Get Your Dog Thinking

If anyone is interested in where I got the idea that its a good idea to get your dog to think. I came up with it based on research psychology and work such as, John Pelley’s work which really inspired me. Not to mention the decades we have been experimenting with Mice and other animals learning mazes and the like 🙂

Thank you Much.. Dr. Pelley and others that make Psychology cool 🙂


Get Your Dog Thinking

You know when you study any kind of science you are leaving yourself open to “tunnel vision.”  You get caught up in theory and detail and various arguments for or against a give subject.


The goal here is for me to worry about the psychology and just let you in on the application.  Motley says that I need to get it together. So, here goes:

Dog Training sometimes trips people up because they are often learning the steps of dog training while trying to teach their dog.

Humans are only capable of full attention to one task at a time. Remember last month when we talked about simple association well neither you or your dog are simple association animals but, you do both have the limitation of only being able to put your full attention into one task at a time.

At Motley Dog Dog Training the first step is for me to teach the handler the steps of the technique. I do not normally tell my clients this out right but, have decided that I should. Once the handler has some idea of what they are doing we can teach the dog. Kind of like when you are on a flight and the attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on before helping your child.

Sit, stay, heal and other common skills will come quickly once the handler and dog know how to communicate. So, the 1er step is communication.

If you have ever tried to explain something to someone else who is not paying attention to you; you realize this is not good communication. Similarly, if you have someone who thinks they are the worlds greatest multi-tasker and they only pay partial attention to you, if you track the result you will find that this slows the process and makes it more time consuming.

This leads us to the basis of training.



Have you ever seen your dog or anyone’s dog looking intently at someone or something and paying close attention ? Did you notice that in that moment it is difficult to redirect the dogs attention away from whatever it is attending to?  This full attention is the target behavior that we are shooting for.

Remember first you learn then you teach your dog. What does you dog pay attention to?

Movement is a big one for a lot of dogs.


New objects

Everyone’s favorite, smell.

The order of this list varies with individual dogs so, pay attention to what gets your dogs attention.

Once you have a list of what get’s your dogs attention you need to work with your dog in a quiet place and experiment with getting their attention.


Dogs are just like people. Some can pay attention for a lot longer then others. The goal is to work on engaging your dogs full attention for longer and longer periods of time.

Play with your dog and you will start to find times when the dog is trying to figure out what you want. This is our goal.

Motley and I stared with a ball. We started with short periods of time. A few moments here and there and gradually worked up to being able to attend to me and not the ball even in a bunch of other dogs.  Motley also likes to hunt and find things so,  another exercise is when I get his attention and take an object and hide it and have him find it, or put the object in a maze of things and let him figure out how to get the prize.

Motley will now let me direct him to things if he loses something. This is communication. This did not happen over night it took time and an investment to build from, the easy to the hard. Motley makes me look good. Sometimes I don’t know how he puts up with me.

Hopefully, you get the idea, have fun with your dog, enjoy each others company. Get them to climb, jump, find a ball, or whatever you and your dog are interested in.

Start in a quiet place with no distractions and work your way up to chaos :0.  If you loose communication move back to a less distracting environment. Remember also that anxious dogs will take longer to build confidence and allow you to redirect their attention. Be patient and consistent.

This is really the most difficult step in Dog Training but, it is the most rewarding and important. Trust me sit, stay and even the elusive recall commands will be easy once you have invested the time and energy into communication and the ability to get each others attention.

So, for all the humans out there.

Steps in teaching a skill

1. Get your dogs attention

2. Command


3. Mark behavior (shape, model or elaborate)

3. Reward.

Corrections go like this: 

( Important note: people confuse correction and  punishment. In my world they are NOT the same thing.)

1. Re-direct and gets your dogs attention

2. Apply correction

3. If possible,  attempt to get the correct behavior in that situation  (return to step one.)

If you cannot get the correct behavior you have more work to do to get to the point that the two of you can conquer that situation. Go back to step one of Motley’s Top 10 and start again.

Motley’s Top Ten

Remember, you missed something not your dog !!!! Don’t get frustrated just go back and have fun.

Till next time.


Motley says WOOF !!!!