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February 2, 2015
Leerburg Online University
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Primary to Secondary Reward Value Transfer

Primary to Secondary Reward Value Transfer
with Forrest Micke

Value transfer is our ability to influence our dog's perception of value into the places, experiences, and behaviors of our choosing. It's a fundamental principle both in 'everyday' training and in sport dog work. After we've taught our dogs to willingly transfer between primary reinforcers (from one toy to another of equal value), we can begin working on primary to secondary transfers. This is when our dog will leave the toy to rejoin us in obedience behavior in order to earn back the toy. While it seems like a simple concept, many dogs, especially those who are predisposed or have been encouraged in possession, struggle with this 'mentality.' Spending the time to build a healthy and cooperative foundation in value transfer has many benefits. We teach our dogs the value of working through us and with us – blurring the lines between 'work' and play. We overcome common obstacles of toy preference and value bias. We lay ground skills in protection sport scenarios in lower states of arousal which will allow us to more cooperatively build complete exercises as our dog progresses, also making it easier for us to avoid commonly accepted methods of compulsion to gain behavior. By prioritizing the fundamentals such as this, we will find that our sport and everyday life training becomes a series of opportunities versus a series of challenges.

Leerburg's Online Basic Dog Obedience Course

I gained a ton of insight on learning about building a trusting relationship with my dog and being a good pack leader. I now can understand why "engagement" is such a valued skill to teach your dog. its all about building a strong connection with your dog and being able to have them follow you and listen to your commands no matter where you take them. I think socialization is so important and them always looking to you because like you say, they always want what you have and look to you.

Balanced dog training is awesome because you teach the dog through motivation and only use corrections once you know they are 110% sure of the command (using durations and distractions).

I dont have any suggestions other than maybe more short essays at the end of the week to write an example of how your training for that week with a story about your training sessions... and us have access to read others like in the discussion board. Just more live examples of what people are doing wrong so we can learn from that. it helps me to do comparisons.

I really enjoyed how this course is broken up and how we have extra long access. Thank you.

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Leerburg Q&A
Ask your training question

Question: My 3.5 month old pup and I have been playing tug but he wants to lay down as we play, is this a problem and if so what should I do?

Hi Cindy,

I have many of your videos including "playing tug." My 3 1/2 month pup and I are playing tug. This has went along pretty good at first, but now he wants to lay down as we play. To counter this I move the tug toward him and up as to not push the tug back into his mouth. The forward pressure gets him back on his feet, but when I start pulling away from him he will lay back down and try to hold onto the tug. Is this a problem at this stage and if so what should I do.

Thank you

Cindy's Response:

I might suggest either taking a break from tug play for now (he may be starting the teething process)or getting a second person and using the techniques shown in the puppy bite work video you have.  Have a second person hold him back on a harness and leash and you work the tug, when he bites they run him around in a very small circle and back to you.  Keep him moving.

It may be just a phase though, so it certainly wouldn't hurt to just take a break from tugging now until he's through the entire teething process (usually around 5.5-6 months of age).

I hope this helps. 
Cindy Rhodes

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Playing Tug with Your Dog or our Q&A on Puppy Bite Work.

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Q&A Search. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

Customer Comments

On Leerburg's Finishing Work with Michael Ellis DVD

  Probably the best ever video on the how and why of dog training. Michael Ellis is the best at that from the get go but this video carries it to a new level. The different explanations of terms is excellent. The explanation of what can go right and what can go wrong with each step. How to avoid those things that can go wrong. I've trained dogs since the 1950's and I've always felt that understanding the how and why when it comes to dog behavior is KEY to becoming a better trainer. Michael has give me more "WOW" moments in explaining simple things I've always just taken for granted. Just short of 70 yrs old I truly believe I'm still learning and Michael Ellis' videos, in particular this one, have been a huge eye opener.
The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers
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