in one eye.) She loves it. She feels special or acts that way. She also knows a couple of commands I did not teach her. I was telling my husband about my brother’s retirement and roll over. Olivia immediately rolled over! I had a LARGE hound that I taught to sit up on her haunches, and, if she saw food in my hand, she rolled over every way she could (no command) kicking her feet in the air and giving me her hound grin. She had seen some of the smaller dogs (I had nine at the time) do this and saw what delight it gave me. I prefer not to teach this command any more. (20 years ago)
    Soft or louder clapping on my thigh seems to work fine, and I have had numerous dogs to train and retrain.


  12. Mike says:

    I have a 11 1/2 week male doberman . Wife & I watched hands off clicker training DVDs a few times . After it retauggt us to teach the puppy , we eagerly started training him in the hands off clicker training . He is coming along very nicely . We started the training at 7 weeks when we first got him . It comes along slow , but he figures things out well . Still rough edges to smooth out , but we are happy with his progress & eagerness to please us . This is our third doby . Click & kibble training is working ! He’s still a puppy & will use this technique & rounding into shape by gentle command on a consistent ongoing basis . Much more to teach him . More intricate behavior & singing & dancing cone later slowly . A much loved family member . Singing happy birthday with family & calling his mommy our goal . A gentle eager to please animal as our others .


  13. Barbara Mosley says:

    I find that many times when I take my puppy out that I have forgotten the clicker. The answer for is to make a vocal click sound. Remember we all learned this as a child. Problem solved because my “clicker” is always available.


    Minette Reply:

    clickers are by far better training aids, I use both, but the clicker is so much easier for them to learn and faster


  14. Johanna Jonker says:

    Where do I get a clicker?


  15. Donna Luisa McGeehan says:

    My Chihuahua mix loves to grab anything and chew it: markers, paper, cards, calculators…whatever she can reach. I then taught her the command ‘bring it’ using shaping. She would usually take something begin to run away, play with it dropping it, jawing it, picking it up tossing in round in her mouth. She had already learned to ‘come’ consistently. So I just stood watching letting her play with it, then I gave the come command, followed by the ‘bring it’ (I also added a hand signal for ‘bring it’.) Each time she moved toward me before dropping it, I gave the marker, then the treat. (I don’t use a clicker, cuz I always was loosing/misplacing them. I use my voice, a high pitched very short, “good”. When I’m talking on the phone and happen to excitedly say “good or that’s good” they (I have 2 chi.mixes) immediately perk up and look toward me:) ) Anyway, gradually I waited longer, that is, waited for her to come closer with it still in her mouth before saying good & giving reward. I practiced it a lot with her toys and then other items.She’s got it down pat. it’s so fun to show it off to visitors & she’s so adorable doing it. I love it. After she got good at it, I noticed that (I’m always leaving or dropping stuff on the floor, I’m a mess.) she’d find something on the floor, when I wasn’t particularly paying close attention to her, and she’d bring it to me, but kind of shy her head sideways and go right on by me, like: “look at me, look at what I got” but not stop or drop it. As she went by, I’d give the ‘bring it’ command, as soon as she turned back toward me, gave the ‘drop it’ command (which she already knew). Now she’s consistent with ‘bring it’/drop it’. She’ll get anything I drop or leave behind within her reach. Well, sometimes by the time she gets to me there might be a puncture or two, and if she grabs a receipt or paper I’ve dropped her feet step on it as she’s carrying it and tears it, but don’t care. It’s so adorable and fun to reward her. Better than her running away with it, trying to hide somewhere to chew it. Now, I’m trying to teach her words for the objects, i.e. bring bowl or bring Flaco (Flaco=name of fav. toy.) Hope this helps and you can find something similar that’ll work in your situation. D.L. McGeehan


  16. Mary says:

    I have a fifteen months old Beagle. We have tried everything to train her to stop begging for table food or anything you have. You have to say no or leave it over and over. What can we do? Yes we have tried the clicker, but she just doesn’t listen . Then there is the opening of the door. She has to be on the leash at all times if you open a door.


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