The Motivational Steps to All Dog Training
I wrote this article back in 2001 and recently (2013) reviewed it. Considering the fact that I wrote this article I can take the liberty of saying that it's RUBBISH.
It's old school dog training.
I had not read it in 12 years and after my review I cringed. My first inclination was to immediately delete it off our web site. I thought it should have been gone a long time ago. But after a little thought I decided to leave it and add this disclaimer.
I have been training dogs for over 50 years. If you love dogs like we do you will figure out that dog training is a journey. If you have an open mind you will figure out that you will never know everything about training dogs. As you gain experience you will learn new methods, you will change your mind about old methods and you will become a better dog trainer. So with that said I know in my heart that the methods I discuss in this article are wrong.
There is a generalized approach to training any exercise in dog training. This begins with the trainer understanding that most dogs need between 30 and 50 repetitions on any exercise before the dog has learned it. By contrast a human only needing 7 repetitions.
If a dog develops a problem that you need to fix in training it is going to take many more than 30 reps before the dog adopts the new behavior. This is why I always explain to people that it is easier to take a little more time to train an exercise the correct way the first time than it is to go back and fix problems.
There are three main segments of training to teach a dog any exercise. This applies to obedience and all other areas of training as well (i.e. protection work, agility, etc.)
1. Teaching Phase:
In the first section we must teach the dog the meaning
of the commands for the exercise. This is done through positive motivation.
In other words, we find something that the dog really likes (i.e. a ball
or food). We then show the dog (without corrections) that if it does what
we ask it will get his reward.
The challenge for every trainer is to determine small
enough training steps that the dog can understand what you are trying
to teach him. If it seems that he simply cannot grasp what you want then
you have to break the step into smaller steps. Learning how to do this
requires experience and/or a person who really thinks about every aspect
of training, (these are rare birds).
2. Learning Through Intermittent Success:
This second stage is where we teach the dog that he
does not get success for his drive goal (i.e. his food or toy) on completion
of the exercise every time. The goal of this stage is to teach the dog
that he never knows when the reward will come. This builds drive.
An example of this is in the heeling training. Initially,
(after a dog has learned to sit by the handlers side and focus on his
face), the dog is rewarded after one step of heeling. When he will consistently
stay with the handler (in drive and with focus) for one step, the steps
are increased and decreased in random order before the dog gets his reward.
So he may get rewarded after 3 steps, then after 5 steps,
then after 7 steps, then after 2 steps, then after 1 step, then after
9 steps. With the goal being that the dog needs to remain in drive and
keep focused throughout the exercise before it gets it's toy or food.
If it breaks focus, the exercise is finished and there
is no toy or food for the dog. You must start all over and the next time,
back the reward up a few steps. It must become clear to the dog (in this
stage of training) that for him to get his reward, he must do what is
3. Learning Through Conflict:
The last stage of teaching an exercise is to teach (PROOF)
an exercise by creating an unclear situation for a dog. We force him to
think about what he must do. We want to create a situation where the dog
will make a mistake and then show him that he must think before he does
something or he will get corrected and not reach his drive goal (the toy
This stage of training teaches a dog control over himself.
Some dogs go so high in drive that they stop thinking. This step in training
(Learning through Conflict) is how these dogs learn to get a grip.
An example of this is when the learning routine is changed
just enough to create a mistake. In heeling this can be a speed change
in the walk. It can be a right turn or left turn. In training the "Bark
and Hold" in protection work, the dog is sent to the helper who is
sitting on the ground with two sleeves on, or he is sent into a small
building (instead of the blind on the training field) and expected to
do a clean bark and hold without biting.
Some form of compulsion is almost always used before
an exercise has been fully trained. It is most important that the formula
for compulsion is always: DRIVE - COMPULSION - DRIVE.
Simply put, this means that we try and set up our training
to begin an exercise in drive (the dog is crazy for his drive goal and
trying very hard to do what he can to get it). When it makes a mistake,
while in drive, we apply compulsion (corrections). Compulsion takes drive
out of the dog. Our final step is to then finish the exercise by putting
the dog back into drive, hence DRIVE - COMPULSION - DRIVE.
A perfect example of this is seen in the heeling work.
The dog is in drive (he knows he will get his ball after walking a certain
number of steps - he doesn't know how many but he knows the ball is coming).
The trainer decides that this session is going to require 15 steps before
the dog gets his ball. At 10 steps the dog breaks the heel and bounces
in front because he cannot stand it any longer, (in his mind he wants
his ball and he has heeled long enough), the trainer administers three
sharp jerks on the leash to get the dog back into the heel position. This
takes some of the drive out of the dog (he is now thinking this is a little
less fun than he thought). But as soon as the dog takes 2 or 3 steps in
the correct heel position the handler drops the ball and plays with the
After doing this 30 times, the dog will learn that every
time I get a correction I am going to get my ball if I do what is expected.
When that light bulb goes on in our dog's head we will see dogs go up
in drive with corrections. They will also mind when they go up in drive
because they know that unless they do what is expected, the next corrections
will be harder.
New trainers can use this formula (Drive-Compulsion-Drive)
to determine how
hard to correct their dogs. Corrections should never be so hard that the
handler cannot bring his dog back into drive. Corrections will always
bleed drive out of a dog, but if the correction is so severe that the
dog will not go back into drive, then the level of that correction was
too hard for that particular dog's temperament. Hence the terms HARD DOGS
and SOFT DOGS. A "soft-dog" requires a very light correction.
If the correction is too hard for a "soft-dog" it will not recover
quickly enough to go back into drive for this training session. On the
other hand, a "hard-dog" recovers very quickly from a correction
and will easily go back into drive after a stiff correction.
The new trainer needs to learn that he must control
himself and the levels of corrections he administers in training. He will
never become an effective dog trainer unless he can accomplish this one
goal. Learning to work with the Drive-Compulsion-Drive formula is probably
the most important thing any trainer can learn in dog training.
When a dog goes through the process properly, it will
actually go up in drive after it gets corrected because it has learned
that it is now going to be put in a situation where it gets it's drive
If you have read this article and are interested in the way we think today I suggest you read THE THEORY OF MOTIVATION IN DOG TRAINING - click here