Dog Training from the Dog's Perspective

Dog Training is fun, easy to understand, and easy to do

...If you look at it from the dog's point of view. We all like to tune into the world's favourite radio station: WIIfm (What's In It For Me?) and your dog is no exception.

For pedigree or mutt, our training tips work with your dog's mind. In fact, this method of dog training can be used for training dogs and all sorts of other animals, even teenagers and spouses!


It's no good pushing your dog's behind to the floor as you shout "Sit!" - or "*??*+@#!" as he would hear it - how would you react if your parent or teacher did that to you, not to mention your best friend in all the world? For that's how your dog needs to see you - the sun needs to shine from your face, then he's yours: he'll do anything for you (most of the time). Dog Training is not something you do for ten minutes a day (or week!). Dog training is a central part of your relationship with your dog, and can be going on all the time.

If you can show him that it's in his interest to sit - that good things will happen when he does sit, then sit he will, as often as you ask him. Oh, and forget that "*??*+@#!" sound for now. First you need to get the action of sitting right, then you can attach a label to it for future reference.

Let's say you visit a friend's house. Your friend starts to manhandle you towards a chair, at the same time as shouting "*??*+@#!" at you. What's your reaction? My guess is that you would pull away, from both him and the chair, and you would mentally log "*??*+@#!" as an alarm signal - that something unpleasant is about to happen. At the very least you would be confused by your "friend's" action, doubts would come into your mind and your friendship would be damaged.

Now let's say instead that you arrive at your friend's house and he indicates a chocolate cake on the table. Smiling and saying "*??*+@#!" quietly, he motions you to a chair in front of the plate. What's your reaction now? I'd say you would happily sit down and tuck into your cake, subconsciously registering "*??*+@#!" as the signal that something very nice is about to happen. No confusion here!

This is, of course, how people normally behave. It starts when we are babies, and we gradually build up associations and learn. Why do people expect dogs to come ready programmed, without the need for dog training? If you treat your dog as a toddler in terms of understanding - especially a toddler who doesn't speak your language - you won't go too far wrong in your dog training.

You can follow our step-by-step dog training of Sit and Down. And if you're starting with a tiny new puppy, here's the place to begin your Puppy Training.

Win his Heart and Mind

What we're really talking about here is not so much dog training as dog behaviour training. Rather than teach the dog a number of set commands to elicit set actions, we encourage the dog to choose the right action intuitively - initially for an instant reward, then later he'll do it just to please you.

One of the best explanations of this system of dog training is Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor, a one-time dolphin trainer who made such an impact on the dog training world. In it she explains just how to get your dog to choose the action you are looking for. It was a revelation to me when I first read it: it fitted in with the way I like to live with my dogs, and made getting into their minds so much easier.

Now I must warn you that this isn't a book about dog training so much as behavior modification, but it will give you an excellent base for building your dog training program. You can turn this theory into practice when we take a look at clicker training.

For other good training books, see Resources.

Incidentally, you've probably guessed by now - you won't find any electronic or spike collars recommended on this dog training site. If you want to use one of these barbaric methods with your dog, just ask yourself if you'd like to use it on your child first.

Rewarding Behaviour

I'll talk a fair amount about treats as an incentive, because they're so effective, but there are a surprising number of dogs - especially Border Collies! - who would choose a game with a toy every time. There are terrific toys available these days, and some are quite ingenious dog training aids, so take a look at some of the specialist sites and see the dog training toys you can use to enhance your relationship with your dog.

As you'll see as you explore, my emphasis is in making your wishes and boundaries (physical and emotional!) clear to your dog. This is not done by shouting, jabbing your dog, or being brutal with him. On the contrary, it's a gentle give-and-take which is the foundation for any good partnership. Once he understands what you expect of him - and, of course, what he can get away with! - you can develop an easy relationship which is based on mutual respect. So you must be very consistent - don't keep moving the goalposts!

If your dog is continually confused this leads to misunderstanding and misery. You want a happy dog - after all you chose him as a companion, not a burden. A trained dog is a happy dog and our simple, intuitive and gentle method of dog training will result in a happy dog.