Key Points that Impact the Effectiveness of Your Dog Training

Corey McCusker  00:03
Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach. Along with me, I have my cohost Diane Purser, Canine Educator. 

Diane Purser  00:26
Hi, everyone. Thanks for listening in. 

Corey McCusker  00:29
We have a passion for pups. And we thank you for joining us today. Today, we want to talk about some key points that will impact the effectiveness of your dog training. 

Diane Purser  00:38
You know what, Corey, we always say everything is important, but you know what – it’s important to understand dog training isn’t easy. And we want to share some tips on how you can positively contribute to your success and help your dog training efforts. There are so many things to think about when training your dog, like, what are your goals for your dog? Just simple manners and obedience, like sit, down, stay? Or do you have really big goals like competition and sporting events? How you communicate to your dog so that they can get it and understand what you’re teaching them is key, and how your dog evolves from learning to knowing what to do, and keeping the training going as they go through their ages and their life. So, Corey, where do we start? 

Corey McCusker  01:30
You mentioned how do you communicate, so they get it and understand it. It really makes me smile when I see owners having conversations versus giving them commands. They’ll have conversations with their dogs like, “Jimmy, sit, sit, sit, sit pretty. Hey, you know how to do this. Be a good boy and sit for me please.” Or when they call their dog, “Charlie, come. Here, sweetie, come here, come here. Hey, you’re not listening. Hey, I got a treat. Come and get the treat.”

Diane Purser  02:02
That’s so true. Now, of course, I’m completely perfect. I don’t do that with my dogs. No, that’s not true at all. But my husband is very funny, I have to say. He has full conversations with them when he’s trying to get them to do something. And it’s very sweet, but not particularly effective. You know, people forget that dogs don’t speak our language. They learn to understand, but they communicate completely differently than us. They have a voice, barking and they use canine communication, which has a lot to do with their body language. So when we’re teaching them, it’s important to understand this and provide clear communication that they can learn to understand so they know what to expect – what’s expected of them. So, Corey, what are a couple of key things to consider to ensure owners are being clear and consistent during their training process? 

Corey McCusker  02:56
The first thing I’m going to touch on is the body language. And you even talked about canine communication, and they use their body. So our body language and how we position ourselves play a role in how your dog listens to you. If you are sitting down – that’s a very relaxed position – and your dog may not take you seriously. Your body language should be engaging when you’re training. I always use hand signals. And I’ll add that in when I’m giving a command. And teaching them the command with a hand signal helps, especially when you increase the distance between you and your dog. Think about when you’re calling your dog and the dog’s farther away. They may not hear your voice when you call them as it could be drowned out by noise such as wind or traffic. But they can see the hand signal that you’ve taught them, which may be a sweeping motion or maybe a raised hand in the air. 

Diane Purser  03:51
Yeah, I have a an example, a little bit different. One of my dogs – both of mine are quite elderly – but one of them is deaf and partially blind. So when I want her to do something, it’s very important how I approach her, but also once I gently have her attention, so I haven’t startled her, I do use a hand, like a sweeping hand signal to sort of say, come follow me –  come with me – because she can’t hear anything I’m saying.   

Corey McCusker  04:21
That’s a great point. 

Diane Purser  04:24
So what’s the next, what’s the next point? 

Corey McCusker  04:27
So when we communicate, our voice tone, so I just touched on body language, we are going to be using our voice tone and that plays a big role. Think about your voice when you’re having a general conversation with another person like we’re talking right now. Your voice tone is monotone probably, and it’s very relaxed. And this is the voice tone that the dog would hear most often. When we are training our dog we have to change our voice tone to gain their attention. When commands or markers are given, your voice should be more enthusiastic and upbeat – versus your usual talking voice. This gets the dog’s attention and engages them. It excites them. I refer to this when teaching owners, it’s their training voice. And I’ll say ‘Use your training voice’. I like to get the dog revved up for training. And when I’m training my pup, I may say, when we get started is, “Are you ready?” And you can hear my voice tone is a little different. If I asked for a sit, I’ll use my hand signal with my voice and say, “Sit”. When their butt hits the ground, I’ll mark it with a, “Yes!”, followed by a reinforcer like, “Good girl.” Then I may give them a treat or reward – like some affection. So you can hear in those markers or that command that my voice tone changed. Now, Diane, we both know, training can be frustrating, and when your dog isn’t getting it, what may happen is it may be reflected in our voice. So if this is happening, it’s time to take a break, reset ourselves and start training when we’re in a better frame of mind. 

Diane Purser  06:06
Absolutely, the way they’re going to learn is through consistency. So you have to keep approaching it like you’re saying, in the same way until they understand. They’ve learned to understand. I want to touch on another key point that impacts the training process. And that’s energy. And that’s your energy too. Sometimes the owner, they don’t often consider how their energy is impacting the training session. Dogs are very aware of our moods, and they sense how we’re feeling. So if we’re tired or sick or angry, this may not be the right time to train your dog. Even though in your schedule this is training time that you want to put in. Pick times when you’re feeling good, enthusiastic, and motivated to teach your dog a new trick or skill. Creating a positive training experience is key to help your dog learn, plus, it also keeps it fun for you and them over the long haul.

Corey McCusker  07:11
Good point. So, Diane, we touched on some things. So we talked about body language, voice tone, and energy and how that impacts training. I want to highlight also that training happens in stages. A dog just doesn’t hear us say something once and they get it. There is a process. There are three stages of training that we refer to. So I would like to review them. Stage one, I call the Teaching Stage. So in stage one, your dog doesn’t know what’s expected of them. They don’t understand the verbal commands, and you’re teaching them to learn the behavior such as a sit or down. The goal at this stage is to teach the desired behavior you want by starting with a lure. The lure can be a yummy treat or a favorite toy. The lure helps generate excitement which motivates them to do the behavior like a sit or a down. 

Diane Purser  08:09
Yeah, Corey, that’s . . . my dogs are, all of my dogs have generally been food motivated. So I like to use a really, just tiny little piece of a very high-flavored treat to get their attention or to reward them for something they’ve done correctly. 

Corey McCusker  08:26
And while some dogs are food motivated, some are play motivated. So my pup right now loves to play catch. And we can use that ball as her motivator to get her excited to learn. So knowing the motivator helps with the training, and sometimes you have to try different things, especially if you’re moving into a higher distractive environment. So a piece of kibble indoors might be enough to get that sit. But when you go outside walking, you might need something of a higher value, like a really yummy treat, a liver treat sometimes I use. Another point I want to make is that they may get bored of the treats or the toy. So changing it up and adding something else that they value, or like, may need to happen to gain their focus. In addition to the lure, you would mark the behavior to let them know they got it right. A verbal, yes, or some people may use a clicker can be used as a marker. The timing of the marker is important. It should be timed exactly at the point when the dog achieves what you want. For example, maybe you’re teaching the sit and you lure the dog into that position. You would mark the moment when their butt touches the ground with a ‘Yes!’. Once they’ve done the desired behavior a couple times you can add the verbal command and the hand signal. Once your dog understands what’s expected, you can increase the attention span and you can add some low distractions such as movement with another person walking by or maybe noise, maybe adding the TV or going outdoors into the backyard. 

Diane Purser  10:05
You know, I think we both know, and have experienced ourselves, and in classes that those distractions really help your dog to learn to be focused on you when various things are going on around them. I’ve learned that gradually adding in the distraction instead of flooding them with new environments, new sounds, whatever, is probably the best way to go forward, so that you accomplish what you want. So how long do you think, if someone asked you, it would take to learn, and in this stage, before they’re ready to move on to number two? 

Corey McCusker  10:44
This stage can take anywhere from one to three weeks before they understand what’s expected. Once you get your dog performing the commands quickly and reliably around a variety of distractions with minimal problem solving required, then you and your dog are ready to move on to stage two. During the first stage, reward your dog every time using food or a toy, followed by praise such as, good dog. 

Diane Purser  11:07
Okay, so my dog is about three weeks, and they’re doing everything that I’ve asked, they seem to be getting it. So then, what’s next. 

Corey McCusker  11:18
So once they know the command, we want to, what we call is “proof it”, so it sticks. This is the next stage, which we’ll call “proof and reinforcement” stage, stage two. In stage two, you are building a commitment and bond with your dog so that they want to perform and please you. The use of the lure is removed as a dog understands what’s expected and knows the verbal command, and possibly the hand signal if you’ve introduced one. And rewards can be given in this stage, but it’s intermittently. 

Diane Purser  11:49
Yeah, for sure. And, okay, the same question then, about how long would it take to actually proof your dog with a particular command? 

Corey McCusker  11:59
So the proofing takes a bit longer, and this stage will last about two to six weeks on average. Some situations will require you to stick with this stage for longer than average. It all depends on how consistent you are, are you doing it daily? And it also depends on the dog. How motivated, and are they understanding it? This is a stage where you can introduce a correction phrase if your dog doesn’t perform what is asked, and you know that they do understand the command and they’ve done it many times. Ask yourself, are you being consistent with how you’re asking for it? And if the answer is yes, then a positive correction word can be introduced. A negative or forceful correction is not required. Some examples of negative correction are harshly saying, “bad dog”, or forcing them to the ground, or maybe swatting them.   

Diane Purser  12:52
You know, you and I when we were both working with the young offenders program, and those were very unruly large dogs and usually in their teen years, so they’d forgotten anything they’d learned before. If they did something incorrectly, we always treated them gently and positively. I don’t think we ever used any word other than “oops”, to let them know that they hadn’t done what we had asked for. Negative reinforcement is just not required. Avoid rushing to the next stage. That’s the important thing. Take your time and enjoy the process. It’s not uncommon that dogs, as they mature and age, can revert back to earlier training stages. It all depends on your dog and as they fully mature, and sometimes that can take two and a half to three years. 

Corey McCusker  13:44
So true. So before you move to stage three – that is the final stage – the goal is that your dog can perform what is asked and has learned how to filter out the distractions entirely. The third and final stage of training your dog is the Maintenance Stage. And this stage is ongoing for the life of your dog. So during this stage, your dog knows what’s expected. They can perform the command consistently. There’s boundaries and structures in place and your dog has routines – walks, feeding, sitting, when they greet people they may sit automatically. Rewards are still given, but it’s on your schedule. Your role is to maintain the level of obedience you’ve taught them. And this is where the fun can continue. You can build on what you’ve taught by adding new tricks or commands. You can attend maybe a fun class. We offer scenting and agility. And that’s a great one to just explore other things that your dogs may be able to do. These classes are not only fun, but without the ongoing training and reinforcement, as Diane said, sometimes they may regress. And also what may happen is you might start seeing some unwanted behavior.   

Diane Purser  15:01
Right, so true. Okay, so just to sort of wrap up kind of what we’ve talked about here, there’s a bit of information. We started by talking about the importance of providing clear communication, creating a consistent and positive training environment to understand the stages that your dog will go through in its lifetime. 

Corey McCusker  15:21
And being aware of what stage of training your dog is, is important to ensure their success. This knowledge allows you to be patient with your pup, and provide them with encouragement and reinforcement so that they can be successful. It also, when you know what stage they’re in, it can help you and your trainer by determining what’s the best class for them to try. We strongly encourage you to be patient and take your time to lock in the learning before you go to the next step. And going too fast can create confusion with your pup. 

Diane Purser  15:55
Right. Training should be fun for both you and your dog. Taking the time to effectively train them and go clearly and patiently through all the stages will develop your pup into a happy well-mannered, balanced dog that you could be very proud of. 

Corey McCusker  16:11
Yes. So thank you everyone for joining us today to discuss the key points that impact the effectiveness of your dog training. At Muttz with Mannerz™, we welcome you and your pup at any stage, and we offer many classes and services to help you engage your dog throughout their life. So please visit our website,, to learn more or even to register for a class. If you would like to learn more or listen to other podcasts, you can also visit our website. And if you have a topic that you would like us to discuss, you can email us at Thanks, everyone and have a great day.   

Diane Purser  16:50
Thank you. 

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