Teaching and timing


If you want a dog to perform a desired behavior, remember the "3 T's". Your time should be spent teaching, training, and testing. A majority of your time should be spent teaching and training, while testing should only be done once in a while. One of the biggest mistakes made by dog owners is that they test before training or, even worse, they test before teaching.

When it comes to teaching, there are 2 main methods- compulsion and motivation. The best way to describe compulsion is the direct use of physical force to make a dog perform a specific behavior. An example of compulsion would be pulling up on a dog's collar and pushing down on its hips in order to force the dog into the sit position. Motivation can described as the use of something that the dog desires to guide them into performing a specific behavior. An example of the use of motivation to teach the dog sit would be using a treat, placing it in front of the dog's nose, and moving the treat at a certain angle that causes the dog to drop into the sit position in order to get the treat.

I do not teach with compulsion. I prefer to teach with motivation. Once the dog truly understands what is being asked, then, and only then, will I use compulsion. If my dog understands the "sit" command very well, but decides to go over to a tree and mark an area instead of obeying my command, I will absolutely use compulsion to show this is unacceptable behavior.

At times, I will let a puppy figure out on his own a desired behavior with a reward, but there are also times when I will guide my dog and reward it when it shows the desired behavior. Guiding is very different from compulsion and I don't correct a dog for trying to please but offering a behavior different than the one I am looking for.

It is also important to know that dogs learn directly and indirectly. Many dog owners do not realize when they have indirectly taught their dogs certain behaviors. So a key point in obedience training is to NEVER give a command you cannot enforce 100% of the time. If a dog chooses to disobey and your command is not enforced, you have indirectly taught the dog that it is OK to disobey and it is guaranteed that you will see that disobedience again.


When training a dog and shaping a desired behavior, timing is everything. The reason is that dogs learn in milli-seconds and do not have the same memory and thought process as humans. When teaching, the dog must be given the reward at that exact moment. I have seen countless times when the dog gives exactly what has been asked and the handler is fidgeting in his pocket for the treat or toy. The moment has been lost. If the dog is given the reward after so much delay, the dog does not know that it is being rewarded for the good performance that happened several seconds ago.

The same is true when letting the dog know it has done something incorrectly. When someone is fumbling with the leash and a correction is instantly needed, but doesn't happen, this moment has also been lost. In this situation, correcting the dog after such a delay is not only not beneficial for training, but also harmful for the relationship between owner and dog because the dog feels like it is being corrected for no reason.