Training Goals - A Triad

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:30 AM | Bob Self (Administrator)

In a nutshell good trainers know that training is accentuating the dog’s wanted actions and eliminating those that are unwanted. The dog will never understand the moral virtues of right and wrong, but it will perform acts that bring it pleasure and avoid those that cause discontent.  e trainer therefore sets the standards for the dog.

Trainers not only decide what acts are to be trained, but equally important, the manner in which the behavior is considered acceptable. It is not enough for an obedience competition dog merely to perform an exercise. It must be done with willingness, joy, and intensity. Hence, the trainer’s standards form a triad: attention, animation and desire, and response on the part of the dog. These three give it the attributes necessary for a good ring performance.


Most errors associated with a dog’s performance can be traced to lack of attention. Sniffing, bumping, forging, going wide, failure to come or stay all can be caused by a lack of attention.

No animal can learn if it is not attentive. In the case of many obedience exercises the dog's attention must be focused on the action to be learned. The trained dog must stay with the trainer while heeling. If its attention is not on the trainer, heeling is an impossible act. Anything the trainer requires the dog to do first requires attention.

Attention is so important to a well-trained dog it is one of the first things the dog is introduced to when formal training begins. It is emphasized in every training session and every exercise throughout the dog’s career.

Animation and Desire

Most dogs are happy animals by nature. A dog running free in a field of grass gives an animated, happy picture. Sadly, and all too often the repetition and control required by obedience training takes much of the animation away from a dog. Maintaining a dog's happy attitude while completing the repetitions needed to master obedience exercises is one of the most difficult challenges trainers face. It is hard enough for a trainer to foster their own desire in the face of such repetition, not to mention the dog's animation too.

It is natural that the animation, which the dog has while running freely, is not present while it is working. As such the trainer must emphasize that the performance of obedience is not boring and repulsive. The dog must be trained to be happy while working. Some breeds inherently give a more animated appearance than others, but all can be improved through proper motivation in training.

The trainer cannot expect the dog to work with joy and happiness unless he approaches training in a good mood. The trainer's moods in training are reflected in the dog’s attitudes toward the work. It is most important that the trainer reflects enjoyment of training and that he creates a happy atmosphere for the dog’s learning processes.

Balanced dog training recommends no verbal reprimands on exercises when the dog is moving. Even leash corrections are always accompanied by praise. Prolonged verbal admonishments nag and depress a dog even more than humans because dogs don't have the cognitive ability to understand the differing semantics of words. Dog's do however have a keen sense of interpreting vocal tones. As such, physical adjustments with praise convey to the dog that the trainer is still a friend and the penalty is not to be feared.


Response is the third element of the triad and trainers must strive to develop the dog's prompt response to their commands. It must preform the desired action expeditiously and without delay. All three, attention, animation, and response, depend upon each other and are required to have a well-balanced dog.

A dog cannot be responsive and inattentive at the same time. It is possible for a dog to be attentive and responsive through fear; but by these standards it is not well trained, for training without animation creates disgust, not admiration.

A dog can be responsive but it must also show considerable intensity and joy in its work. This is the dog that creates a thrilling picture of obedience training as this dog gives the impression that it's work and the trainer are the two most important facets of it’s being.

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