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Advanced Dog Training: Behavior Training

 Reviewed 29 October 2017 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> Ever wondered what we mean with Behavior Training?

Behavior Training: cutting edge dog training, no doubt!

Advanced Dog Training: Behavior Training

In the last MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL we discussed the most basic dog training: Obedience Training, which hence forms the baseline of our dog training pyramid.

Dog Behavior Training

This week now we continue with a short & succinct introduction to advanced dog training: Behavior Training - which should be the major part of all dog training, hence it occupies most space in the dog training pyramid.

What is Behavior Training?

The whole idea of Behavior Training is that dogs are best trained through our own behavior. Ie we behave (1) in a way that motivates the dog (2) to behave the way we want, because adult dogs (3) closely observe our body language anyway (4). These four constituents describe Behavior Training.

You may want to compare this with the description of Obedience Training.

Why the Major Part?

Behavior Training should be the major part of all dog training, because dogs focus on our behavior much more than on any commands we could give!

Busy and stressed dog owners may not have much chance to become aware of this, but adult German Shepherd Dogs consciously study our body language in every situation. At least as much as they study the body language of another dog they meet outdoors. Until we routinely behave the same in the particular situation.

While this is generally true for all dog breeds and mixes, GSDs excel in this area because their attentiveness is one of the best in the canine world.

You may remember that attentiveness is the key determinant of what is later assessed as 'intelligence'. Since German Shepherds are the result of thousands of generations of bred herding dogs (that have to attend to large numbers of cattle), GSDs are exceptionally attentive. This is what led to the well-known impression that German Shepherds are "intelligent dogs".

Why is Behavior Training Advanced Dog Training?

  • Because it is more relevant for adult dogs than for puppies
  • Because it is not taught by the large pool of obedience dog trainers
  • Because it is not part of dog training or dog competitions in dog clubs sad
  • Most importantly: Because Behavior Training requires a somewhat 'mature' dog owner, one who can question his/her own behavior and is willing to improve it!

The last point is already its key flaw: The large number of dog owners who are not ready for Behavior Training, plus the large number of dog owners who don't want to be ready for Behavior Training.

Don't want to? Well, see particularly the first of the "unbeatable benefits" of Obedience Training described in the last Periodical.

However, this "flaw" of Behavior Training will fade away over time: People change their views, interests, and attitude!

Eg until as recently as 20 years ago beating your dog was by many considered the "normal" and "necessary" treatment of canines, and even today choke collarspinch collars, prong collars, and electronic collars sell better than leather collars. Shocking, really. Sales on Amazon, but Amazon fairly reflects global sales.

Why is Behavior Training more for Adult Dogs?

Behavior Training is more relevant for adult dogs than for puppies, because adult dogs consciously interprete our behavior. Thus 90% or 95% Behavior Training seems to give a good outcome for most dog owners and dogs, while it still allows us to feel important: having authority, giving commands that someone complies with (see the Pros of Obedience Training).

Conversely, puppies subconsciously notice our behavior, but their attention (consciousness) is focused on PLAY and FUN. Thus, while it is helpful to apply some Behavior Training already with a puppy (so that the pup learns from early on to adapt to our behavior), a fair amount of Obedience Training is helpful too:

Puppies need more clear direction (commands), since they don't yet interprete our behavior as much (depending on puppy development stage, see the Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101). Without some consistent commands, pups would often be left unsure how we want them to behave. Maybe half - half gives the best outcome.

Why is Behavior Training more successful?

Behavior Training yields the best results because:

  • it mitigates the conflict the dog is experiencing in its Pack!
  • it makes the dog calmer (less stressed; more balanced, more relaxed)
  • the dog's attention is 100% focused on us, not on the expectation of imminent force, fear, or foods(!)
  • and, when we give no commands, the dog doesn't get confused by the mixed messages from our behavior and our commands

Behavior Training IN A NUTSHELL

The more we adapt to the canine way (Show - Don’t Tell), the less we need to command our dog, and the better our dog understands us.

Why command when we can behave?

We behave anyway, so why not behave well? In terms of dog training, to behave well means that we demonstrate clear and consistent behavior that motivates the dog to behave the way we want!

Conceptionally very easy and common sense, isn't it? Practically it's not that difficult either - once we get our head around the conventional concept of dog training! Once we forget the notion of Obedience Training, namely that:

  • We are the master, and our dog is the servant
  • That we must command to get the dog to comply
  • That we require our dog to obey us
  • Or else we will use some form of enforcement!

Why "forget" this notion?

Because none of that is relevant for Behavior Training. Really none of that.

Concluding Example

Say we want to get our dog away from scavenging some 'food' item (s)he could gobble right there on our off-leash walk - one of the most difficult dog training situations! (At least when we only know Obedience Training)

The notion of Obedience Training here is: We are our dog's master, thus we may command our dog to COME away from that "rubbish", and our dog must obey us, or we will put the dog on leash and pull our dog away with force!

Conversely, the notion of Behavior Training is: We first become our dog's accepted Pack leader. One of the many side effects of the means we use to achieve this is that our dog is conditioned away from eating anything without our signal, and outside meal times. Plus, the dog has learned from experience that (s)he doesn't need to worry about the next meal, thus (s)he doesn't need to grab every food opportunity as if it was potentially the last. Like Ian Dunbar said when I interviewed him: "Good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits".

All this makes it unlikely that the dog desires to scavenge, ie to eat the 'food' item (s)he has just found.

What if we weren't quite successful with becoming the accepted Pack leader, and our dog attempts to eat the 'rubbish' nonetheless?

Then I'd call the dog once, and if at least I was successful with the training of the Recall, the dog will come to me immediately. If I wasn't successful with that either, the dog wouldn't be off-leash in the first place - because it is a safety risk if you walk your dog off-leash while you are unsure if the Recall works reliably!

But let's assume here that I was unsuccessful with all(!) my Behavior Training, and inattentive during the on-leash walk, such that I led the dog right towards that scavengeable 'food' item! What now?

Well, if I was unsuccessful with all(!) my Behavior Training, then obviously I'd have to resort to Obedience Training like everyone else. However, even in that remote case, I would not pull the dog away if it looks like something that's not poisonous. I know: Many scavengeable 'food' items look disgusting to us - but to dogs they are not disgusting at all.

I would avoid pulling wherever I can, because it would train the dog to use force while on-leash - the opposite of what we want as dog owners!!

Instead, I certainly would deduct the scavenged amount of 'food' from the upcoming meal (like with any food treat). And I'd be generous in estimating that amount. Such that the dog would clearly notice that there's less food on the platter than what (s)he normally gets. And I would make the bit of food that the dog gets particularly delicious. Such that the dog would love to get more of it during that meal.

Remember that it is a widely copied misapprehension that dogs have only a very short-term memory - they have not.

As said, personally, I'd never get into this situation anyway: First accepted Pack leader, and Leash Training including the Recall. No off-leash walk before the Recall appears to work reliably. Attentive during dog walks (off-leash and on-leash), ie no playing around with the phone or such: the one I am with (now the dog) deserves 100% of my attention!

You see that the whole approach to dog training is different: Behavior Training starts long before the particular issue occurs. And it addresses the root of issues, the cause, not the symptoms. Generally multiple symptoms lead back to one particular cause, hence it makes sense to address the one cause, not each symptom individually!

The next Periodical will resume with the necessary provisions for each dog training approach that we have now discussed.



  • I chose the term Behavior Training for our adult dog training approach because it fits best:
      1. We use our own behavior (body language) as a means to train our dog
      2. dog language is body language anyway!
  • The constituents of Behavior Training are:
    • We behave
    • in a way that motivates the dog to behave the way we want
    • because adult dogs
    • closely observe our body language anyway
  • Behavior Training should be the major part of all dog training, because dogs focus on our behavior much more than on any commands we could give!
  • Thus, House Training Dogs To Behave Well In A High Value Home of course uses Behavior Training - and House Training is the major part of all dog training!
  • With Behavior Training we do not expect the dog to obey, and thus we do not use any form of enforcement (the 3 F’s: Force, Fear, Foods)
  • Instead, with Behavior Training we get the dog to want to follow our lead
  • When (s)he doesn't, in many cases we do nothing (no attention, nothing: "show no grudge") - thus exactly like the mum behaves with the litter puppies!
  • Where the dog is misbehaving (in our human view) due to over-excitement (stress), we use the Collar Freeze (or SSCD if on leash)
  • With adult dogs there is rarely a need for Isolation (if the dog grew up with us)
  • BUT: Despite the clear superiority of Behavior Training it must be noted that Behavior Training requires a somewhat 'mature' dog owner, one who can question his/her own behavior and is willing to improve on it

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  5 Page Comments, ZERO SPAM: the spam spam-free oasis on the web grin Add one


    I have been doing obedience training with Jordan, and she is doing well so I am looking forward to the next chapter in behavior training. I want her to be well rounded, and I know you have it for me!


    Our 13 month old male came back from "school" last week a changed dog. The school, here in Costa Rica applies the non-violent, encouraging good behavior techniques that you have described. Without question, it has been the best thing that has happened to our dog and his "parents".


    Thank you, good advice that I will have to focus on sticking to smile


    Interesting view... is similar to my training... we always encourage correct behavior by leadership... we say "the dog has already read the book... we now have to read it and study it".

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