Tier One Dog Training

Tier One Dog Training

There is a saying that I try to apply to everything. : “the best are the best because they do the basics the best.”

There are only three things you have to master to successfully train yourself and your dog.

  1. Attachment and boding
  2. Communication
  3. Motivation through an understanding of the abilities of your team.


To review we have learned that the most important things you can work on with your dog is a secure attachment… this means the dog not only likes you but, trusts and respects you. Remember the majority of bad behavior is due to your dog “not taking you seriously.” You have to practice being in charge and can not act like a goof and suddenly spring the idea that you are the boss on anyone. This relationship, just like the one you have with your significant other takes maintenance and work. The second common calamity is that you fail to actually teach your dog the skills to behave and yet, feel the need to correct and/or punish them for not really knowing what to do in a given situation. The third most likely suspect in poor team performance is putting your dog in situations that they don’t want to be in and you have not done the ground work in order to correctly manage the event. When something goes FUBAR.. stop blaming the dog, think about how your dog sees the situation, be sure you teach your dog before expecting performance or feeling the need to punish and/or correct the dog. It is likely that you need to change your behavior so start by figuring our how you can clearly communicate with your dog and get to know what really motivates your dog. If you analyze these mistakes in dog training you can only come to one conclusion. The solutions is for you to change your behavior.

Each of the most common errors in dog training are predicated on the failure to master three basic skills.  The first and most important skill is creating and maintaining a secure attachment between you and your dog… you have to maintain your relationship just like you do with people. The majority of an attachment is based on how your dog perceives you and they base this decision, for the most part on your behavior Here at Motley Dog Dog Training, the majority of our techniques are based on clear nonverbal comms.

Studies indicate that we humans communicate with about 93% non-verbal comms and only 7% verbal comms. Sound familiar? I love this one because if we are the more evolved species why do dogs whoop our butts at non-verbal comms? As you can see you can’t succeed at step one without mastering step two, Communication.

Communication is a Basic skill you need to always be improving how you read your dog and help your dog learn how to read you. The dog is better at this then you are so this is really you learning how to convey a credible and understandable non-verbal message. Effective comms can be broken down into three skills as well, allocation of attention, emotional control, and motivation. So, if Fluffy is not taking you seriously it is not because she wants to be the Alpha, it is likely you have not A. earned her trust and respect or B. you are horrible at sending a credible non-verbal message. So, start by trying to change your body-language and work on that secure attachment. Of course in order to communicate effectively you both have to be focused on each other and motivated to learn.

The final Basic skill is Motivation and understanding the abilities of your team.

Motivating factors mystify Psychologist to this day. So, here is my operational definition for motivation and motivating factors.

Keep it Simple Stupid.. (note to myself 🙂 )

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the best model for motivation I have found to date.

Food and water, Sex, protection, Just check out the fundamental things required to live and multiply and these are the most motivating factor for all animals us included. The problem begins when these needs are met. All of the aforementioned are primary drives so, if they are satisfied by the environment the dog lives in the motivation factor is reduced. Interestingly enough, these basic needs activate instinct.  Yes you can manipulate primary drives in order to increase motivation based on instinct however, research suggests that this is not the best learning environment. Maybe if you consider that the majority of “behavioral problems” reported are really instinctual at the core. My theory is that you can not change an instinct and trying to learn something while in an episode of instinctual behavior is a lot like trying to learn algebra while having a panic attack.

Yes food is a good motivator yet, if a dangerous dog comes by that takes priority so, even with-in the set group of things every animals must have to survive and multiply there is theoretically a hierarchy, really, there is a constant competition for priority based on what challenges the animal faces.   No matter how hungry you are, you have to be alive to eat so, threats take priority over starvation.  Look higher up on Maslow’s model this will give you and idea how the necessities for survival and reproduction often compete for priority.  So, when you are learning you want to be in that magic place where all of your survival needs are met and you are not overly emotional about your surroundings. Just like that Goldie locks deal, to hot, to cold… aw just right. So, how do you motivate within this “just right” mental and physical state? Dogs are also individuals so, food for one dog a ball for another.

Maybe Fido gets so worked up around food that you need to move down to a less motivating item or as we do here at Motley Dog Dog Training we teach how to manage emotional states, you are gonna need to know how this is done. We assess the dogs interest level in a number of things and rank them so, that we can use them effectively in training. Dogs are individuals so, get to know your dog, it may be that your dog is more motivated in one situation by your affection and another situation a ball or could be a stick they just found on the ground. Pay attention to your dog, you are in charge or at least you want to be. Notice that there is an overlapping relationship between effective comms and motivation.  Some dogs are far more motivated by an activity as opposed to an item.  Could it be Ruffus likes to keep his nose to the ground and sniff everything and even if you strap a stake to your butt he would rather sniff around… how could we use his intrinsic that is motivating him to learn the skills we are trying to teach?

As we discussed what is motivating in one moment maybe out weighed by other factors that arise like a threat however, while you are training your team your job is to constantly monitor the situation and work on maintaining that critical zone, it is like a balancing act. The better you become at getting out in front of things, guiding the team and demonstrating that you can lead the team to success, guess what, your dog gets that and you are now back to strengthening our secure attachment and bond.  We can work on bonding and secure attachment through communication which in overwhelmingly nonverbal and conquer those formally threatening and/or challenging situations. This changes our motivators. so, round and round we go through these three skills.  The more we work together the better you and your dog will become. Remember SMALL VICTORIES, step by step maintaining the balance and focus until you have changed your perspective of the situation and your dogs. Now that we have satisfied the lower requirements of Maslow’s hierarchy we can work on Self actualization. I like to see this as using what we came with to in highest and best use.

What if your dog knows it is protected by you and that it can trust you? Then what was once perceived as a threat is not so important is it and therefore, not much of a motivating or limiting factor. If you do an exceptional job of leading the team you will be in that balanced state and if you think like your dog you will realize that just like us, the ultimate motivation is making us happy and having our attention and affection. When any team reaches this level they can start focusing on living up to their potential. Think about it, if your dog is an excellent swimmer but, never gets to go swim …. wow… bummer. A more common mistake would be what if your dog just likes to hangout with you and have your attention but, you are are clueless and try to force the dog to “be social”.  What a less then motivating, depressive and sometimes dangerous proposition. Not very motivating regardless of the food reward.  Assuming your dog is in excellent health and well cared for this is the goal : Find out what your dog is good at and do that with them. They have a need (primary drive or instinct) to be with someone they can respect and trust as well as show off what they can do. People constantly make the mistake of thinking they can teach their dog to be who they want the dog to be…. this is not correct. Just like us, you are who you are, if you are not a social butterfly you may learn to tolerate social situations and perhaps even get a little enjoyment from them but, you will never have the grand reward that social butterfly gets from being social. So respect that or you will break the bond and attachment we have worked so hard to build. This idea of messing up a secure attachment can also be achieved by poor comms as well as less then well conceived notions of how best to motivate your dog…   Very common mistakes in comms and motivation screw up bonding and attachment stage so, surprise we have made a circle. You can not achieve one step without mastering and maintaining the preceding stage.

These stages are all in constant flux so, they must be a priority for the team. Yes, you can have a secure attachment and break it. You can be great at communicating with one another until something comes up that messes that up and you can be very motivated until you get board, or for some reason there is a of loss trust and/or respect for one another.  This is what we humans refer to as a relationship. Just like a relationship with a child or significant other it can be great one day and poo the next.

You do this by understanding what you and your dog are good at and using these skills to improve your bond and attachment you need to constantly build trust and earn respect just like with people this will motivate your mutt more then any treat in town.  You develop comms and use this bond to change the dog’s and your perception of situations thereby, altering what is the major motivating factor in that situation. Repeat the circle.

Hopefully, I have painted a picture in your head of a circle or sphere orbiting and constantly striving for balance. These are the basics and as you can see you can not separate or omit any of the basics from the simple to the most complex task you and your dog will attempt to accomplish. This is also true for we humans. Not to get heavy 🙂 but look at anything you are failing at in life. Have you really mastered the basics?

The best are the best because they do the basics the best.\




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