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Monday, 23 January 2017

Training basics

Methods of teaching/ training


  • Can be used  to teach things like sit, lie down, spin and jump.
  • Luring involves using food (usually) to guide the animal to perform the desired behaviour or trick. For example holding food and raising your hand over the dogs head so that they back into a sitting position.

training cats and dogs
Hodor and Basil sitting like pros for coconut oil 


  • Can be used to teach things like speak, eye contact, be quiet and tricks like lip licking.
  • Capturing is almost like taking a picture of the behaviour you want repeated. It means that it is the full behaviour and one that the dog/cat does 'naturally'. For example, if you wanted to teach your dog to 'speak', you would reward them for barking, after several trials you would introduce a cue for this, we will talk about adding cues and timing later on.
Training cats to lick their lips
You can easily teach pets to lick their lips on cue, which is easier if you have tasty treats on hand, Boots agrees...


  • Can be used to teach almost anything.
  • You can start with an end goal/ trick/behaviour in mind. For example teaching you dog to play fetch.
  • Move in small increments& take your time when using this technique.
  • If you wanted to teach you dog to play fetch you would start off by rewarding your dog for picking up a toy, then teach them to drop it, and build up the difficulty by throwing it a short distance and when they bring it back to drop it, reward them, and continue and to build on this.
Malamute holding a toy
Leah being a great demo dog  

Adding cues 

  • When teaching your pet to do something you obviously want a way to tell them to repeat what you just taught at a later stage or to progress through what you are teaching at that moment.
  • For example you are teaching sit via luring . Before you give the hand signal(or even move your hand) you would say 'sit' then followed by the hand signal.

Tips for the most effective training

  •  Use something that really motivates your pet. This will be different for every pet but in most cases something that smells good, like chicken or cheese will get the job the job done.
  • When choosing to teach something new, practice in a low distraction area, like your home at a quiet time, when you've both mastered it there them move onto other places with increasing the distraction level gradually. 
  • Only use small amounts of a reward to avoid over-feeding. Pieces of food like cheese only need to be half the size of your finger nail. This is better for training, your pets waistline and your pocket!
  • You don't need to spend an hour on a training session, this will only become a chore for you and will likely decrease your pets motivation and will probably frustrate the heck out of them. Do a few 1-3 minute sessions throughout the day, practice new tricks while the kettle boils or when ads come of the TV.
  • Be patient, remember  your pet has no idea what you want unless you show them in a way they understand. If you are having trouble teaching something new reexamine your set up, reward value and how fast you are moving through an exercise. You might need to go back a little or up the quality of the reward you are using.
  • Remember to have fun, training can just be a game for cats and dogs (and you) if you let it.
  • Everyone has has an opinion- people will tell you all sorts of ways to train your dog, mostly based on myth and misconception. 
  • If your pet is hard to motivate, then try training before their meals i.e. when the are a little hungry.
  • If you pet is almost too motivated by food then try feeding them before training sessions or using their meals or more 'boring' food as rewards.
  • Some people think that by rewarding your dog for good behaviour spoils them, but this isn't the case. Remember you probably wouldn't work for free so don't expect pets to, they are easily bought after all 💗

funny cat, hodor
Put your best foot forward....


  • Using a marker will help speed up your training  and reduce an animals confusion as a marker lets them know know exactly what it was they have done to get the reward
  • If you've heard of clicker training then you already know what a marker is. After an animal does the right thing you would 'click' and then reward.
  • If you are a beginner don't worry about having a clicker, using a certain word like 'Yes' or 'Good' is pretty much the same thing and means you have both hands free for training.

Adding cues

  • Adding a cue basically means just introducing a word (verbal cue), a hand signal or a physical gesture that lets your pet know to repeat a trick/behaviour.
  • When luring you want to fade the lure before you add a verbal cue i.e. moving onto a hand signal first. This is easy enough you just need to fade the use of the lure, you would do this after luring the behaviour/trick 5-10 times and then reduce how often you actually have the food in your hand. When you have reached this point  mark the do with a click or a 'Yes' then reward them from your other hand.
  • When you want to add cue whether it be verbal or physical, (lets go with a verbal cue for sit for this example) you would say the word  'sit' just before the dog sits, make sure you know your dog is 99.9% likely to sit before you say it otherwise the word can loose meaning for them. Saying the word while they are in the process of sitting is confusing them and again decreases the meaning of the word.
  • It will take lots of practice before your dog learns the meaning of the new cue so don't loose heart just keep at it :) 

Happy Training! 

Funny pom picture

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