Training Foundation- The Big Three

by Ben Brooks, Ph.D. 

Training Foundation- The Big Three


Commonly, when one sees training foundation, it is a list of skills or training exercises.  That is because as the human trainers, we want a recipe just as if we were cooking. You can make a really good meal by following the recipe, but many of the skill(s) involved in advanced training are missing. In other words, it is a short cut.  Depending on the end goal, this may be fine, or it may limit the potential of the dog.


The foundation of dog training in in my book involves training engagement, impulse control, and drives building.  By focusing on these broad classes of skills, the foundation is available tot training your dog for a large number of the available advanced skills.  I will expand on these three topics in greater detail later. For now, I will briefly explain the skill class and the importance in training.


 Let’s start with engagement. In engagement, your dog is looking to you as the source of fun. The engaged dog wants the game to continue because it is the most exciting activity the dog can engage in. If you build engagement, this will continue. Nothing in the outside environment will be as exciting as you. An important note, the dog isn’t engaged with you because you told them to or because you demanded them to be. You cannot ask, force or demand engagement. The other subtle part of engagement is that the dog isn’t fixated on their toy either. When this is case, the moment the toy is won the dog loses focus of the person. 


Engagement is most easily taught at 6-12 weeks where we give the puppy a treat or its toy every time the dog comes up to us (not recall). We also spend three-to-five times a day for short bursts in very exciting activities.  When the dog is done, it goes back into the crate or kennel. Training is significantly more efficient and enjoyable with a dog who is engaged with you and not distracted by everything in the environment.


Next, we like to build impulse control. Impulse control is helping the dog to delay a motivation like trying to steal a treat for a bigger payoff.  The key concept here is that the dog has to learn there is a bigger payoff if they control there motivation.  This pays off not only in training where it is important for the dog to wait, but also in manners. The dog wont bull rush the dogs or steal off the counter with proper impulse control.


Again, impulse control is a family of exercises that works exceptionally well in dog and family that engagein significant amount of time together.If the dog is engaged, impulse control is the next logical steps toward building and training a dog,


Lastly, the dog will need to have a motivation to work with you. Drive building is the last step in the process. While drives are complex and commonly have a genetic component (a topic for a different day), building the motivation to work for you in your dog , is well understood. If you setup your dog for building drives, you have a toolbox where you can use an appropriate tool to motivate your dog to do certain ativities which are enjoyable for both of you.  


We will expand on these topics individually going forward in both blog posts and podcasts. 



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