dogs potential

Unlocking your dogs training potential

Do you have a dog that can hear the rustle of a packet and come belting into the room but cant unlock your dogs training potential?

So many people will say yes and laugh, but their dog will not come when called.

It should be no surprise when I tell them that they actually trained the response to the packet too, they just don’t know how.

As a trainer I would apply a simple strategy I refer to as the ABCs of training.

dogs training potential


This is of course the A and this means something that occurs before something else.

In the above example the sound of the package logically occurs before the chips (reward) come out.


The dog comes up with a behaviour, running to you, so that he or she has a better chance if getting some of the chips.


The consequence of running into the room is an increased likelihood of getting a chip (+R)

The consequence of not running into the room will reduce the likelihood of getting a chip. (-P)

Hence ABC.

dogs training potential

Most people train this by accident. The sound of the packet happens consistently when you open the pack, you can’t help it.

By intermittently giving a chip you provide a good consequence (positive reinforcement)

The dog offers the behaviour, reliably and consistently.

If people could grasp these simple concepts they could train their dog to do anything.

Instead we get excited about the most special programs with “high value treats” and clickers and special collars and harnesses and halters.

When at home the dog comes bolting for a chip…

The dog goes through the roof when you get home from work and don’t want a lot energy, but the dog is highly motivated to get to you.

You don’t even have a chip…

You head to the park and the dog doesn’t want to know you.

Even if you have a chip!

Knowing how to produce the most effective antecedent and deliver the most meaningful consequences means that your dog will only have to focus  on the behaviour.

The trainer MUST responsibility for the “A” and the “C” and the dog takes responsibility for the “B” in the ABC model.

Most people do not provide a clear cue (antecedent) for the behaviour they want their dog to display.

Person wants their dog to sit, so they: –

Put hand into a shape that looks like you have food in it

Raise that hand up in a sweeping motion

Simultaneously giving eye contact, saying “sit” and facing the dog.

Now, know that everything in red is the antecedent for the behaviour. If everything is not delivered at the same time, the sit doesn’t happen.

So perhaps the dog is not looking at you when you do all of this, he or she does not see the visual signals but only hears the verbals, and does not sit.

Is the dog being disobedient?

Or, did he or she miss part of the cue?

Who knows? 

Now what consequence will you deliver? will you provide negative punishment for disobedience by not delivering the reward?

Will you reward the dog for not complying?

There is such a benefit in actually learning foundations that sometimes we can overlook or not invest enough into.

People are keen to train the exercises, which is great, but if you have little to no engagement, vague – multi facet cues, no accurate communication system, a dog without a clear motivation for the reward, then you will struggle.

Training  potential, is the dogs highest level of ability.

Training a dog to deliver a behaviour reliably on cue is made up of several foundations that need to be solid, well before the exercise is introduced.

Good training is the result of exercises trained well on good foundations.

Weak foundations will not support exercises under distraction.

dogs training potential

Here is a little test you can run. Have your dog standing, walk off 3-4 in front and give just a verbal cue – down or sit, see if your dog needs more than a verbal.

If your dog cannot do this, and of course your dog knows how to do these things, then perhaps your cue is multi staged.

Now turn and face your dog and do what you need to so that your dog DOES deliver the sit or the down.

If your dog did not sit or down the first time but did when you faced the dog and gave more than just a verbal cue, you have a multi phased antecedent.

This can help you identify why your dog may not follow instructions sometimes.

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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