Go to the bottom for some
great training links to videos and blogs.
It is so important to
take the puppy out daily or as often as possible,
to public places, to every sort of environment, as
frequently as you can.
I have experienced the problems that can
result from raising a puppy in a secluded country
environment, with limited exposure to the wide
variety of more crowded and active public venues,
and therefore, I place this aspect of puppy
raising at the top of the list.
general training remarks:
I recommend getting a
clicker to use as a neutral marker to mark exactly
when your dog does what you want to reinforce. The
clicker is always the same, has no tone of voice,
is quick, and is distinct from whatever verbal
stream may be reaching the dog’s ears from your
clicker should mark the exact moment that the dog
starts to do the desired behavior.
It should coincide with the dog’s muscle
movement to execute the desired behavior.
The clicker is not a reward, and the
clicker is not an attention-getting device.
If a desired behavior
is really a string of several behaviors put
together, see if you can break it into pieces (be
a splitter not a lumper) and teach each piece
A clicker does not
need to be used with every game, and does not even
need to be used at all.
But some exercises are easier to teach
with a clicker.
recommend positive training in general.
That means avoiding frequent and repeated
use of “NO” and
instead teaching the alternate behaviors you do
want to see.
In many cases, when the dog does unwanted
actions, it is sufficient to withdraw your
attention and interaction, turn away, ignore the
dog, stop the game, etc.
Ask yourself what the dog is getting out
of the unwanted behavior, and if he is
inadvertently getting some sort of reinforcement
for it. Reinforce
only behaviors you want continued.
Try not to use the dog’s name as a
scolding or correction (haha).
Manage situations and manage the dog’s
environment so that he can’t get into situations
where he can cause trouble or risk his safety. Don’t
let the dog practice behaviors you don’t want to
communication between you and your dog, expand
your common language, provide physical and mental
outlets for your dog, and provide a structured
environment and lifestyle.
There may be situations where you have
tried many non-aversive options, and you elect for
an aversive method in a certain situation as a
a little research:
Read some books and
websites on clicker training, free shaping,
positive motivation, dog tricks, etc., to get
familiar with the general concepts that are in
the difference between classical conditioning and
operant conditioning. Understand
the Positive/Negative Reinforcement/Punishment
how counter-conditioning and desensitization are
used in dog training.
about the methods you can use to teach behaviors,
such as capturing, luring, and free shaping. Go to
youtube.com and search “free shaping”, for
In general, the steps
elicit the behavior
by the chosen method
if luring with food,
or exaggerated body movement, fade the lure to
hand signal or a more subtle body language cue
name the behavior by
adding verbal cue before signal
In practice, the steps
sometimes overlap depending on the particular
use the word treats.
This can be his meal cut up in bite sized
pieces, it can be tiny pieces of mozzarella or hot
dog, it can be commercial treats, mini-burger
patties broken up, etc.
Normally you want to be able to use
plenty of reinforcement, so you want the pieces to
be very small, and bear in mind that some
commercial treats can be very salty.
The concept of low-value and high-value
treats is useful.
Sometimes you want to vary the
desirability of the treat or reward you are using. Make
yourself a list of the things you can use for
treats, and rank them in order that your dog loves
if you are asking your dog to do something he
hates, or something very challenging, choose one
of his high-value treats.
Keep a few things as extra-special, so
you have something you can use for those
Below are some games that
are great for expanding your communication with
your dog. In
some cases, I have noted the primary method and
when I think a clicker makes it easier to teach. You can
put each game or exercise on a separate 3x5 card
as you add it to your dog’s repertoire, and pick a
few cards at random for a training session, and/or
you can just intersperse them all through your
day, and/or you can work through them in some
A training session should be short, maybe 5
minutes, or intermittent, such as on and off
during a walk.
- Puppy Zen (free shaping)
- Eye Contact (free shaping, clicker)
- Hand Touch (free shaping)
- Leave It (free
of Puppy Zen)
- Tug – Give
- Restrained recall (luring)
- Hide and Seek (luring)
- Can’t Catch Me (luring, treat toss)
- Earning His Meals (free shaping)
- Mat (free shaping, clicker)
- Gotcha (classical conditioning, clicker)
- Quick Switch (food or toy substitution)
- Crate Games
- Sit (luring, clicker)
- Down (luring, clicker)
- Down stay
- Sit stay
- Sit for Patting
- Sit for ears, teeth, paws
- Handling and Grooming
- Target (free shaping, clicker)
- Whistle recall (classical conditioning)
- Open Bar, Closed Bar (classical conditioning)
- This Way (luring)
- Box Game (free shaping)
- Reinforcement Zone (Choose to Heel) (free
- Pivots (perch work) (free shaping)
- Crawl (luring)
- Take a Bow (capturing)
- Roll Over (luring)
- High Five (free shaping)
- Sleepy (capturing)
- Go Around (free shaping)
- Spin (luring)
- Settle (luring)
- Wave (free shaping)
This list is built from
things I have learned from my instructors in
person and online, books, videos, and workshops
over the years.
Zen (free shaping)
has various levels from easy to more
challenging. The easiest level is: you
take something yummy, that he really loves but
seldom gets. Like sausage. Cut up
about 30 or 40 tiny pieces, about as big as a
sunflower seed (i.e., little). Put them in a
little bowl convenient to you, up on a chair or
something. Sit on the floor, and take a
fistful and hold them in your hand, closed in your
fist. Probably he will try to get
them. Let him (short of actual
blood-letting). Be very still, don’t move or
talk or react. Let him paw and mouth at your
hand. Watch closely for any sign of backing
off. If he turns his head away, sits down,
etc. Instantly say “Yes!’ (or even better
click your clicker, if you have one) and quickly
give him one treat from your hand. Then
close your hand again. Don’t say anything,
just let him do his thing. He may try to get
into your closed hand for the treats. Just
be still and ignore that. As soon as you see
any movement to back off, even if he is just
taking a breath and getting ready to pounce again,
mark it with Yes and quickly give him one little
you are looking for is signs that he realizes that
to get the sausage, he must back off and stop
mugging your hand. Keep playing the game
until you think he gets it. Let him be
successful quite a few times. A training
session should not be longer than 3-5 minutes.
time you play, or that time depending on how fast
he progresses, you can up the ante. Now that
he knows to stay back (probably he will sit), open
your hand somewhat in front of him. Be ready
to close your fist instantly. Keep opening
your hand until he will back off for an open hand,
just like the closed fist. Whenever he moves
back from your open hand, quickly take a treat off
your open hand with your other hand and give it to
him. You can also toss the treat on the
floor, and he will turn away to get it, and then
restart the game. Tossing the treat is a
good way to give the dog an opportunity to come
back and play the game again and get another
he will wait when presented with the open hand,
then advance to putting the treats in a little
pile on the floor between you. There may be
several days or several sessions between these
advances in levels. Put the treats on the
floor and cover them with your hand. Don’t
let him get them, but let him shove and push and
scratch to get them. Don’t say
anything. As soon as he backs off, turns
away, or any type of ceasing to be pushy, quickly
give him a treat from the pile. Advance to
holding your fingers open over the pile, and then
to removing your hand altogether. Do not
move on to a higher level until he is very
dependable on a lower level. Give him lots
of repetitions, and lots of opportunities to
succeed and get treats. High level of
reinforcement. Be ready to quickly get your
hand back over the food if he relapses.
he will let you put food on the floor in front of
him, and not take it, which will take numerous
sessions, then you can name this behavior.
Such as “Leave It” or “Mine”. Take your
food, set it on the floor, say “Mine”. Since
he knows the game, he will wait. Give him a
treat and say Good boy!. Pick up the
food. Do that a few times.
higher level is to drop a piece of food from first
a low height, later a standing height, onto the
floor, simultaneously saying “Mine” (after he has
learned all the easier levels). If he tries
to get it, quickly put your foot or hand on it,
and regress back to an easier level, such as drop
from a lower height. You always want to work
at the level where he can be successful, so it is
fun and reinforcing for him. If he fails, he
will lose interest. You need to keep it just
a tad challenging, but not so much that he can’t
succeed a lot.
say No when playing these games. Always just
manage the structure of the game so that he has a
choice, and if he makes the choice you want, he
gets the treat.
Contact (free shaping, clicker)
in front of your dog and wait quietly, small
treats in one hand and clicker in the other, in a
small low-distraction area (bathroom, kitchen with
Wait until your dog looks up at your face. No
When he looks at your face (even by
mistake), instantly click and treat.
Then stand quietly again and repeat. After
some repetitions, your dog will realize that
staring at your face is an easy way to get a
make it slightly harder:
hold your hands, with treats in each
hand, out to the side.
If the dog looks at your hands, ignore
til he looks at your eyes.
Then click and treat.
is great for building the lifelong habit of
watching your face.
Repeat on and off forever.
Touch (free shaping)
positive trainers teach some form of hand touch. I like
Susan Garrett’s method.
Hold out your hand towards your dog. He will
naturally sniff at it.
Instantly drop a treat into it with your
other hand. Keep
practicing until your dog will come and shove his
nose insistently into your hand waiting for the
treat to trickle down.
Switch hands, and put your hands in
various different positions, so he has to move to
touch your hand with his nose.
If he paws your hand, ignore and don’t
can, if desired, later name it Touch (or anything)
but there is no need to name it.
touch is very useful in many ways.
Once your pup will follow your hand you
can move your pup into desired positions in day to
day life with hand gestures.
It is also useful for getting your dog’s
attention on your in situations where you don’t
want the dog to go nosing into something else,
maybe something you are walking by.
A watchout for hand touch is if you do
formal obedience, and want to use a hand signal
for stay, the dog may think your stay signal is a
hand touch signal.
would have to be careful to have a clearly
different stay hand signal.
shaping. Clicker useful. Extension
of Puppy Zen, see above)
on the “Leave It” game first with low level food,
then higher. Food in your hand, wait til he
backs off, give him a piece, if he tries to grab
it, close your hand. No verbal should be
used with this, except you can mark the backing
off with “Yes”, and then give him a treat.
No other verbal. Graduate over a
week or two to open flat hand, be ready to close
your hand. Graduate to food on the floor
with your hand over it with fingers open.
Graduate to food on the floor uncovered.
Each time he restrains himself and does not try to
grab it, mark his self-control with “Yes” (or
clicker, but your hands may be too busy to use the
clicker). When he is pretty good
about this (and don’t rush too fast, give him lots
of success at easier levels before advancing to
harder levels) then you can name the
behavior. As he backs off or stops from
taking it, say “Leave it”, and then mark with
With naming it, all you are doing is putting a
verbal label to behavior he is already
doing. If you associate that verbal label
often with what he is doing, he will learn what it
Gradually use higher-value foods until you can do
the same with pieces of meat.
Then you can make it more challenging, by dropping
food from a low height, simultaneously saying
“Leave It’ and being ready to put your food over
it if necessary. If he is ready to move to
this level, you shouldn’t have trouble. If
you have trouble, drop back to easier
levels. Practice until you can drop food or
toy on floor and dog won’t get it until released
or until you pick it up and hand it to him.
Also practice walking by the distraction
on leash. Lots
of reinforcement, with praise and treats, for
restraint and not taking the object.
When you say “leave it”, it should be in a quiet
neutral voice. You should always try to use
a quiet neutral voice when you tell him to do
Tug – Give
with lots of noise and body animation.
Suddenly stop totally still, don’t move, and say
“Give” and stick a Charlie Bear (or other little
treat) in front of his mouth. He will let go
of the toy. After he chews it up, before his
attention wanders, reactivate the tug toy, get him
playing again, and in 20 or 30 seconds, repeat the
give. Etc. You can also do that with
two toys, alternating between the two.
Use a quiet neutral tone of voice.
is a good game to play back and forth between two
person crouches down holding the puppy around the
other person moves away in an enticing playful
way, laughing, making kissy noises, or etc.
When the pup is anxious to chase the
departing person, the restrainer lets go of the
puppy, and the person running away says “Come” in
a happy voice, and turns to greet, treat, praise
the puppy. You
can also engage in a short wild tug game, that’s a
great substitute for a food reward, and it is a
good idea to vary your rewards.
At first do this at close distances, and
lengthen the distances as you are sure the pup
will come. If
the pup will tend to run off, attach a 15 ft. long
line to the dog.
Do this in a fenced area.
When the pup gets to you, throw a party,
then restrain the pup, and the other person can
entice him to repeat the process.
higher challenge of this game is to leave the dog
on a sit stay (after dog is solid on distraction
stays), and move away with a playful stance, and
suddenly call the dog “Come” and run a little
until the dog catches you.
If the dog breaks the stay, he may not be
ready for this level of distraction on stays. You may
be able to drop back a level, by leaving him on a
stay, but moving away in a quieter less animated
way, or call sooner, before you have gone very far
luring in this case is the chase instinct.
To fade out the lure, you fade out the
playful, enticing movement away, so the dog will
come even if you are not luring with your body
not rush to advanced levels too fast.
and Seek (luring)
of restrained recall.
Someone holds the dog around the chest
(best not to hold by leash, because you want the
dog to be straining to follow), and you run and
hide – behind a tree, the garden shed, whatever is
let go and the dog runs to you, and you reward the
dog with tugging or treat when he finds you. A
variation is when you are outside with the dog and
he is not paying attention, you hide and if he
comes find you, treat or play.
Catch Me (luring, treat toss)
great recall game is you take some Charlie Bears,
or other treats, and run 30 feet in one direction
and as he catches you, toss a Charlie Bear ahead
of you, so he sees it. As he runs to get the
Charlie Bear, reverse direction sharply and run 20
or 30 feet in the opposite direction. You
can make excited noises, laughing, etc. As
he catches up to you, toss the treat ahead of you
again, and then turn and run away again. Do
this 5 or 6 times, and he will love it, he will
get the game, and he will try to get the treat
fast and then turn and chase you.
is not exactly a game, but just an easy and
effective way to get more practice on behaviors
into your dog’s day, and also to reinforce the
habit of your dog to “operate” on his environment. Google
Have him do some behavior before giving
him his meal bowl. Easiest thing is sit
stay. You don’t have to say a word.
Stand with the food bowl. Wait til he
sits. Start to put the food bowl down.
If he gets up, stand up straight again. No
verbal. When he sits, start to set the bowl
down. Keep taking it back until he will wait
while you set it down. Then say OK and
encourage him to the bowl. Make sure you use
a verbal release word to let him know when it is
all right to move to the food.
You don’t want him deciding when to break
a stay. An extension of this is to
hand feed your dog some or all of his meals.
Then you can use his meal to practice and
reinforce all the behaviors you are working
on. Sits, downs, stays, stays with
distractions, etc. etc. Not a necessity, but
it speeds up training, and reinforces the dog’s
understanding that you are the source of what he
(free shaping, clicker)
work is one of my favorite ways to introduce free
shaping to your dog.
The finished product is the dog goes and
lies down on the mat.
Go with your dog to a quiet,
undistracting place without the other dogs,
without other toys, etc.
Be ready with treats and clicker in hand. Put a
dog mat on the floor.
Dog will probably naturally move towards
the mat, sniff it, etc.
Click ANY interest in the mat, any
movement towards the mat, and toss a treat back a
few feet away from the mat.
You want to move the dog away from the
mat so that he can repeat the desired behavior of
going towards the mat.
Stand and wait.
No verbal in this game.
Click any interest in the mat (sniffing
it, pawing it, etc.)
After each click, toss the treat away
from the mat.
The dog will soon learn that to get a treat
he needs to approach the mat.
Up the ante – wait for him to put a foot
on the mat, don’t click for just moving towards
click for two feet on the mat, etc.
want to keep upping the ante, but you also want to
get a high rate of reinforcement so don’t raise
your criteria too fast.
Keep the dog successful.
Often you can shape the dog onto the mat
in one session.
Once you get the dog actively going to
the mat, you can wait for a sit or a down, and
In that case, you can decide to either
toss the treat away as before, or toss the treat
onto the mat, or walk in and treat.
If you toss the treat off the mat, you
should probably start using your release word. For
example, dog goes on mat, you click, say “Good
Dog!”, then say OK as you toss the treat away. You want
to be careful you don’t confuse your dog with your
When you move on to Stays on the mat, you
don’t want your dog jumping off the mat and
breaking a stay if you drop a treat or toy.
So that is the reason to introduce the
release word at this time.
is a good video of mat/target training by Kay
also has a good video on using a target
(classical conditioning, clicker)
is a very useful handling game, which accustoms
your dog to have a positive association with
someone grabbing his collar quickly.
As always, start at a low, easy level and
work up gradually.
Have yummy treats in your hand, gently
reach for your dog’s collar and pull him gently
towards you, at the same time presenting a treat
right into his mouth.
After some repetitions, get a little
“rougher”, always gauging your dog’s personality
(For instance with a shy dog, which is not
usually the case with an Icie, level 1 may be
reach your hand towards the collar, not even
taking hold of it.)
Raise the level slowly, over several
sessions, so that you are moving more and more
quickly to the dog, grabbing the collar more and
more quickly, and pulling on the dog more and more
NEVER increase the level so much that the dog gets
dog should realize this is all fun and games. The
final product would be that you can suddenly turn
to your dog, yell “Gotcha!” in a gleeful voice,
drag your dog towards you, and he’ll just be
looking for the yummy treat.
your dog is ever in a dangerous situation, where
someone needs to quickly grab him out of harm’s
way, it will be great if he does not shy away or
run away from this type of emergency rescue.
Switch (food or toy substitution)
Put a little bit of
some low value food in two bowls. Put one
bowl down in front of him, and let him take a
nibble, then take it away and switch it for the
other one. Do that three or four times, and
do it a few times a day. Don’t say
anything. This accustoms him to having food
taken away, and learn he gets other food. It
accustoms him to your hand approaching while he is
Don’t put all his food
in his bowl at meals. As he is eating, drop
a little more food in his bowl with your hand
several times. Even better, put his kibble
in his bowl, and cut up a couple chicken hearts or
gizzards into little pieces, and as he is eating
his kibble, periodically reach down and place a
little piece of gizzard in the bowl. Again,
no verbal interaction necessary. Accustoms
him that a hand approaching his food is a good
Get some low level
treats – milk bones in the box, for example.
These are treats our dogs will eat, but they don’t
do somersaults over them. You have to get
decent size ones so you can hold them. Sit
down and be comfortable. Hold one out, let
him start to lick or chew it, pull it away and
substitute the other one. Develop that game
so that over time, you can let him take one, and
then reach for it, and replace it with the other
one. You can try it with old marrow
bones too. You can rub a little peanut
butter in them, to make them more desirable.
The goal of these games
is that your dog will let you take a bone, or dead
animal or whatever prize, away from him without
you want to get a great training DVD, try Susan
Garrett’s crate games. http://www.clickerdogs.com/crate_games.php
am not going to try to explain what she teaches,
that is something you can look into on your own if
you want. It
is a high-motivational use of crate work.
it is useful to do some crate work, such as
sending your dog to his crate from across the
room, teaching your dog to re-orient to you on
leaving the crate, etc.
your dog, treats, clicker, and crate in a small,
low distraction area.
Free shape your dog to go into his crate. Same as
free shaping to the mat, reinforce every little
incremental behavior towards and into the crate,
until the dog gets what you are wanting. When the
dog does in the crate, treat him in the crate and
then release out with your release word, or use
the release word and toss the treat away.
Don’t just let the dog come out on his
Once the dog realizes this game is about
going in the crate for the treat, you can name it
“Crate” or “Kennel” or whatever.
You can do it from further and further
distances, until the dog will go to his crate from
across the room.
You can toss a treat into the crate in
this case. Once
the dog will go into the crate on your verbal cue,
work on closing and opening the crate door.
You don’t want the dog to dash out the
minute you open the door.
Open the door and immediately click and
treat the dog for not coming out.
Gradually delay the treat until he is
waiting a few seconds after you open the door. Treat
him in the crate for staying in, then give your
At an advanced level (after 100% success at
you can open the door and move away (the
more animated your motion, the more challenging
for your dog), and then release your dog to come
out and catch up to you.
You can make the “crate stay and release”
similar to the “restrained recall“, giving the dog
a party welcome or a game of tug after the
give him the verbal cue to send him back into the
dogs will get into the game so much that they will
run into their crate to try to initiate this fun
game with you.
related game is for the dog to re-orient to you on
coming out of the crate.
This game can be integrated with Part 1
you open the create door, and before you release
the dog out of the crate, move one step off to the
your dog and encourage him to come get his treat,
or tug toy. Start
moving to the side of the crate, then the back of
the crate, reinforcing the dog for finding you and
moving to where you are when he exits the crate.
Re-orienting to you is useful in other situations
instance, when your dog is in the car, and you
open the door and put his leash on, and let him
jump down, it is very good if he will then turn
and re-orient to you, rather than dashing towards
whatever environmental stimuli happen to be
re-orientation can be easily reinforced by working
in your driveway with some treats, and then using
it anytime you go somewhere.
(luring, clicker), Down (luring, clicker)
him sit and down – you can use treats at
first. Lure his nose up and back, and he
will sit. Praise him and give him the
treat. After he gets the idea, just use your
hand without a treat, and give him the treat after
he sits. After he knows the hand signal, you
can name that “Sit”. Use the word slightly
before the hand signal, and he will start to
transfer from the hand signal to the word and he
will know both. If you use a clicker, you
can click as soon as he sits, and then treat.
with Down. Lure, fade the lure to only the
empty hand, followed by praise and treat.
Clicker or marker word of “Yes!” when he
does it, followed by treat. After he knows
the hand signal, name the behavior, and start
saying the name just before the hand signal until
he knows both.
stay, sit stay
you can work on Stay – very hard at first, so only
expect half a second, then a second, etc.
Always structure it so that he gets lots of
success. If he is failing more than 10% of
whatever you are teaching, it is too hard for him,
dial back to an easier version of the behavior. After he
sits, pause, be very still and quiet, and delay
your treat for a second or two.
Then treat and release.
release word that will always mean the exercice is
finished, like OK or Break or Free.
Some people prefer Break or Free because
OK is said so often in casual conversation that it
is easy to say it when you didn’t really mean for
your dog to break his behavior.
is important to use a release word consistently
after telling your dog to do something, so your
dog will learn to wait until you release him,
rather than deciding on his own when he feels like
stopping the behavior.
you can delay the treat for 4 or 5 seconds, you
can start to move slightly.
Take a step to one side or the other
movement very gradually.
In any exercise you are teaching, teach
it at a very easy level at first, and then
introduce more complexity gradually, in terms of duration,
distraction and distance.
Do not introduce all three at once. If you
want longer duration, drop back to less distance
If you want distance, reduce the duration
and distraction level as you practice at greater
distances away from your dog.
your dog has some idea of sit-stay, tell him to
sit, and ask a family member to quietly walk up
and lightly give him one short pat on the head. If he
can’t stay for that, ask a family member to just
walk by, at whatever distance is necessary for him
not to get up.
Tell him “Yes, good boy!” and treat. Tell him
stay again, and see if the family member can walk
a little closer, and over time working gradually
to where he will sit and not break his stay as
someone walks up to him and pats his head and
walks away. Don’t
say No, or scold him if he moves. Just start over,
and make it easier, less distracting, shorter, so
he can get success and reinforcement.
As he gets better, try “sit for patting”
with other people.
This is one of the CGC (Canine Good
Citizen) exercises, which is a fun title to try
for ears, teeth, paws
your puppy will sit for patting, raise the
difficulty level so he will sit while you, or
another person, examines his ears, teeth or paws. As
always, start with a short, easy version.
Just lift his lip briefly, then praise
and treat. Or
just hold his ear gently and treat and release. Gradually
make it hardly.
The advanced final product would be your
dog will sit quietly while someone looks in each
ear, looks at his teeth, and looks at each paw. That is
great exercise is to accustom your dog not to
fight against restraint.
It is easiest to practice on a table, or
kneel down on the floor if necessary.
Put one arm over your dog’s back and
around his body.
The other arm comes up under his neck and
pulls his head in to your body.
As always, break it into pieces as
necessary for your dog to be successful.
If your dog hates restraint, start with
just one arm, very short duration, very light hug. Then
quietly release and treat.
This exercise is one where you don’t want
a lot of excitement and revving up, obviously. Work
slowly up to the finished product, taking as many
sessions as necessary for your dog’s personality. The
finished product is that you can hug your dog to
you, to hold him still, for a pretty good
duration, like a minute.
Then advance to asking other people to
restrain him, again rewarding first short, then
This is great if your dog has to have blood
taken, or similar treatment.
Or even for nail clipping if you have
that done at the vet.
brushing your dog is great interaction. I
give my young dogs and puppies an old brush or a
nail brush to chew on while I brush them.
For some reason, that keeps them from mouthing my
hand or trying to bite the brush. Brushing
is the same – at first you may only be able to
brush the back, but keep advancing until he will
let you brush his whole body. Brushing
usually becomes rewarding in itself.
Most dogs seem to grow to love brushing
and also drying with a towel when wet.
(free shaping, clicker)
a low-distraction area, with your clicker, treats,
and a target, such as a top to a jar or plastic
the target on the floor in front of you and be
ready to click and treat your dog for interest in
it, such as sniffing it.
When he shows interest, click and toss
the treat a little bit away, so that he is able to
repeat the movement to the target.
No verbal interaction necessary, but you
can praise verbally simultaneously with your treat
if you want.
Shape your dog to touch the target with his
nose, by repeated click and treats.
After some repetitions (maybe 10?
Use your judgment of your dog’s level of
interest), pick up the target and give the dog a
mental break, with a tug game, or tossing a ball,
or whatever he likes.
Then put the target down and repeat. As the
sessions repeat, move the target a little further
from you, so that the dog has to move away from
you to target it.
This is a good foundation for distance
dog is naturally geared to work close to you
because you hold the treats.
So this helps him learn that doing a
behavior away from you can also be rewarding.
he understands the game, you can add a verbal cue,
such as “Target” or any other word you want to
first, say the verbal cue right as the dog is
doing the behavior.
After a time, you can try saying the cue
before the dogs starts the action.
If he does not understand it, you need
more association of the word with the action.
you want a nose target, do not click and reward
foot touches (pawing at the target).
Wait for the nose touch.
You can tape the target up on the wall or
door, so he is more likely to nose target.
Pawing at an object, or foot targeting,
is another separate behavior you can teach.
For example, you can shape your dog to
wipe his paws on a towel.
So don’t accept foot targeting when you
want nose targeting.
Also, think out the verbal cue you want
to use. If
you use “Touch” for a hand touch, you want to
choose a different word for this exercise.
Also, some people use this exercise as a
beginning for teaching a generic “Go Out” where
the dog moves away from you until instructed to
stop (sit, down, etc.)
in which case, they might use “Go Out” or
“Go Away” for this target work.
But that’s only a consideration if you
plan to go on into formal training.
fun behavior you can teach is for the dog to
target the end of a wand, dowel, stick with his
something like a dowel about 2 feet long.
Any object that you have is fine.
They actually make and sell dog target
the same approach as for the target above.
Hold out the dowel, click any interest,
move to clicking a nose touch on the end of the
dowel, no matter where you are holding it.
You can get quite fancy, “leading” the
dog in circles or in various directions.
This could have application for tricks,
or just as another interaction to build your
communication with your dog.
are various recall games above (restrained
recalls, Can’t catch me, Hide and Seek).
A few tips about recalls:
never call your dog when you can’t make
him come to you.
If you do, you are teaching him that
“Come” doesn’t really mean anything and he can
ignore it. If
your dog is chasing something, or playing wildly,
or in some situation where you think the odds are
poor that he will come, do not call him.
Go get him.
And manage his environment so that he is
not in uncontrollable situations.
Leave a long line on him if he won’t come
to you in the yard.
Don’t ruin your recall word by showing
your dog it is meaningless.
game to reinforce the recall:
when your dog is out in a fenced area, go
out with some treats in your pocket, and move away
from your dog.
Wait until he comes to you, or run and
encourage him to follow, and as he is already
coming to you, say “Come” (or whatever your recall
word is), and give him a treat or two and praise,
and then tell him to “go play” and encourage him
to go back to what he was doing.
Move away and ignore him, and then repeat
the game. When
you repeatedly release him to play, he can learn
that coming to you does not always end his free
recall (classical conditioning)
recalls are also a good game.
There are dog whistles you can get, or
any “policeman’s whistle”.
Start in the house, or outside when your
dog is right next to you.
Blow the whistle and at the same time,
deliver 3 or 4 treats one after the other.
Do this two or three times.
The dog does not have to come, you are
just associating the whistle with treats.
After a few sessions, when you see that
your dog “gets it”, use your whistle when your dog
is not paying attention to you, in the house or
the yard, but not when he is highly distracted by
Most likely he will think, “Oh, whistle,
treats!” and come running to you.
A more advanced level is to use the
whistle when he is distracted by something else. If
he does not come, just go away, and drop back to
some easier whistle recalls at a different time.
teaches the dog to follow your hand motion, and to
look where you are pointing, rather than at your
training, really, just toss little treats in
Once you see the dog is watching where
you point, do the pointing motion without tossing
a treat, and toss the treat with the other hand
after the dog looks in the direction you are
the dog knows to look where you point, you can set
up some “planted” treats beforehand, and point to
them, so the dog realizes to go look for something
even if you don’t toss anything.
Bar, Closed Bar (classical conditioning)
is a useful way of reconditioning positive
associations to replace negative associations, and
also to condition the dog to focus on you when
there is a certain stimulus, rather than on the
brief description is that you open the bar (ie.,
start delivering treats, often rapid-fire) when
the stimulus starts, and close the bar (stop
feeding treats) when the stimulus is gone.
Example: if your
dog is too stimulated by passing cars, take a
position where he can see cars passing, and as
soon as a car comes in sight, either deliver
treats from your hand or drop them on the ground
in front of you, continuing to deliver treats
until the car passes.
As soon as the car is gone, stop.
your dog is afraid of something, such as a lawn
mower, you can stand by the yard being mowed, and
as the mower approaches, treat.
When the mower retreats, stop feeding. If the
dog is too stressed to take the treat, move to the
nearest distance at which he will take the treat,
and over time, move closer.
whatever stimulus that you want to desensitize
your dog to.
The goal is that whatever stressed or
over-excited your dog will, hopefully over time,
be turned into a positive stimulus that causes him
to look to you, instead of feeling scared or
getting over-focused on it.
cue for situations where you want to leave the
scene quickly and move away from something.
As you are walking along with your dog,
suddenly change direction 90 degrees to the right,
or reverse direction, saying “This way” in a
motivating voice, and toss a treat ahead of you. Soon the
dog will realize it’s to his benefit to turn
can also say “This Way” and turn, in the same way,
and as the dog comes around with you, let him get
the tug toy and keep moving in the desired
Game (free shaping)
variation of encouraging your dog to offer
need your clicker and treats and a box big enough
for your dog to get in.
Go to a low-distraction area.
Click and treat the dog for any interest
in the box – looking at it, sniffing it, etc. Toss the
treats away from the box so the dog has a chance
to repeat the behavior.
Slowly raise the bar, only clicking for
the dog touching the box.
Then wait for pawing the box.
Then wait for putting a paw in the box,
then two paws.
Etc. until the dog climbs in.
Zone (Choose to Heel) (free shaping)
Garrett emphasizes the concept of Reinforcement
Zone, which is the area on either side of you,
within a foot of you, which she believes should be
about the nicest place in the world for your dog. It’s a
good goal for us all to work towards.
She has many games and exercises to grow
the value of the reinforcement zone for your dog. My
instructor has an exercise she calls “Choose to
Heel” which is somewhat similar.
For “Choose to Heel” you go with your dog
into a relatively small enclosed area – a fenced
yard, a big room or your garage, or a tennis
court, or something relatively low distraction. Just
move around at random without talking to your dog. Every
time your dog moves to your side, reinforce with a
treat or a tug toy.
Then release your dog with “OK” or your
release word (Free, Go Play, etc), and wander
aimlessly again until your dog returns to your
side, then reinforce again.
Around (free shaping)
teaching your dog to move away from you, at speed. Get some
obstacle your dog can go around – a traffic cone,
a post, a tree, a wastebasket.
It is best to be in an enclosed area so
you can do this without a leash on.
Stand near the obstacle, and encourage
your dog to go around it, and as your dog comes
around the other side, reverse and move away,
saying “Yes!” and giving your dog a treat as he
comes along side you.
Start very close to the obstacle, so that
the dog doesn’t really have to move away from you
to get around the obstacle.
At first you are just concentrating on
reinforcing the moving away from the obstacle
after the dog has gone around it.
make it a little harder by starting two feet back
from the obstacle, sending your dog with body
motion and pointing around the obstacle, and as
soon as you see that he is going around, turn away
and give him his treat as he comes away with you. Slowly
increase your distance and slowly reduce your body
movement to send him, so that you can say Go
Around, and just swing your arm and point.
Be careful not to start to praise until
he gets far enough around that he is committed. Once
your dog knows the game, you can switch to a tug
toy once he comes around.
harder variation is to have two obstacles out
there, such two cones.
Send him out around one and then by
pointing and telling him to Go Around send him to
the other one, before the treat or game.
Start that by having the two cones right
next to each other, and gradually moving them
(perch work) (free shaping)
something low and small such as a phone book, an
upturned dog bowl, a block of wood.
Put it in front of you, between you and
your dog, and click/treat him for stepping on it. Shape
him to put two feet on it.
That is just to get started.
Once he knows to put his feet on the
book, and you are standing opposite him, capture
any rear foot movement.
You can move slightly to one side, or
slightly lure him off balance.
What you need to click is ANY REAR FOOT
not click front foot movement.
Your goal is that your dog will leave his
front feet on the phone book, and rotate his rear
end around. At
first he will tend to stay opposite you, so that
if you move one way, he will rotate his rear the
other way to stay opposite you.
Remember to click and treat any rear foot
movement, don’t be stingy.
After your dog will make continue to
rotate as you turn, then encourage him to rotate
as you stand still, so that he is no longer
opposite you, but is approaching one of your
clicking and treating rear foot movement until he
is up against your side (heel position).
Do this in both directions, to both
is absolutely, in my opinion, the best way to
start heel position, and pivots, and other related
obedience moves, if you ever decide to go into
rally or obedience.
Here are two videos with variations of
The following tricks
are also fun, you can probably figure out ways to
teach them if you have worked through all the
Or you can google them and get lots of
more tricks you teach your dog, the better trained
he/she will be.
- Crawl (luring – down, then lure with
hand on floor, click the slightest forward
- Take a Bow (capturing the dog stretching)
- Roll Over (luring.
Down dog, then lure him to bend head
around to his waist, then over)
- High Five (free shaping – hold out hand near
paw, dog will naturally paw it, gradually raise
- Sleepy (capturing) (laying with chin flat on
- Spin (luring)
- Settle (luring) (lying over on one side, with
side of head down on floor)
- Wave (free shaping – easier after dog already
knows high five above – increase distance)
Larlham is one of my favorite trainers.
She has videos on many training subjects, and I
suggest you dip into them and take advantage of
her viewpoints. She also has a Youtube
my favorites of hers (and a great puppy
Some excellent online training for many dog
sports is available at Fenzi
Dog Sports Academy.
There are many fun and informative blogs
online. One I enjoy is Eileen Anderson's Eileen
love Susan Garrett’s training
approach. Susan is a world-class Canadian
agility trainer, her dogs are border collies.
(Susan’s blog) -- great rainy day
reading. Just dive in and sample past
(Susan Garrett’s Say Yes Dog Training).
She has some dvd’s, I have “Crate Training”
which is great.
Watson, Pawsitive Vybe, teaches Disc Dog stuff,
out of Kingston, NY.
If you dig through his website you can find
many great videos, many of them on general
training, not just disc training. He has a
great creative energetic fun approach.
Silvia Trkman is an awesome trainer, and you can
dig around her website for articles and Youtube
videos. She has some nice stuff on tricks.
of tricks, they are the best thing to train --
always fun for all. And you can actually
earn titles for learning tricks in your own
is an Icelandic Sheepdog Spark Team on Facebook
moderated by Gabi Vannini, to teach and discuss
earning trick titles, called Icies and Friends
A recommendation from a puppy buyer is ultimatepuppy.com,
by Sidney Bleicher and Peggy van Dam. This
website focuses on puppy rearing and has tons of
ideas and resources.
Solutions is an old site, I don't know that it
is still updated, but it has many good articles
on various subjects of puppy training and
Karen Pryor is the mother of clicker training,
and her website, which is a successful business
now which certifies instructors and hosts
conferences, offers articles and products:
Woodward has some nice basic articles on clicker