A few weeks ago we shared my article on “How to Create a Motivating Toy” here on my blog to make it easily accessible. Today we have our top “Say Yes Training Reminders” for you. If you have been following my blog for some time many will be familiar. If you are new to our community, they might be familiar too as many of the tips are now used by trainers around the world. These tips have also been in my training handouts, or mentioned in a blog post or Facebook post, and appear in our online programs. All of these reminders are still as true today as when we first introduced them.

TOP Say Yes Training Reminders


You can achieve great and effective training by simply playing with your dog. All play is fun and so all work should be as well. If your dog makes a decision during play (an example he grabs his toy without being invited to do so) you are reinforcing his right to make decisions during working with you as well (ahh, maybe I will chase the cat rather then come when called or practice agility A-Frames right now!).


This is the guiding principle of Say Yes Dog Training. In order to have clarity in your training, you must be consistent. Approach training and home life with a patient disposition and a clear application of what is and isn’t acceptable. Look to being clear in all your training cues.  If a behaviour is acceptable at home (an example your dog choosing not to lie down when cued) it also becomes acceptable during work. Training happens 24 hours a day 7 days a week; your dog is always learning regardless if you are actively training or not.

Use your RECALL to evaluate your relationship with your dog.

Be diligent at making improvements each day in the level of intensity your dog has for working with you. Work at building a better relationship with your dog rather than making excuses for his performance. Work with the dog on the end of your leash — and turn him into a dog other people wish they had!

Be aware of what RESPONSE you are rewarding each time you give out a cookie or toy.

What did you reward? Ask yourself what was that cookie for? Do I want to see that behaviour repeated?  What did you intend to reinforce? Does the dog have clarity in what you are asking of him?

VIDEO at least one training session every week.

More if possible. If progress isn’t as fast as you think it should be for one particular skill, video three or four consecutive training sessions of that one skill (each video clip should be no longer than 3-7 minutes). Review each video individually upon completion – then view and evaluate the entire series. What did you reinforce? Can you pick out why your session isn’t progressing as fast as you would like? If you can’t critique it yourself, ask a friend to review it with you.


Plan your work and work your plan. Time your session or count reinforcements so you don’t train your dog to exhaustion. Be intentional. Work through your mechanical skills and plan where you will deliver your rewards. Keep your training session short! After each session, write in a journal recording your progress and plans for future sessions. Do what will assist you in reaching your goals; avoid getting wrapped up in “finishing a sequence or exercise”. Do what is best for your dog!

MIX UP YOUR REINFORCEMENTS so that you are working with toys and food.

Offer a reward you know your dog will want. This is part of planning.  It’s your choice what reward to use and it is important to choose wisely.  You can use food to reinforce an attempt to play (or the other way around) but never use food to reinforce a dog that has declined the opportunity to play or decided to stop playing. What would you be rewarding? Of course, you would have rewarded your dog for making the decision to NOT play with you (and remember work=play and play=work).

Whenever frustration sets in remind yourself that “YOUR DOG IS A MIRROR IMAGE OF YOUR ABILITIES AS A TRAINER”.

I want people to look to this statement as inspiration, to embrace the challenges and the learning within dog training. No matter where you are starting, if you believe “the dog is a reflection of your abilities” then you can be inspired to think change is possible for any dog. Regardless of what the starting point is of your dog (age or historical background)… the history does not need to be a predictor of the future. Change begins with us… learning how to help our dog is our growth as a trainer. Look to your training (both for the dog and for you) as progress, not perfection.

In my blog “Learning From the Dog, While The Dog is Learning From You“, I re-posted a video about the journey each of our dogs takes us on. It is worth sharing again.



All of us tend to practice what we are good at, or the dog we find easiest to train, it is reinforcing for us. If there were exercises you felt uncomfortable with this weekend, it could be a result of a weakness in your current training program. Be sure to work short sessions on the skills you are not as graceful at performing.

Are you a double L? (…a lurer and a lumper).

Your dog’s lack of progress may be due to your not “splitting” the desired behaviour into small enough responses. Be certain you are returning the hand that delivers the treat back to starting position after each rewarded response. Work to create a “thinking” dog not a dog that needs to be prompted by you before he can begin his work.

Also consider your expectations vs your dog’s understanding.


Got D.A.S.H.? If you are working many new environments and you start each session with the maximum amount of “D”, the “S” will come once you have the “A”. Do not try to make your dog be fast until he first understands how to be correct without prompts or lurers from you.


Identify it, learn it, work it and live it. Maintain criteria. Criteria is the defining sentence of exactly what you are looking for in the behaviour you are training ALWAYS. The easiest thing to do is to train behaviour. A far, far more difficult thing to do is maintain your criteria for the lifetime of your dog. That is what makes a great trainer. (Crate Games is an excellent model for beginning trainers, instructors and experienced trainers for troubleshooting behaviour in the area of being mindful of criteria and maintaining criteria).

BE RESPECTFUL: Give Your Dog 100% Of  Your ATTENTION While Training.

If you are getting further direction or clarification from an instructor, tug with your dog or, hold his collar and stroke him or put him into a relaxed position or in his crate. Whatever you do, be respectful of your dog’s attention for you by being attentive of him. Turning away from your dog to talk to an instructor; shows a lack of respect for your canine partner. Your dog should always be recognized for his effort to work with you.

One that is not on the list above that many of you would be familiar with is “Protect Your Dog’s Confidence“. Would you add any more training reminders to the above list?

Today I am grateful to have been able to spend time with Bob Bailey as a friend, and to have him join our training sessions when he visited us recently and was a special guest at our IC Peeps Live! 2018 event.