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Message from the trainer

Why don’t we trust our dogs?

Because we set them up to fail, to “test where they are.” This results in 2 things:


  1. When a dog fails, they are ultimately practicing it wrong. The more your dog practices it wrong, the more likely they will do it wrong in the future.
  2. When you let your dog do it wrong, you see our dog’s repeated failure. The more we see our dogs do it wrong, the more we think they can't do it right-- because they aren't! Then we see our dogs as inept at something, when in fact the problem is we haven't taught it well enough.


Failing erodes trust, which severely limits advanced obedience training. Trust is required before popping a dog off leash. Careful how you choose to build that trust. Don't work against yourself inadvertently.

Focus on the road


As before, we are shooting for a minimum of 3 days working your dog on the road (off your property). But if you want to leave this class with hyper focus from your dog, shoot for 5-6 days a week.

On these outings, go to 2 places IN A ROW (you can even do these 2 outings in a row for 3 days this week, and 3 outings with only one place instead of 2. That makes a total of 6 days a week of on the road focus work). Do tug or food play.

This week you will be putting focus on cue & requiring maintained focus throughout the session. We’re moving from "offered focus" to "cued" & maintained. One of the golden rules of dog training: We taught them the game & built the motivation for it (FUN!), now we’re going to add rules. This means you aren't just walking somewhere and waiting for your dog to look at you like last week. Now you're going to work harder for focus. 

In between focus recall explosions, increase the time you are still (like a statue) before you explode again. Your goal is to maintain focus, but extend that time a little. Like 1-3 seconds by the end of the week. Don't push until your dog breaks focus, as that's teaching them the opposite of what you want. This is a delicate balance (mistakes will happen, just be aware of it & make alterations as needed).

On your outings, note how far away you are from distractions & how distracted your dog was. Our goal is 100% focus, but your dog may look away. Note how that happened. What was it? How far away?

"Are you ready" cue

This is the second most important homework of the week.

AT HOME you will use the "Are you ready" cue. Do NOT use that cue on the road!!

ON THE ROAD you will start with a foundation recall to initiate focus instead of the ready cue.

*Remember your pre-training and post-training rituals. I won't add those here, but they are ALWAYS implied.

  1. Bring your dog to where you’re going to do your focus work.
  2. If you are AT HOME, ask them 2-3 times “are you ready?” If you are ON THE ROAD, use a foundation recall to start.
  3. Then break out into focus play session!


  1. ONLY positive focus play with NO rules. Tug/food play.

Goal: Teach your dog that “Are you ready” means they are going to go do the BEST THING EVER!

Use: Gives your dog clarity that you’re going to do something super fun. This helps prevent violating your dog’s expectations. For instance, a violation of expectations is if you thought we were going to get ice cream, but we went to a rubber tire factory instead. That can flatten anyone out quickly, for no reason other than violating what a dog is expecting. Add clarity to prevent unnecessary deflation. However, if you use this “are you ready” cue for something that isn’t insanely fun, you will completely ruin it and not be able to use it successfully in the future. This is EXACTLY how people ruin their foundation recall. If you don’t reward it EVERY TIME, you are violating expectations and ruining the meaning of it.

A foundation recall isn’t a “cue”, it’s an auditory stimulator intended to evoke a feeling. You fade rewards for behavior cues. You do not fade rewards for an auditory stimulator. (while "are you ready" is a cue, I will show you how we are going to "fade the reward" later)


Here is Bonsai's "Are you ready" cue, which has been worked on frequently. You will see his body language shift, so much so that he vibrates. I stopped the video short, because all we do is tug. Watch the other videos for maintaining focus.

Bonsai "are you ready" cue with food.
This is a great video illustrating how you maintain focus this week.

A short video of Batman, for contrast.

Positioning box in motion

Homework: Casually work on this exercise by following the progression. This exercise is NOT just for positioning, but we can use it for some pretty advanced and wild stuff. We won't hit those in this class, but it's important to also know the value of these things too!

Advanced Crazy Cues

Crazy DOWN homework
AT HOME, crazy DOWNS. Your goal is not to confuse your dog by mixing it up. Your goal is to set your dog up for success while helping them learn. If your dog makes an error, you asked too much of them. Dial it back. We will all go too far sometimes.

Crazy Sits homework in a public place
On the ROAD, in a SEPARATE training session than focus-only work, do crazy SIT’s (no other commands like stand and down). To do this, remember your pre-training rituals. Then, when you bring your dog to the public place (I prefer an empty park- no distractions other than nature), initiate focus with a foundation recall, then do your focus work (keep it short), and then begin crazy downs. Remember your "Done" cue at the end.


Advanced EXAMPLE video

DO NOT interchange your cues like this in the foundation stages!! I hesitated to share this, because it can cause a lot of fallout (position regression) if you progress too fast! I pulled this from one of our private sessions (not videoing for class).

I decided to share it, however, to show you how I interchange excitement and control. You will also notice how often he messes up-- it's super rare. I'm shooting for ZERO inaccurate responses. Any inaccurate response we get is our fault as humans, for progressing too fast. We have to push them a little, but more than a couple failures and you're going backwards. Every poor response teaches your dog to do it wrong, even if they aren't rewarded for it. They will continue to do what they practice, whether it's rewarded or not. "Practice makes perfect"... Practice also makes perfectly inaccurate responses if it's practiced inaccurately. 

Behind the back rewards

Homework: Practice this type of food delivery with as many exercises as possible!!

This seems so simple (and it's hard to get used to doing) but it makes a HUGE impact in training!

You can also use a bucket for this, to help keep your dog in position. That helps stability (so they don't snatch the treat too early) and eliminates the Sit for stability (I don't like automatic sits because they cause issues later). See the video about treat handling & focus work.

Bucket focus work

Homework: When you can, feed your dog all or part of their meals like this. Also add it into other sessions, but always do a fun exercise before and after this one, because it's boring.

This is literally how my dogs often eat their meals. It takes a lot of time, but it REALLY pays off if you're consistent!!

Spin rewards for heeling

Homework: Follow the progression in the video. Break it down for your dog and don't move on until they have mastered each step. By the end of the week, your dogs will likely have this on cue with very little need for a lure.

Intro with Bonsai & food.
See "foundation heel work" for spin rewards with tug.

Batman is re-learning this from many years ago. I love that moment when you give the cue and they do it how you want it before you even get a chance to reward! THAT is the magical moment in dog training! 

However, you will notice that the next spin wasn't as good. That is normal learning progression. One step forward, then a step back. They go back and forth until it becomes more and more solid.

Foundation heel work

*This video also shows Spin Rewards with a Tug instead of a cookie.

I wanted you to see some heeling progression. You've seen some of Bonsai heeling. Now see what happens when I change the picture just a little...

Bonsai has an automatic "get in heel position." If I put my arm out, he does it nearly flawlessly. However, I made a simple change- having the tug in my hand. That changes the picture for a dog (dogs think in pictures!). These little changes require that we go backwards from where we were, to set them up for success. You will see his confusion. We work through it and I reward FAST! I don't expect a heel for 20 feet. I bet he could, and I bet he'd come around if I just kept walking. However, I'm not looking for a dog that "just figures it out." I want a dog that KNOWS what he's doing and is motivated to do it. Therefore, I don't let him fail and I reward a crap ton.

Wall Heeling

Homework: Start indoors. Get a good 10-20' of excellent focus before taking it in your back yard. 

Included in the video is how to stop your dog from getting the reward and immediately walking forward out of heel position, forcing you to re-set up every time. That wastes time and teaches them to be in front of you.