3 Phases of Training

Applying the Big Three

As you train, think of these factors. If your dog is not responding to training, or acts confused, ask yourself whether you are being clear with your dog. Does your training fall into harmony with the Big Three?

Is your timing correct?  Is your training motivational?  Are you being 100% consistent?

If your answer is not yes to all of these questions you cannot expect miracles from poor Fido. Practice everyday.


Learning occurs when your dog establishes a relationship between a behavior and the consequences. For example, when a dog barks at an intruder (such as the postman) the barking has been reinforced because the stimulus (the postman) was removed.

You will go through a process with each new exercise you teach your dog.  It takes time to teach him  to perform reliably and correctly. Dogs need four to six months of repetition and reinforcement to establish a behavior in long-term memory. This means that you must continue to work with your dog after your obedience class is over, if you want the training to “stick.” The longer you take to teach an exercise and reinforce it, the better your dog will perform. Below we will cover the three phases of training:  showing, reinforcing and proofing. If you want a dog that performs correctly, consistently and in all circumstances it is vital that you go through each of these steps.


During this phase, show your dog what you want him to do. To accomplish this use your treats, leash, hands, and/or other tools to guide your dog through the behaviors you want. For example, if I am teaching Fido to sit, I will give the sit command once, and follow the command by gently placing Fido into a sit. Right at the moment my dog sits I will reward him so that he knows exactly what  he did to make me happy. There are no corrections in this phase. Do not expect Fido to understand and correctly perform commands before he has been shown what it is you want. Use praise generously during the showing phase. Start your training in an area as distraction free as possible. Repetition and patience are of the utmost importance. When your dog begins to anticipate what you want and perform without your help then you know he is beginning to understand.


In the reinforcement phase you can introduce a mild negative reinforcement when Fido does not perform as taught. During this phase the dog should understand the command so that he has a fair chance of performing well and avoiding the negative. If your dog does not understand a command, looks confused, scared, or repeatedly makes mistakes, you should go back to the teaching phase. Start to wean the dog off any body language you are using, such as bending down when you ask your dog to “Down.”  If you are using food treats to bait your dog, begin to use the food as a reward for a job well done, and not as a guide.

Leash corrections should be directional. This means that your correction should help the dog do what we are asking. A sit correction is a quick pop straight up on the collar so that it guides the dog into a sit. Our down correction is toward the ground, etc.  Corrections should be matter of fact, without emotion, and they should be over fast so you and your dog don’t dwell on the negative. They should also be appropriate to your dog. Different dogs with different temperaments call for different levels of correction.



The proofing stage is where you build your dog’s commitment to performing an exercise. This is done with the gradual introduction of distractions. Reward your dog when he does something correct. Give your dog corrections when he makes mistakes.  It is as if we are saying,  “Yes, sit means sit even when a cat strolls past.”  The goal is to have a dog that will hold a down “stay” during a dinner party even when Smitty, our archrival from accounting, is tempting Fido with a chicken bone under the table. During the proofing phase we expose our dogs to situations where they will be tempted to make mistakes. By doing this we have an opportunity to train a dog who will perform under everyday distractions, not only on Tuesday nights at obedience class.  It is also important that you don’t always set your dog up to lose. Even though they are more advanced at this stage, praise and success are still vital ingredients to Fido’s outcome.  Make sure Fido isn’t losing every time. If he is, that’s a good indication that you are moving ahead too fast.

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.