Should I tell my dog to stay?

Michigan Dog Training

I am often asked the question, “Should I tell my dog to stay?” As noted in an earlier blog article, “3D’s for teaching your dog to Stay,” “I don’t use the word “stay” because I’m very consistent with my dog. Sit means sit and down means down.”

If I tell my dog to “sit,” then I expect him to remain sitting until I release him from that position. If I tell him to go to “place” (such as on a place board) then it’s a location not a position. Again, I don’t need to also say stay as staying on “place” is implied through the training. However, if you’re more comfortable in saying stay, that’s fine. Just realize it’s more for your benefit than your dog’s.

Your dog will learn faster, the more you are consistent and precise in your cues, commands and expectations. Years ago, a college roommate of mine was taking an Abnormal Psychology course. As part of his homework, he asked me to take a 500 multiple question test. I didn’t know the purpose of the test at the time but later found out it was to test a person’s consistency rate. Many of the questions resulted in the same answer but were asked in a  different way.

Michigan Dog Training, brain waves, PsychologyWhen announcing the score, he told me I was abnormal. I replied, “Abnormal!! What do you mean, I’m probably the most normal person you could find!” That’s probably a sign of an abnormal person right there LOL.

He told me that I scored 100% on the test and it was a test on consistency. He further explained that he called me abnormal as hardly anyone scores 100%. A dog training secret is that a high consistency rate is one of the main things that separate dog owners and dog trainers. And, that’s a good thing because consistency can be taught as well as dog training skills.

Dogs learn well when we chuck learning goals into smaller components and are consistent in their delivery. Once learned, we can add them together for the desired end result command. Thus if you’re consistent that a sit means a sit and a down means a down, you don’t need to give another command which is more ambiguous such as “stay.” It’s an added command that really doesn’t have as much meaning for the dog as William Shakespeare, Michigan Dog Training, To be or not to bethe desired command. For example, a dog can’t jump on you if he’s been taught to reliably respond to a sit command. Thus, the stay command is not needed.

As William Shakespeare coined, “To be or not to be,” you can decide to tell your dog “to stay or not to stay.” It’s your choice.

For more information on having your dog trained or learning how to train your own dog, contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan or call 734-634-4152.

Is training your dog a habit?

Change of habits, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

In business circles, a common topic of discussion is whether or not leaders are born to lead. And so too, I ask are people born with dog training skills or do they develop them?

It may seem obvious, that people develop the skills because most people see the value in getting their dog professionally trained. However, there are those who have a passion and love for dog training as a profession, sport or hobby, have an easier time relating to dogs than others, are easily able to recognize stress, fear and aggressive behavior signs in dogs, and are more coordinated. So which is it, born with greater skills or trained?

Greek Philosopher Aristotle, Michigan Dog Training


Aristotle said it best, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” So too is dog training. Even the most uncoordinated and first time dog owner can learn to bond, relate and train their dog with help from an experienced dog trainer as long as they consider the training of their dog to be a habit and not an one time act.

If you don’t have the time and patience to train your dog then its’ best to have a professional train your dog via a board and train or day training program. However, if you do have the time and patience as well as the motivation and commitment; then group classes or private training lessons are a good choice.

As you progress through the weekly lessons be sure to put practice time on your schedule. Just like going to the gym, it’s more likely to happen if you reserve time on your calendar and commit to it. Otherwise, life gets in the way and your attendance at the gym will suffer. Thus, you need to reserve time on the calendar for you and your dog. Otherwise, life will interrupt the best intentions of training your dog.

The good news is, you don’t have to reserve big blocks of time to train your dog at one time, such as a hour or even a half hour. Frequency of practice sessions utilizing Deep Practice or Deliberate Practice (defined by Daniel Coyle in his book, The Little Book of Talent, 52 Tips for Improving Skills as “The form of learning marked by 1) the willingness to operate on the edge of your ability, aiming for targets that are just out of reach, and 2) the embrace of attentive repetition.”) are more important than the length of the sessions. Therefore, for a pet dog to be transformed into a well mannered family member, I recommend the following minimum training sessions:

  •  Pups 10-19 weeks of age:  10-15 minute sessions, 3-4 sessions per day, 5 days per week
  •  Dogs 20 weeks and older:  20 minute sessions, 3 sessions per day, 5 days per week

Once your happy with your dog’s new obedience skills, you can switch from having scheduled training sessions with your dog to practicing good manners throughout your everyday life. As you remain consistent with the new standards you hold for your dog and for yourself, the training will cease to be an act and grow to be a habit with amazing potential and results.

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

Key Cabinet Positions for your Dog

U.S. Capitol Building, Michigan Dog Training

Whether you agree with President Trump’s Key Cabinet Appointees or not; it is interesting to watch the selection and confirmation process. It would be interesting to know how President Trump goes about making his selections. How much of the decision process is related to the person’s skill sets and prior experience? Was the person crucial in supporting his bid for the presidency or was he willing to consider those who did not? Are they like minded or willing to question each other for the greater good? And, the confirmation process, what are their agendas in asking specific questions? Is it to further their own agenda or is it truly to ensure the right person is confirmed for the position?

So too it’s crucial to consider each family member’s agenda, skills, and prior experience when selecting a new dog or puppy. Will the right puppy or dog be confirmed to best suit the family’s lifestyle? Are the family members like-minded or willing to listen and compromise on important issues such as:

  • Is this the right time to bring a new dog or puppy into the home?
  • Why are we getting a dog or puppy?
  • Should we adopt or purchase our new family member?Golden Retriever, puppy, pup, puppy training, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan
  • Should we get a puppy or an adult dog? Male or female?
  • What breed of dog will best fit our lifestyle?
  • Is it a “should” that we get a puppy or dog or is it a “must” decision? (To be fair to the dog, it must be a “must decision.”)
  • Who will be the primary care takers?
  • Who will train the dog?
  • Where will we take our dog for dog training?
  • How will we properly socialize our new loved one?
  • Who else will take care of our dog and in what way?
  • If there are children, are they mature enough to interact safely with a dog?
  • How will the puppy or dog impact and add value to our life?
  • How will we add value to our pet’s life?
  • Who will be our veterinarian?
  • Can we afford the financial cost of a puppy or dog? (purchase price, training, veterinarian, food, grooming, boarding when away on vacations, etc)
  • Do we have enough time to spend with our puppy or dog?

So, who are your dog’s Key Cabinet Appointees? Do they want the job(s)? And, how will the family (department) carry out the mission and value of bringing a new puppy or dog into the home? And, what are the other considerations your family must consider before obtaining a new family member? Please comment below.

President Trump, Human Needs & Dog Training

Donald Trump, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, Fear of Change, dog training

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States.  The Inauguration lasted approximately five hours. However, the most interesting part for me was the few moments the camera showed Donald Trump just before he walked out onto the swearing-in platform.  He was quiet and looked focused, deep in thought, and solemn.

I found it interesting to study him for this glimpse of his persona because this is not an image of Donald Trump we commonly see. Even more importantly I was intrigued by what he may have been thinking knowing he had captured the ultimate position of power. Was he visualizing his upcoming acceptance speech? And, was he nervous, ecstatic or in wonderment that he was about to become the 45th President of the United States? It would’ve been interesting to be able to read his mind in that moment of time.

Then my thought went to how an incredible feeling it must’ve been to know one was about to walk out and Michigan Dog Training, Gladiator, President Donald Trumpbecome the President; to go from President-Elect to “The President” in just a few minutes. No matter how prepared one is, change is often scary because people thrive certainty. It is one of the Six Basic Needs That Make Us Tick according to Tony Robbins an internationally known Personal Coach and Strategist. Yes, Trump was certain he would be sworn in but what challenges would he soon face as a leader of the free world?

Similarly, people face uncertainty when bringing a dog into their home. They envision the dog will be a welcomed new family member and the joy the dog will bring to their lives. Later, they realize the puppy or dog requires a lot more work to supervise and train than they first envisioned. This causes a disconnect with the original reason they got the dog. It can also cause disagreement amongst family members as they have their own ideas how to train their dog. This is where it’s beneficial to seek help from a professional dog trainer to give you the certainty you need – to build the relationship you desire with your dog and to restore family unity.

In relation to dog training, many people also need Uncertainty, Significance, Love & Connection, Growth, and Contribution; the other Human basic needs. While people seek Certainty to feel comfort, they also need Uncertainty. It provides variety, for example when a person goes beyond teaching their dog basic obedience and learn the exciting dog sport of Nosework. What fun activities do you want to learn with your dog? Please share below.

Learning how to influence and train your dog can certainly make one feel significant. It’s getting out of “the head” by dismissing self-limiting beliefs, deep practicing new skills by chunking them down into easily achievable parts, practicing them slowly, and then allowing the parts to flow back together. This is how you go from zero to mastering new skills.

Michigan Dog Training, Michael BurkeyLove & Connection can be obtained through personal relationships or by getting a dog.  I know this to be true from personal experience as it was a dog who taught me how to talk. I missed out on hearing beginning language sounds until the age of four. The speech therapist advised my parents to get a dog who would seemingly sit still and listen to me trying to make babbling sounds as I petted my friend Princess. How has a dog changed your life? I’d like to know so please share below.

Growth is crucial for self-fulfillment. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. Humans have a need to push themselves and explore their world and themselves. Working with and training a dog provides that growth not only of new skills but also the personal connection with the dog. As Robbins says, “And the reason we grow, I believe, is so we have something of value to give.”

Contribution provides meaning to life. When one gets out of themselves and focuses on the needs of others, Michigan Dog Training, Michael Burkeyone finds fulfillment. This is what motivates many people to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization rather than purchasing a dog. They want to provide love and improve a dog’s life that doesn’t yet have a forever home. For me, I make an unspoken contract with each dog I meet that I will be there for them and help their human counterpart better understand them. They cannot speak for themselves so I can be that catalyst for them, ending suffering and restoring peace within the home. What is your contribution? Please share below. I’m always inspired learning about individual’s contributions to dogs and others.

4 actions will make a lasting change in the relationship with your dog:

  • Realize your dog’s behavior is not what you desire and use your suffering to motivate yourself to take action.
  • Know, declare and own that you and your dog deserve a close and fun relationship together.
  • Get clear on how you want your relationship to be with your dog. Commit this to being a lifestyle change.
  • Call a dog behavior expert to help you achieve your dream.

I started this conversation by wondering what President Trump was thinking before stepping out onto the platform and what were his fears as he became the President. So too, I’d like to hear what your fears are in training your dog or seeking out a professional dog trainer/dog behaviorist for assistance. What prevents you from taking action today?


Dogs learn good manners

puppy training classes, Puppy STAR, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, puppy obedience, puppy training


dog obedience, dog training, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, Doberman

Luna, CGC

Rottweiler, dog training, dog training classes, Michigan Dog Training, Canine Good Citizen, Plymouth, Michigan

Cyrus, CGC







On January 10, 2017 three dogs showed off their good manners by passing the American Kennel Club Puppy STAR and Canine Good Citizen evaluations after having taken puppy training and dog training classes at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan.

Congrats to the following dog teams:

  1. Sobi, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Puppy STAR and her handler Ed Abramoski of Canton, Michigan
  2. Cyrus, Rottweiler, Canine Good Citizen and his handlers Bernie White and Jeanette Garcia of Lincoln Park, Michigan
  3. Luna, Doberman, Canine Good Citizen and his handler James Remenapp of Redford, Michigan


Contact Michigan Dog Training at 734-634-4152 to learn how your dog can also become a Puppy STAR or Canine Good Citizen with good manners.

Dog training New Year’s Resolutions

dog training, new year's resolutions, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan


2016 is past and 2017 is here.  That’s a fact. People often times debate whether or not to set New Year’s resolutions.  Those who don’t, say they don’t keep them so why set them and cause themselves undue stress? Those who set resolutions and keep them are ones who not only decided on a goal but also made the concrete choices in accomplishing their goal.  They set out action steps to accomplish the goal with timelines and accountability, eliminated opportunities to not strive toward the goal, and relished in the moments of their success.

Many people decide they want to lose weight as a New Year’s Resolution. Tony Robbins an internationally known best-selling author and Life and Business Strategist, asks an important question, have they really made that “should” be a “must” goal? If it’s a “should”, it won’t happen. If it’s a “must”, it will.

If it’s a “must”, they will be committed to it’s end goal, accomplish action steps to the goal, be able to avoid temptations because they now identify themselves with being a slimmer and healthier person, and they will associate pleasant experiences with their accomplishments.  If instead, they decide to go on a “diet”, it’s an event and not a lifestyle change.

The same is true with dog training. If we want to have a more rewarding life with our dogs and be able to take our dogs to more fun places, we have to identify the goal as a lifestyle change. We have to change it from a “should” to a “must”. To do that one needs to personalize the passion behind their goal and eliminate things that may defer the goal. For example, time with family may prevent people from following their goal of training the dog to a certain level of dog obedience or sport accomplishment. But if they are able to involve their family (even in little ways), it would accomplish both; quality time with family and training the dog.

Bart Bellon an internationally acclaimed dog trainer and coach who created the NePoPo® modern system of dog training, introduced me to the book, “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. In it, Coyle investigates why there are certain geographical areas of hot bed talent. He explains that people aren’t just born with talent but more so it arises from an internalized passion which he describes as the “ignition”. The needed skills for high performance are deliberately practiced, which he calls “deep practice”. This ignition and deep practice not only hones a person’s skill but also develops Myelin connections resulting in increased muscle memory where one is able to perform better without thought.  For deep practice to occur, one looks at the overall skill to be learned, breaks it down into chunks of learning to be memorized separately and later put back together while practicing the skill slowly so that errors can be detected and corrected. In the end, the skill is fluid and looks flawless.

The benefits of attaining the end goal can be elusive if people don’t enjoy the journey toward the goal. Robbins states, consider Astronauts who have been to the moon. What is left for them after returning home and the ticket fanfare dies down if they haven’t considered their next great accomplishment? And, what about former U.S. Presidents including President Barack Obama who will complete his eight year term this month? Whether you support his politics or not, what is next for him now that he has completed the ultimate goal in politics? I’m sure he has future goals for himself but those who don’t, face depression if they didn’t enjoy the journey and continually create future possibilities for themselves.


To have a rewarding 2017 with your dog:

  1. Decide what is a “must” for you and your dog. This provides the necessary ignition.
  2. Internalize the “must” as a lifestyle change rather than a temporary event.
  3. Set action steps to accomplish the goal followed by “deep practice”
  4. Associate pleasant experiences and rewards for your continual accomplishments
  5. Enjoy the journey with your dog rather than basing your happiness on the end goal

Those who relish the moments during their journeys live a rich life with their dogs, relationships and for themselves.  What are your “musts” with your dog? Comment below, I’d love to hear what they are.

If you would like help in accomplishing your dog training “musts”, please contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan at 734-634-4152.  We will be happy to help you and your dog.

Best dog trainers in Michigan

Michigan Dog Training, School for Dog Trainers, Dog Training Academy

Michael and Starbuck

Its hard to know who you can trust when searching for a qualified dog training company and ultimately the best dog trainers in Michigan. There are numerous different training styles and beliefs to choose from. Some trainers lean toward pure positive reinforcement (which there is no such thing in the real world) and sadly others are still locked in the old days of “training” by punishment. There are also trainers who outwardly lie.  I personally know one “trainer” who was fired from a dog training company and falsely tells his clients he had received two promotions.

You want to select a trainer that is highly experienced and demonstrates the ultimate integrity and professionalism. The trainer should use positive training methods to teach new skills but will also use fair corrections to decrease undesired behavior once the dog understands what is the expected behavior. Its like training children. You show them the value in doing the right thing (behavior). Thus, they learn there are rewards for doing the right thing and in the end it becomes self rewarding to do the right thing. Once they know what is expected behavior they also learn there are logical and fair consequences for choosing not to do the right thing.

While I (Michael Burkey of Michigan Dog Training) would love to work with you and your dog; I want to share with you who else I believe are the best dog trainers in Michigan. That way whether based on geographical location, their specialty or it just feels like the right fit; you can rest assured you’re working with a trusted professional. They are listed in alphabetical order.


Randy Adams, of Adam’s K9 in Hudsonville, Michigan, 616,209-5501. Randy is a former Police K9 Officer and Trainer. Winner of many Police Dog Trials, he has a master’s degree and is a state of Michigan expert witness.

Ted Aranda, CPDT-KA of Aranda Dog Training, Adrian, Michigan, 517-265-3266. Ted’s career training dogs started in 1975 as an obedience competitor. Winner of many titles he also became known for providing lectures on dog behavior and consulting with animal rescues and shelters.

Gustavo Sanchez of Capital Area Schutzhund Club, Charlotte, Michigan, 517-388-6141. Gustavo has won many awards in Schutzhund and is the decoy and coach of Capital Area Schutzhund Club. In addition to club activities, he provides private lessons in obedience and tracking.

Janet A. Smith of Good Dog! Training, 1575 Haslett Road, Haslett, Michigan, 517-349-0502. She serves the Lansing area providing pet training and sport classes. Her career has included serving as Director of Behavior Programs for the Capital Area Humane Society. She has lectured nationally and is a published author on canine behavior and training. She is also an active dog competitor in many different dog sports.


Dog training transformations

Michigan Dog Training, Mountains, Draper, UtahI recently flew into Salt Lake City, Utah exhausted from travel and drove to my hotel in the darkness of the night. I was focused on transversing the unknown highways instead of taking in the sights. The next morning as I ventured from the hotel; I saw a picturesque view of snow-capped mountains in the distance. They were beautiful but so far away. I had forgotten Utah had mountains, so it was a nice surprise but not an earth moving moment.

The mountains seemed so far away and unattainable. My heart was saddened as I knew I would not have time to explore them as I had done during a trip to Colorado a few years ago. I am happy and content when I am one with nature.

So I got in the car and drove parallel to the mountains toward my destination, K9 LifeLine in Draper, Utah (where it’s founder Heather Beck gave an awesome Dog DayCare Seminar). As I made a right hand turn away from the distant mountains, I was literally stunned; my eyes opened wide, I stopped breathing, my jaw dropped and I uttered, “Oh my Gosh!!! Right in front of me had to be one of the most beautiful mountains I had seen. It wasn’t distant – I was at the base of the mountain experiencing all of its grandeur!

Michigan Dog Training, Transform, Train your dogObviously, this close mountain had been there all the time. I could’ve seen it right from my hotel. The only thing that had changed was my orientation. If I had simply turned around upon exiting the hotel to take in a 360-degree view, it would’ve been there for me to see.

This breath taking realization flooded my mind with several thought-provoking ideas. A moment prior, I felt saddened seeing the distant mountains as I told myself a “lacking story” of not having time to explore but now I was overjoyed realizing I was at the base of a splendor mountain.

Stories get us into trouble. Landmark Education teaches there is “what is” (the facts) and then there is the “story”. If we focus on the story, we feel sorrow and pain painting ourselves as a victim who isn’t in control of their outcome and opportunities. Instead, if I had focused on the “what is”, I would’ve felt satisfaction in seeing beautiful mountains in the distance as an outline to the wonderful opportunity to attend the K9 Lifeline seminar.

To view the close mountain, the only things that changed were light, being open and my orientation. The night prior it was dark and I wasn’t open to seeing the environment as I was exhausted and focused on traveling the unknown highways. The next morning I still didn’t see the mountain until I turned toward it while driving and was faced with what was right in front of me. Many times we don’t see or understand things that are right in front of us let alone around us without being open to new thoughts, ideas and experiences.

With inspiring fulfillment, I took in “My Mountain” for it was my mountain, not out of ownership as one does not own nature but out of oneness and connectedness. And, I could hear Lisa Mininni, Best-Selling Author and President of Excellerate Associates speaking to me as I gazed upon my mountain: “What you focus on you find; what you focus on grows and increases; what you focus on seems real; what you focus on you ultimately become.” I had found my mountain by changing my orientation and focusing on what was in front of me.

As commonly happens, my thoughts turned toward dogs and dog training and how that related to my mountain transformation. Many times we don’t understand what the dog is telling us because we obviously don’t speak their language. As one learns a foreign language by immersion, deep practice and hiring a teacher who is fluent in the desired language; we too should learn what their body mannerisms and vocalizations really mean. They are communicating with us all the time. We just need to be present in the moment with our dogs. If we are focused elsewhere, we will not be open to understanding them.

It is important to be clear on what your end goal is for your dog; whether that is to become a calm and happy pet dog or a dog who excels in sports such as obedience, agility, or nose work so that “what you focus on, you find”. Even more importantly, is relishing in the experience of the journey. Otherwise, we will miss out on wonderful opportunities to be in communion with our dogs.

To experience a transformation with your dog:Michigan Dog Training, Transform, Train your dog

  • See your dog’s behavior for what it is and not the stories you tell yourself
  • Feel the pain your dog’s behavior causes you (your dog pulls hard on the leash, your dog destroys your home furnishings, your dog jumps on your house guests causing them to limit their visits, your dog shows fearful and/or aggressive behavior, etc.) and use it as an activator to train your dog
  • Be open to what your dog presents around you as well as right in front of you
  • Learn what your dog’s body language and vocalizations mean
  • Focus on what you want your dog’s end goal to be and
  • Relish in the new awesome journeys you’ll experience together.

Start your dog’s transformation today by contacting Michigan Dog Training at 734-634-4152.

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.