Ask the Trainer

Your Dog Knows the Basics, But Is He Reliable?

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What I see A LOT of, are owners who think their dog “knows what they should do” and have been trained well enough, that their dog should obey commands routinely.  I believe this stems from a false sense of reliability.  

What I mean by this is, owners think that by having a treat and being able to bend over and point at the ground while saying “Down, Down, Down” and the dog finally laying on the ground is indicative that they know the “Down” command.  That is not true.  Taking your dog through a basic obedience group class is also not enough.  

I am addressing this because the false sense of reliability is setting you up for frustration and your dog up for failure.  What you need to do is learn how to appropriately progress in the training process, in order to develop the true reliability that is necessary.

The first step in the obedience training process is to teach your dog the verbal commands.  You can use food and luring in order to shape these behaviors.  The goal is to fade out the use of the luring, so your dog responds purely to the verbal command (with no help from you of pointing, hand moving, or bending over).  You should be able to stand like a soldier with your hands at your side and say the command and your dog should be able to perform them.  This IS the bench mark that is a clear indication that your dog understands the meaning of each verbal command.

From there, we need to strategically progress our training in three key areas…The Three D’s of Dog Training – Distance, Duration and Distractions.

For the complete The Three D’s of Dog Training article click HERE.

As you are progressing with your distance, duration and distraction training, it is inevitable that your dog will make mistakes.  Errors are a natural part of every learning process.  Without them, your dog can’t learn.  But with too many of them, your dog can’t progress.  That’s why the Rule of Three is so essential for you to understand.  One mistake, two mistakes, that’s fine.  But three mistakes at a given bench mark, and that’s your fault, not your dog’s.

Click HERE for more info on the Rule of Three.

This article is not intended to be a complete tutorial that will take your dog from untrained to off-leash reliable.  It is purely an obedience training primer, to help expand your training tool box and readjust your standards and expectations for your dog.  In doing so, it should help catapult your training progress at a rapid pace.

Steven Reid is a Professional Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training in Putnam NY.  For more information about S. R. Dog Training, visit Become a fan of Steve on Facebook at

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