Ask the Trainer

Ask the Trainer: How Can I Make Training More Fun For My Dog?

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Dear Kevin,
Bull is a 4 year old Jack Russell mix. I adopted him 1 year ago. He is fear/leash/dog aggressive but I have been working with him by BATs ways. Small victories so far…. My question to you is: No matter how much fun I try to make it in his training (ie: giving paw, heel, – anything and everything) he will only do it half-assed unless there is a treat in it for him. I have tried giving a treat, then no treat, etc. but he knows my ways. With the coming of winter, I want to train him tricks but he’ll only do them grudgingly. How can I get him to have fun with me in the training? He is scared of the clicker-even when I muffle it. I don’t know how to reach him. HELP

Hey Carla,

I’m glad you are making small victories with BATs. The small victories should add up in the long run to make a big victory. For those of you who don’t know what BATs is, “BAT is a dog-friendly application of ‘functional analysis’ that gives the dogs a chance to learn to control their own comfort level through peaceful means.”

I would continue to use treats to build the repetition with Bull. When you ask him to do something only reward his better response. If you ask him to sit, and it takes him 5 seconds just tell him ” good boy.” If the next time he does it in 3 seconds reward him. By rewarding the faster response we are reinforcing it, which will make him do it again. If you are going to do a random reinforcement schedule you will need to make it random. Dogs will pick up on an every other system. What I would start to do is put multiple things in a row and then reward. Have him sit, down, come, and then reward. Just try to stay up beat during the training and try to make a genuine good time.

In regards to training tricks just use a verbal marker like “good boy” instead of the clicker. I have taught dogs doing it both ways. If you are trying to shape a behavior, when the dog offers something you like, just say “good boy” and reward.

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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