Helen on March 23rd, 2017

The posts from this blog are slowly being moved to the Outsmarting Dogs website. Look under the “dog training tips” tab. See you there!


Helen on March 7th, 2012

This hurts.

Giving a chomper treats is painful.  My dog Raven needed to take a step back in training for me to re-teach her how to take a treat with ease.  So I stopped training the behavior we were working on, and for a couple of sessions, we worked on taking the treat in a polite manner.

I wiped some chicken fat on my palm, and offered her my palm.  When she licked it, I clicked and gave her a treat off the palm of my hand.  I was working fast to get the palm licking to merge into licking the treat up.

Once Raven licked five times in a row, just before she licked my hand, I’d say “Easy,” and clicked.  I quickly put a treat in the same palm and said, “Easy.”  If she came at me with anything more than a lick, I folded my hand and moved it away.  After a few seconds, I tried again until she took the treat with a lick after I said “Easy.”  We practice several sessions, until she got the hang of it.

As we moved back into training regular sessions, when she got excited, I would remind Raven to take treats politely with my cue “Easy.”

The main thing is patience, perseverance and consistency.

Helen on October 7th, 2011

When training with a clicker, the sound of the “click” marks the moment the dog executes a behavior the trainer is seeking.  That sound communicates to the dog he succeeded and will be rewarded.

Every time a trainer clicks, she must give the dog a treat.  The click is the secondary reinforcer, which announces the treat, which is the primary reinforcer, is to come. If a trainer accidentally clicks at the wrong time, it’s important she still give the dog a treat.  To keep the clicker “charged” and meaningful to the dog, the click must always be paired with treating.

If a clicker isn’t handy, or not preferred, a sound or a word can be used.  Some trainers click with their tongue.  Others use a word as a behavior marker.  A word comes in handy when a dog is at a distance and the trainer needs volume.  A trainer can have as many markers as she wants, as long as the dog is taught the sound or signal is a behavior marker.  A treat always follows the marker.  Always.  Without the pairing of the treat to the marker, the marker becomes meaningless through classical extinction.

When selecting a word, one that isn’t normally uttered should be chosen.  I used YES when I first started, but found YES came out of mouth more than the times I wanted to mark behavior. So I faded YES and added another marker word, YEP.

A one-syllable word is the best choice as a marker.  Being able to say the marker word fast to capture the behavior is imperative.  Words such as “beep,” “great,” and “right” are one-syllable words which work well.  Two-syllable words such as “super,” and “bravo,” and three-syllable words such as “fantastic” are too long for markers.  Unusual one-syllable marker words work best.

When training multiple dogs, another behavior marker that comes in handy is the pointing finger.  When a dog in a group is doing something exemplary, and a trainer wants to reward that behavior, pointing at that dog is a fine way to distinguish who gets the reward.  Pointing is also a good marker for dogs who are deaf.

No matter what behavior marker you use, remember to charge it first, and when you use it, always follow it with a treat.

Helen on October 4th, 2010

Let’s face it.  A piece of steak is going to get a trainer more attention from a dog than a piece of kibble.  And this is good to know.  Having treats at different levels of desirability is a good thing to work with when training a dog.

When working on a behavior that’s difficult for a dog to learn, getting and keeping a dog’s complete concentration will be a little more challenging, and that’s when the steak-level treats are brought out.

For example, when working with a dog to step onto a skateboard, that board will have some movement to it, which is a challenge to some dogs.  That’s when the steak or other top-level treat should be used.  A dog’s paws hit the board, click and treat with that steak.  That treat is so good, the dog wants to stay on board for more.  Guess what?  That’s when kibble comes in.

To get the dog off the board, toss a piece of kibble.  He’ll fetch the morsel, while you reset for the next trial…with steak.

Having a variety of treats available when training a dog is an important component of reward-based training.  So keep a variety on hand and plan on which ones to use ahead of your training time.


Helen on September 30th, 2010

When training your dog, be sure to have a wide variety of food treats at your disposal.

You can categorize treats into three types – A, B, C.

The A-group is the most appealing treat to the dogs.  For example, most dogs would do anything for a piece of steak or other kind of meat.  Most dogs love cheese, too.

A B-group treat may be dehydrated apples or bananas, an animal cracker, or some other dry tidbit that isn’t usually found in the dog’s food bowl.

A C-group training treat would most likely include a dog’s daily kibble, a carrot, or other food the dog will eat because he’s hungry.

Think about your dog/s and what tasty food will fit under each category and make a list.  And please read the labels on treats.  Some dog treats look and feel like play dough.  They smell awful, and the label reads like a chemical factory list.  It’s so much better to feed your dog food that is natural.  They used to eat it before dog food manufacturers opened shop, and they did very well on it.

So take a little time to make your list then fill your dog’s treat pantry with the good stuff that will motivate him, along with you, to do great things.