Tips for Training

  • "Use yummy, small treats that are easy for your dog to swallow.

  • "Keep treats where you can easily access them for fast delivery.

  • "Keep training sessions short. Stop if sessions get tense; they should be fun.

  • "Always end with a trick your dog can easily do, concluding on a positive note.

  • "Before training, visualize the behavior you are asking for so you can recognize and reward it quickly"
(Fogle, Jean M. "Tricks for Treats." Dog Fancy, September 2003, 65).

Toller-L discussion of what to do with the dog in class when you are not actively training her...

Patricia Kinsley
Another thing I've found is that a good amount of exercise prior to class gives us a better chance at success. Otherwise, she's too "energized" to concentrate sufficiently.

Peggy O'Connell
I'm also really fond of the trick of teaching your dog an "on" word. I use "Ready" with Argo and Finn, mostly because it's used in the obedience word. I use it to get their attention, I tease them with it before I throw a ball or stick, I say it when we're going to start working on something. They learn that when I say ready, it means time for something interesting to happen and time to work. It's a big help in the "off for ten minutes, on for 2 minutes" situations we've been describing. It also worked well as a word to get Argo excited before agility runs.

Birgit Steinich
I remember the following the situation that I observed during a CD obedience trial. A women had just entered the ring but the judge made her wait for a while, so she had her dog sit in heel position and started to talk to a friend at ring side. The dog was wondering why things wouldn't start yet and looked at his handler to "get an answer" to his concern. He received none so he decided that he would better leave the ring and return to his crate. So he did.

"Kaulbach, Edward"
I started using this command last year to try to get Jerry to focus in Flyball. If you think keeping a dog's attention in Obedience class can be difficult, the ultimate distraction for a ball crazy dog is to stay still when it is not their turn to run.

Jerry has a bath mat that I bought for him and now we use it when I am in other settings like Agility practice etc. I use "With Me" instead of "Settle", but I like "Settle" better since it is one word. The mat is not as big as a crate because it can be rolled up and stuck under your arm. Unlike a stay command, the dog can lay, sit or even stand as long as they are on the mat. I have been able to fade the mat out in some cases but still use it in flyball.

One instructor I know is now making a mat a standard piece of training equipment for her obedience classes as well. When she is talking to the participants who really need the training ( the people), the dogs hang out on their mat.

Tollers in the ring - pictures

A WORD about choosing a class to take ones dog to. Choose your obedience class like you would choose a school for your child. Ask about the instructors credentials? Titled a dog? Belong to an organization for dog trainers? How long have they been training and what and where is their most recently trained dog? What are their training methods? do they believe in motivational training? What Obedience books would they recommend and what current trainers methods do they endorse. If they can't answer these questions..BE CAREFUL you maybe wasting your money or worse yet hurting your dog. AND NEVER LET AN INSTRUCTOR TAKE YOUR DOG TO SHOW A METHOD..JUST SAY NO you are that dogs only protector you know, he believes you will keep him safe and it is your responsibility (email from Cathy at TollerRescue).

Q. "If there were one thing you would have all dog owners teach their dogs to do, what would it be?

A. [from the director of the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center in New York]: "Make eye contact. Teach the dog to look up in your face when you say his name. You can solve a gazillion problems just by having a dog who responds to his name and looks at you" (Moustaki, Nikki. "Interview: Pamela Reid." Dog Fancy, Feb. 2004, 37).

"...different breeds of dogs also must be trained uniquely...

"Although a mule may understand what you want, compliance will only come when the mule feels it is in his best interest. A mule will not be coerced, threatened or forced...

"Some dogs are like mules in this respect... These dogs may appear stubborn if not allowed to comply on their own terms... With patience, you can build a relationship of trust with this kind of dog...

"..if you own an independent breed of dog, expect that some of them will feel it is their duty to embarass or at least humble you every so often, no matter how good a trainer you are. This is just part of owning that kind of dog" (Swager, Peggy. "What Kind of Dog Do You Have?" AKC Gazette, August 2003, 20-21).

Act Ashamed

"Make a small loop with cellophane tape, have your dog sit. Stick the loop lightly on the side of her nose... The second your dog's paw touches her nose, click... remove the tape, and give a treat... Slowly perfect the trick by only rewarding when your dog gets her paw over her eye. Stop using the tape and add a voice cue once you are sure your dog understands the trick" (Fogle, Jean M. "Tricks for Treats." Dog Fancy, September 2003, 64).

Sequential Performances

"Practicing the sequence over and over also creates a problem because the dog only receives reinforcement when the sequence is completed. Opportunist that he is, your dog will quickly figure out that he gets the goodies at the end, so why not go right to it and cut out all that stuff in the middle?...

"So one key to avoiding breakdowns in sequential behaviors is... train and reinforce each piece, making sure that each is fully under control and has been heavily reinforced" (Spector, Morgan. "How Can You Make Sequential Performances Work For You In the Obedience Ring? Here Are Some Pointers." AKC Gazette, August 2003, 22-23).

Roll Over

"If your dog has a back or leg problem that might make rolling over uncomfortable or painful, skip this trick.

"Luring with food makes teaching this trick easier. Remember to remove the lure after the dog understands the trick.

"Start with your dog in a Down. Hold a treat just in front of one of her ears. Slowly move the treat over the top of her head to her other ear. As your dog's head follows the food, her body will usually follow.

"If your dog doesn't roll over to follow the treat, you might need to guide her by gently pushing her top fron leg in the direction of the roll. Start to move the treat farther away. Add a voice or hand cue, remove the lure..." (Fogle, Jean M. "Tricks for Treats." Dog Fancy, September 2003, 64).

Stop Barking to Get Attention

"When she barks, ignore her and turn away. When she is quiet, even for a moment, turn toward her, but don't interact... When she settles down for about 30 seconds, approach and praise her" (Ardon, Andrea. "Quiet Down!" Dog Fancy, September 2003, 66).

Catch a Flying Disc

(Fogle, Jean M. "Got Air?" Dog Fancy, September 2003, "..this sport takes a team, though, so spend some time practicing your own throwing skills.) Keep training sessions short, and always end on a positive note.

"Try these tips:

  • "Give your dog a positive introduction to the disc by using it as his food dish.

  • "Begin by encouraging your dog to grab the disc while you slide it back and forth in front of him.

  • "Roll the disc on the ground and let him get it. This helps him learn to track the disc.

  • "Start to toss the disc, but never directly at your dog. Hitting him with the disc in the beginning will scare him. Throw only short distances; donít be tempted to go for distance yet.

  • "Stand 3 feet in front of your dog and toss the disc in the air, and ask him to catch. When he catches it, give him lots of praise.

  • "Teach your dog to go to the disc by standing next to him, then tossing it out in front of him. Praise for returning it.

Prey Drive

"Prey drive is an instinctive behavior in dogs. It is neither bad nor good, it just is. All dogs have it...

"Prey drive is the instinct to chase a fast-moving object.. What the dog does once it catches the prey depends on other instincts: retrievers may retrieve the prey; herding dogs may herd it; and terriers will all too often bite... The danger for the terrier is that nowadays what they chase is too often.. the neighbor's cat, the child running in the yard, the person riding a bicycle down the street...

"A puppy with a strong prey drive might be a disaster in a home with many little children, a lot of other human activity, and not enough time spent with the dog. But in a home with someone who takes the time to train the puppy and channel its drive, that same puppy may become a star dog.

"All puppies need to be well socialized. This is especially true for the puppy with a strong prey drive. The more people, places, noises, and fast movements he experiences in a supportive environment such as a puppy kindergarten, the more stable he will be...

".. it is possible to calm or channel the prey drive [with] obedience training... A prey-driven dog should not have uncontrolled hours to patrol the yard... The drive can also be channeled through games, long walks, or performance activities like agility and flyball" (Stam, Janis. "Miniature Bull Terriers." Breed Column. AKC Gazette, August 2003, 68-69).


"..outside in a confined area. Let your dog loose in the space and ignore him. When he is not paying any attention to you, call him. When he gets to you, give him a treat and make a big fuss over him. If he does not come, go to him, take him by his collar, and bring him to the spot from where you called him. Then reward and praise him. Continue doing this until he come to you every time you call him" (Volhard, Wendy. "Mastering the Recall Game." AKC Gazette, Jan. 2004: 22-23).

Balancing Treat on Nose

"Start by having your dog sit. Cup one hand under her chin... place a treat on.. her nose... Gently hold the treat on her muzzle for a second, then take it off and give it as a reward...

"Repeat.. a little longer each time...

Next, "put it on her muzzle and remove your hand. A split second later, take it off and give it to her... Repeat...

"..then try moving your hand out from under her chin. If she lowers her nose, gently steady her chin again...

"Once she can balance the treat for several seconds, teach her to flip it into the air and catch it. Start by having her balance it, then say "Get it!" and knock the treat off to the side. At first, catch it as it falls and feed it to her. Then quit catching it and encourage her to grab it herself..." (September Morn. "Try This." Dog Fancy, Mar. 2004: 17).

Stop Chasing

"...We sat on lawn chairs some distance from a lightly-traveled road... far enough that he would not be too aroused...

When "a car appeared. The instant Dart went on alert -- but before he was worked up into his frenzied state -- I started feeding him tiny tidbits of [canned] chicken, generously, non-stop... The instant the car disappeared from view, the chicken stopped...

"By the fourth repetition, the car's arrival triggered a new response from Dart: He swiveled his head toward me with a happy "Where's my chicken?" expression on his face.

"..gradually reduce the rate of reinforcement -- the frequency and amount of chicken..."

Also, put up a fence as a visual barrier (Miller, Pat. "I Want That Car!" Dog Fancy, Mar. 2004: 18-19).

Watch Me

""Watch!" means maintain eye contact until release...

"..start by holding a treat up to her face to encourage eye contact. When the dog looks at her, she clicks! and gives the dog the treat. Then she moves the treat a few inches to the side of her face, and waits. Sooner or later the dog, who is watching the treat intently, will glance toward the owner's face as if to ask why the click! is not forthcoming. AT THAT INSTANT the owner Clicks! and treats. She repeats this until the dog is looking at her face quickly, and for increasingly long periods...

"..moves the treat a few inches further from her face... adds the "Watch!"" (Miller, Pat. "Look At Me!" Whole Dog Journal, Feb. 2004: 8-9).


"Hold a high-value treat in your closed fist, several inches in front of your dog's chest, with your fingers up. If she attempts to get the treat by nibbling at your fist, ignore her. When she gets frustrated, she'll bat at it with her paw. Click.... open your hand and give her the treat..." (Pat Miller. "Tricks for Treats." Dog Fancy, Oct., 2004: 20).


Positive Training for Reactive Dogs "list was created for dog owners and trainers who use positive, reward based training methods to help those dogs who react strongly when exposed to certain stimuli, and/or toward certain environmental situations"

Colby Glass, MLIS