How do I teach my dog to go to “place”?

dog training, Michigan Dog Training, teach your dog to go to place, behavior shaping, clicker trainingMax and Lucky are attending private dog training lessons at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan with dog behaviorist Michael Burkey. In the video below, they demonstrate how to teach your dog to go to “place” via clicker training and behavior shaping.

Clicker training is using a sound such as the click of a clicker to mark the moment your dog did a desired behavior and to signal that a food reward is forthcoming. Behavior shaping is capturing and rewarding behavior as it occurs such as the dog touching the target stick with his nose versus luring the dog into the desired behavior. Luring tends to be a faster method of dog training but behavior shaping requires the dog to think instead of just follow a hand and thus cements the exercise into his mind more soundly. A dog taught via shaping is also more engaged in the learning exercise and willing to try new behaviors.

Teaching your dog to go to “place” (a pre-designated location) can be helpful when welcoming your guests into your home, having your dog go away from the kitchen table to prevent begging, jump into your vehicle, go to a spot and relax, etc.

Place can be taught via hand luring or in this example by teaching the dog to touch a target stick such as an Alley Pop freestanding target. The target stick is used to get the dog to move away from the handler. Later, the target stick is placed on the mat where you want your dog to go to and the final step is to remove the target stick and simply have the dog go to the mat on the cue of “place”.

The five steps for teaching your dog go to “place” using behavior shaping include:
1. Teach your dog to touch a target stick held in your hand,
2. Teach your dog to touch a free standing target stick,
3. Send your dog to the target stick from a distance,
4. Place the target stick on a mat to start teaching “place”,
5. Remove the target stick from the “place” mat and cue – Place

Dog training and visual cues


Michigan Dog Training, body languageThey say at least 80% of our language is communicated via body language and only 20% is communicated by spoken language. I believe this to be true and probably even more so with dogs. When I was a young child, I would often play hide and seek games with my dog. Late at night if I laid down in the grass when my dog wasn’t looking, he would have a hard time finding me (obviously he was using sight and not his sense of smell). However, as soon as I moved even on the darkest of nights, he found me instantly.

Michigan Dog Training, heeling, loose leash walkingDogs are very much visual learners. They look to us to see where a reward is coming from or even if we have a reward with us in the first place. Reward placement is very important to dog trainers. For example, in teaching a dog to heel the trainer will commonly hold a ball or food treat near their shoulder closest to the dog to entice the dog to look up at them while heeling.

Later, they will place the reward under their arm pit to try to hide it from the dog until they later deliver it to the dog as a reward for desired behavior. This is called Luring via a Direct Reward where the dog learns to follow the reward in hopes of obtaining it. And, if the dog remains close to the location where the reward is commonly given, the dog will be able to more quickly obtain the reward. Later, the trainer will use an Indirect Reward where the reward is not on the handler’s person. The dog must perform the desired behavior in order to be released to the ball or treat that is at a secondary location.

Food is a fantastic way to train a dog as it is a prime motivator for the dog, especially when they are hungry. Luring with a treat is a quick way to teach a dog a behavior. The downside is that often times the dog will Michigan Dog Training, luringnot perform desired behaviors if the lured reward is not in sight. Why should they since the restaurant is closed? If the reward has always been in sight but now is not, they will commonly entertain themselves with other activities that are more rewarding such as sniffing the ground. Then the handler is left questioning, how do I get my dog “to do” when I don’t have food in my hand.?

The answer is to limit visual cues from the beginning of training. If you use Luring, fine but get away from it as quickly as possible. Or use Shaping in which you reward successive approximations of desired behavior. Shaping takes longer but it makes for a more active thinking dog instead of always waiting on the handler to tell the dog what to do.

In either case, Luring or Shaping; limit the visual cues that you give your dog. For example, if rewarding with a treat, leave the treat in the pocket out of sight until the dog does the desired behavior. Then mark what the dog did with the sound of a clicker or a verbal marker such as “yes”. It gives you time to reach into your pocket and reward with the treat or ball. Otherwise, the dog will know when you have your reward on your person and when you don’t. You want your dog to think that the restaurant is possibly always open even if you don’t give visual cues to the contrary. The dog is motivated by hope that the restaurant may be open.

Michigan Dog Training, food lures, treat training, clicker trainingPeople are always in a hurry to reward quickly. Thus, they reach into their pocket for the reward before the dog does the desired behavior. The reaching into the pocket becomes the cue and not the verbal dog command such as come, sit, or down.

They then wonder why the dog “didn’t do” when they didn’t have the reward on their person. But don’t worry, the marker (clicker or verbal marker) gives you time, as it tells the dog the reward is forth coming. And, they know that their behavior that caused the click or “yes” is what resulted in the reward. So you don’t need to be in a hurry. Concentrate on marking the desired behavior when it occurs and then reach into your pocket for the reward. Doing it this way will make the dog think that the restaurant is always possibly open if he does the desired behavior.

Another example of visual cues is when the handler lets their dog out of the car. Commonly, people leash up their dog and then immediately turn away from the car as they tell their dog to heel or give a release command meaning they can exit the car. But does the dog really understand the verbal release or was it the visual cue of the person turning away from the car that was the signal that it was ok to jump out of the car? Test it and see for yourself. After leashing your dog, turn away from the car and see if your dog stays. Your dog should only exit the vehicle on a verbal release because what if someone called your name and you turned away from the car? You don’t want your dog jumping out of the vehicle until you give a verbal cue to do so.

Dogs quickly pick up on our routines and visual cues. Sometimes, we fault the dog for doing an action when in actuality, they were doing what we commanded unknowingly. To limit your visual cues:

  1. Remain still
  2. Try Shaping versus Luring
  3. Mark the desired behavior with a clicker or “yes” marker word prior to reaching for the reward.

“Now we’re dog training!” to quote an internationally acclaimed dog trainer, Bart Bellon creator of the NePoPo training system. To learn more, contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan at 734-634-4152.

Puppy Nosework

Puppy training, Nosework, Puppy Nosework, Michigan Dog TrainingNosework is a fun sport for dogs of all ages including puppies. Watch Jelly, a 12 week old Beagle in the video below show you just how fun it is. This was her very first lesson.Nosework, Beagle, Michigan Dog Training, puppy training

She is being trained through free shaping to indicate on a target odor. In this case, the odor is Birch Oil. The United Kennel Club offers Nosework competitions whereas dogs search containers, interior rooms, exterior areas, and vehicles for five different scents. You and your puppy can do it just for fun or to eventually compete at Nosework trials.

By free shaping, Jelly discovers that if she goes near and later sniffs a target odor it will result in hearing a click from a clicker that she was correct and she can come get her reward, a tasty treat. We started off with just one pod that she had to search which was later increased to two pods and finally three pods. This caused her to differentiate between the correct pod and the other two that didn’t contain a scent.

In the end, she actually did a search of all three pods to find the target odor.  Now that’s an awesome puppy! To join a Nosework dog training class, contact Michigan Dog Training at 734-634-4152.



Dog training via Free Shaping 2

clicker training, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

On November 20, 2016, I wrote about the Free Shaping dog training method using a clicker. In the video that accompanied that post, Kaboom a Belgian Malinois was clicked and treated for going to a NePoPo Klack Klack board and an Alley Oop free standing target.

In today’s video, I free shaped Kaboom to pick up a toy bone without cuing him to do so. At first I clicked and treated for him going close to the toy. Later, he only got clicked if he touched it and finally only if he picked it up. To take it further, I would expect a pick up and hold and once he had that, I would name it by saying “fetch” or “bone” (so he could later differentiate between the toy bone and other items that may also be present to pick up) just before he was about to pick it up so that it would be on cue.

For more information on dog training and clicker training, contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan at 734-634-4152.



Dog Training via Free Shaping

Clicker, Clicker Training, Michigan Dog TrainingDog training via Free Shaping involves using a marker word such as “yes” or a clicker (dog training tool that clicks when the button is pressed) to indicate the dog completed a desired behavior and will receive a reward. It can be used to teach a new behavior by marking and rewarding smaller components of the desired behavior. The “free” indicates that the dog is not being cued as to what is the desired behavior.

The dog figures out on his own by exploring his environment and trying new behaviors. The dog is proactively thinking how to obtain his reward. While shaping behavior sometimes takes longer than Clicker, Clicker training, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, Michigan Dog Trainingluring the dog with a treat into a desired position; it can cause the dog to be more enthusiastic and creative about the training process. And, what the dog figures out on their own tends to be more deeply practiced and retained.

Watch Kaboom, a Belgian Malinois discover what might result in a click and treat. His training up to this point has been largely done through luring. He is now learning that he can explore and practice new behaviors to earn a reward.  In this video, he learns to go back and forth from the NePoPo Klack Klack board and the Alley Oop free standing target.

To train your dog, follow this process: 1. Charge the clicker (give it meaning by clicking it and giving your dog a food treat), 2. Click and treat when your dog performs a desired behavior, 3. Shape or lure the desired behavior, and 4. Once your dog understands the desired behavior, name it just before your dog does it so that it is now on verbal cue. For more information on dog training and clicker training via Free Shaping, contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan at 734-634-4152.

17 Week Old Puppy Begins Life on the Right Paw


“Michael is great. We highly recommend him. Rocky has come so far since the 2 week board and train along with the ongoing home training sessions.”….Kevin Rambsy, Detroit, MI  

To Click or Not to Click? That is the question…

As William Shakespeare would say, “To click or not to clicker train your dog?  That is the question. ” A clicker is a dog training communication tool.  It was first used in World War I clicker training, clicker, dog trainingby soldiers to signal friend or foe on the battle field.  Bob Bailey used clicks or whistle blurts to train U.S. Navy Dolphins to attach bombs to undersides of ships.  Later, Karen Pryor also a marine mammal trainer brought the clicker from the dolphin world to the dog training world.

Clicker training pairs a distinct sound or signal to mark a desired behavior that is followed by a rewarding reinforcer (such as a treat). One click equals one treat.  The clicker is used to mark desired behavior rather than as an “attention getter.”  A dog will come upon hearing the clicker because the dog knows it means a reward is forthcoming.  However, using the clicker as an attention getter will decrease it’s value as a marker of desired behavior.

To give the clicker meaning (that food is forthcoming), one has to “charge the clicker”. This is accomplished by pairing a click of the clicker with the offer of a food reward.  When the clicker is charged, cue the desired behavior and click upon execution of the behavior. Then reinforce with a treat after the click.

As long as there is a question in the dog’s mind as to whether or not to perform a cued behavior (e.g. a sit cue), click and treat as described above.  When the dog no longer questions what the desired cue is, then the clicker can be phased out for that cue. However, it can be used again to teach a new skill.

There are many versions of a clicker from a simple box clicker to the ones made by Triple Crown Academy (pictured above) and Karen Pryor’s IClick clicker.  The simple box clicker is sometimes difficult to operate as one has to remember which end of the box to click. Whereas, the above clickers have a single button to press taking the guesswork out of the equation.  The Triple Crown Academy clicker is a crisp sounding click and it fits nicely in the palm of your hand.  If you’re dog is sound sensitive or you have a small hand, try the IClick as it is smaller in size and has a softer sounding click.  The IClick can be found on Karen Pryor’s website and the Triple Crown Academy clicker can be found at your local PetSmart store.

A person is physically able to push a button quicker than they can say “yes” or “good” as a verbal marker.  In dog training, timing of the marker is crucial.  Therefore, using a clicker helps speed up the learning process as the click marked the instant the desired behavior occurred.  Additionally, the click sounds the same no matter who is working with the dog. A tool that lessens the dog’s confusion as to if their behavior was correct or not will also heighten their speed of learning.

However, some people find using a clicker difficult to manage as they realize they now are in control of their dog via a leash, food treats in one hand and now a clicker in the other hand.  This is a lot to handle for a new dog owner.  And, if it’s cumbersome for you, don’t worry, simply replace the click with a very quick well timed verbal marker of “yes” or “good”, at the moment the dog performs the desired behavior.  While not as distinct as the clicker, if timed well, you will receive a similar benefit.

So to answer the question of “to click or not to click”, it depends upon your level of coordination.  If you are eager to try clicker training, place the clicker in the same hand as the leash.  It will free up your other hand to dispense the treats. A clicker isn’t magic but it is an excellent teaching tool.  I hope you’ll give it a try and decide to click with your dog.  If so, ask Michael to show you how to clicker train your dog.