Dog Training Denver, Conifer to Fairplay, Colorado

Affection & Praise Family Dog Training, Inc.

    Established 1996                     (303) 910-3931

                     “Building Lasting Relationships through Training and Understanding”


Dog Behavior Training

How do dogs learn?  How does dog training work?  In every household dog parents have different rules for their dogs: rules about furniture, access to rooms, how to play with children and other pets, how to greet guests and where to go to the bathroom.  How can a dog learn these rules?

Dogs learn by the consequences of their behavior.  Every time their behavior gets them something they like, the behavior will increase in the future.  It’s like putting a penny in the bank account for that behavior.  Every time their behavior does not get then something they want, the behavior will decrease in the future.  Dogs do what works for them to get what they want.

So what do dogs want?  Most dogs want food, attention, play, toys, chews, a place to eliminate, a comfortable place to rest and walks to check their pee-mail messages out there.

The bigger the bank account is for a behavior, the more often dogs will perform the behavior.

Basic obedience training is about teaching dogs behaviors that most of us like, such as sit, down, come, stay, etc.  and then building really big bank accounts for those behaviors.  That way, whenever dogs want something from us, they are most likely to ask for it by one of those “good” behaviors.

Common scenario; say that your dog wants attention and you are busy in the kitchen.  He might walk over and sit in front of you to see if that will work.  You are busy, so you ignore him.  Your dog thinks “sitting doesn’t work, what else can I try?  Let’s see if biting the ankles works.”  When he bites your ankles, you push him away and say “no.”  Your dog now thinks “biting the ankles works great!  Not only did my human look at me and talk to me, but my human even wrestled with me.  That’s exactly what I wanted.”  All your pennies were put in the ankle biting bank account and none in the sitting bank account.  When your dog wants attention again, which behavior do you think he’s going to try first?

Timing of Consequences and Feedback

Dogs can only understand consequences and feedback that follow their behavior within 1 second.  That is not because they don’t remember what they have done, but because they don’t speak any English.  If you were in a foreign country, you would need immediate feedback too in order to understand what people wanted.

For instance, suppose that you are staying with a Dutch friend.  You walk up to the book case and take out a book, then you walk to a comfy chair and sit down.  Just then your friend angrily says “kom daar niet aan!!!”  You most likely will jump out of the chair, thinking your friend doesn’t want you to sit there.  However your friend said “don’t touch that book.” but his feedback was 2 seconds too late, so you misunderstood.


When you get a new dog or puppy, ideally you start by preventing him from building any bank accounts for behaviors you don’t like.  That is called management.  You can do this by confining your dog or puppy to a dog proof area where he can’t get himself into trouble, such as a crate or a laundry room behind a puppy gate.

Some more examples of management:

  1. -Before you sit down to eat, you first give your dog a stuffed Kong so that he is busy and won’t bug you at the table.

  1. -When a friend comes over, you first put your dog on leash and hold him back so he can’t jump up and get rewarded for it by your friend’s attention.

We are really good about this with young children.  Suppose you have a one year old toddler.  Would you go take a shower and let the little tike just wander around the house unsupervised?  Of course not.  You would confine the toddler to his crib or hand him to someone else to supervise. 

Usually our biggest mistake with our dogs is that we give them too much freedom too soon.  By doing that we set them up for failure.  Then when they fails, we are mad at them.  Not very fair is it?


Once you have your management set up, you can start your dog’s training by only giving your dog the things he wants for behaviors you like and then also putting some of those behaviors on cue, as in obedience training.  The bigger your dog’s bank accounts become for “good” behaviors, the more freedom you can give your dog and the less management he is going to need.

Some examples:

  1. -Once your dog has learned to go to his place, you would simply send him there before you sit down to eat.

  1. -When a friend comes over, you tell your dog to sit and stay so that your dog won’t jump on your friend.

  1. -Once your dog has learned to only go the bathroom outside and which things are OK to chew on and which are not, he doesn’t have to be confined anymore.

What to do about behavior you don’t like

We like to divide dog behavior into two categories:

  1. 1. attention getting behavior

  1. 2. everything else

If you don’t like a behavior in the first category, you can either completely ignore the behavior or walk away.  Ignoring the behavior is called extinction and the behavior will first increase in intensity before it goes away.  That is called an extinction burst.  Be sure not to give any attention to your dog at this point, otherwise you’re training the behavior to get much worse in a hurry.

For behavior in the second category, you want to give your dog instant feedback.  For instance, if your dog goes to sniff something you don’t want him to touch, you can say “no, no” and get his attention away from the item.  As soon as he moves away, you say “good boy.”  That is very clear feedback, a very clear Red Light, Green Light message.

Different Kinds of Consequences

There are two ways we can motivate dogs to behave the way we want them to:

  1. -We can give them what they want when they do what we want and withhold or withdraw those things when they don’t.

  1. -We can do things to physically hurt them, scare them or intimidate them into doing what we want and visa versa.

At Affection & Praise Family Dog Training, Inc. we only use the first way, because the second way can cause aggression, avoidance and numerous emotional and behavior problems.


When you make sure that you only reward behaviors you like and don’t reward or let him get rewarded for behaviors that you don’t like, in addition to teaching your dog to perform the behaviors you like on cue, your dog will be a pleasure to be around.

This article is a summary only of the protocol for behavior training.

For more information please call Affection & Praise Family Dog Training at (303) 910-3931.