“Why Use Positive Reinforcement in Your Dog Training?”

Positive reinforcement is a widely recognized and effective method in dog training. It involves rewarding desired behaviors to encourage their repetition, while avoiding punishment or aversive techniques. This approach focuses on creating a positive and enjoyable learning experience for both the dog and the trainer.

In dog training, positive reinforcement can take various forms, such as treats, praise, toys, or even playtime. By associating these rewards with desired behaviors like sitting, staying, or coming when called, dogs learn to understand what is expected of them and are motivated to repeat those behaviors.

I discovered many years ago that positive reinforcement strengthens the bond between the dog and its owner or trainer. Dogs learn to trust and respect their humans as they associate them with pleasant experiences and rewards. This creates a harmonious relationship based on mutual understanding and cooperation.

Moreover, positive reinforcement has been found to be more effective in achieving long-term behavior changes compared to punishment-based methods. Dogs trained using positive reinforcement are more likely to retain what they have learned and exhibit consistent good behavior even in different environments or challenging situations.

It’s important to note that positive reinforcement does not mean ignoring unwanted behaviors. Instead of punishing or scolding the dog for misbehaving, trainers focus on redirecting their attention towards appropriate behaviors and rewarding those instead. This helps dogs understand what is expected from them without causing fear or anxiety.

What I find is that dogs trained in ways that focus on aversives or corrections, many times are the “victims” of Classical Conditioning. Meaning the pain or discomfort of the correction (think leash pops, high levels of stimulation on an e-collar, yelling or spraying with water…yes some people still do thus stuff) begins to be associated with either the owner or whatever the dog is looking at when it gets the correction. So your dog can become scared or skittish around you, if you are delivering painful corrections for “misbehavior.” Or let’s say your dog is reactive to other dogs and you stop this behavior by correcting it…leash pops or e-collar stims. While the behavior may stop the aversive correction can also create a negative association. “I already didn’t like other dogs, now I really hate them because it hurts when I see them!”

This doesn’t mean I never do a correction. It’s just that when I do, which is extraordinarily rare, it’s because I don’t have another solution or strategy that teaches what I want instead. And if I do need to do a correction, it’s so mild that it really is more like a re-direction. Or the equivalent of gently tapping someone on the shoulder and saying, “hey why don’t you try this instead?”

Overall, incorporating positive reinforcement techniques into dog training can lead to happier dogs who are eager to learn and please their owners. It promotes a healthy learning environment where both parties can enjoy the process while building a strong bond based on trust and respect. Positive reinforcement gets the job done for me with the best long term result!

Masculine Vs. Feminine-What Works With Our Dogs? With Ranji Singh

Toxic masculine energy in dog training perpetuates dominance and aggression, hindering true understanding and connection between humans and their canine companions. Nevertheless, it continues to dominate the way we train our best friends. That needs to change. Unravel the intriguing conversation about the essence of masculine and feminine energies in this episode! Join Doug Poynter and his guest, Ranji Singh, as they delve into a thought-provoking discussion about how different energy styles influence not just dogs but also the world around us. From debunking the alpha male myth to embracing the power of collaborative and nurturing approaches, this conversation promises a fresh perspective on creating harmony and understanding in the canine-human relationship. Discover the secrets to long-lasting behavior change and witness a powerful transformation in dog training methods that will leave you inspired and eager for more!

Listen to the podcast here


Masculine Vs. Feminine-What Works With Our Dogs? With Ranji Singh

Welcome to another episode. I’m the Owner of the business Better Dog Behavior. I’m located in Central Virginia. I service the Central Virginia area. I specialize in canine behavior problems. I service all over. I had clients in Nicaragua, Southern California, Atlanta, and Pennsylvania. I’m not going to people’s houses. When I’m servicing someone in Nicaragua, I’m doing that by Zoom. I can do this business by Zoom or live.

I work with behavior problems in dogs. I use marker training, clicker training, and positive reinforcement. I work with aggressive dogs, fearful dogs, and dogs with separation anxiety. I work with dogs that have problems. You know what I always say. If you have been following this show, I say it a bunch of times, “I have yet to see a canine behavior problem that wasn’t also a human problem.”

I always tell folks that I train dogs and people. I help dogs and people. We have a great partnership with our dogs. We had discussed before how dogs were essential to helping us create Western civilization or even civilization as we know it. I look at it as a sacred partnership. That is how I deal with fixing canine behavior problems.

I want to get started with a special episode because I have a special friend as a guest, Ranji Singh, a charming guest and dog lover with lots of experience with dogs. We are going to discuss a controversial topic. I hope this is not too out there for you. It’s not too out there for me and Ranji. I’m hoping you guys will enjoy what we are talking about. Before we start talking about our subject, I like to introduce my friend, Ranji Singh. Ranji, I’m glad that you are here with us.

Doug, thanks for having me.

Tell us a little bit about your background with the dogs. Before she does, I want to tell you something. Everything this lady does, she does great. I have told her over and over again, “You belong out in Hollywood.” She laughs that off. She does everything great. She is so talented. She got a love for dogs. Ranji, tell us about how you got into dogs and what you do with the canines.

It started when I was a child. I grew up as an only child. There were a lot of times when my only companionship came from the family pets. We always had several dogs. We treated them as part of the family. They were always in the house with us and very much loved. That is my first memories of having my dogs around me growing up.

When I turned about 8, 9, or a little younger than that, I started intuitively training the little terrier that I had to do some fun fancy tricks, like stand up on her hind legs and twirl in a circle for a treat. That was born from an innate understanding and connection with dogs that came from the heart because I had no formal dog training at that point in my life.

When I graduated from college, I got my first dog as an adult. That was all mine. It was a Great Dane. I overcompensated growing up. I was only ever allowed to have small dogs. I went to the opposite extreme to prove a point. I bought this Great Dane from a great breeder. I got him when he was six weeks old. That dog was my one true soulmate.

We had twelve amazing years together and many adventures. We moved out to Los Angeles and got an apartment in West Hollywood. He was so well trained because I loved dog training and doing it with him. He is such a natural. He was one of those bombproof dogs who was solid and steady no matter what was going around him in the environment. That predisposed him to do well in set work. He did some commercials. He was on a couple of TV shows. I got to play stage Mom. We did a lot of training and learned a lot out there from the other set trainers. That was amazing. That elevated my training skills to a level that I had previously I wasn’t at.

Was he on any shows that we would have seen?

He did a couple of Chevy commercials or maybe it was Ford. He did a Lifetime movie. We flew to Vancouver and he had some parts in that. We did a pilot for a show that went on to get picked up by a network called I’m Gonna Off the Leash. There was another one, the Greatest American Dog. His resume honestly looked better than mine when we ended up moving back from California.

Sadly, when I lost him, I was devastated. I needed something to fill that hole in my heart. I started volunteering with the local Great Dane Rescue here in Kentucky. I thought, “That was so heartbreaking. I can’t ever have another dog on my own.” I missed the companionship. I thought, “I will have him in and foster him.” I foster failed three times. I ended up with three Great Danes all at once. I had them all trained. I would walk them all. That garnered a lot of stares. It was 450 pounds of dog. I walked it once and I weighed about 110 pounds myself.

That is impressive to be able to control that amount of muscle.

There was no more room at the end. I had to step back from Rescue because I had my hands full there. I would still take on the problem cases. They had some behavioral problems that kept them from being adoptable. I would train the deaf and blind ones. I got to experience a lot with that Great Dane Rescue. I learned so much.

Do you have a dog now? I believe you do, don’t you?

I have one of those three Great Danes I rescued from the Rescue left. He is doing amazing. He is going to be the longest-lived Dane I have. He has always been the healthy one.

Without being in the movies, I guess he hasn’t been in the movies yet. He could be in the movies. I have told you before. He is the GQ of dogs. You do such a great job of videotaping the thing that you put on Facebook, going through the woods in the snow. He got white on his eyelids. The snow was coming down. It was in the woods. That was unbelievable.

He knows his job around here to earn his room and board.

Now that we know a little bit more about you, let’s jump into what it is we have been talking about. Ranji and I have talked about this from all kinds of different angles, not just dogs but we are going to focus more on the dogs. This is where it is going to get out there into the universe. I hope you are ready for this. Ranji, if you remember, we were having a discussion about all the stuff going on in the world. I told you that my theory was what we see in our world is an expression of a massive amount of dysfunctional male energy. You agreed with me when I said that.

Our personalities have nothing to do with gender. It is the masculine and feminine component of the spiritual and psychological parts of our personalities. When we have an imbalance, we have problems. You may agree with me. Tell me if I’m right or wrong here but it is my opinion that we have seen an overabundance of toxic masculine energy. Would you agree with that?

I agree. It is important to define what healthy male masculinity is versus the toxic version because some people may not understand the distinction.

I’m glad you said that because I was getting ready to say that. Don’t think we are against male energy. We are not. I’m a guy.

I love men.

I love women. We got a little bit of defining here to do. My definition of functional male energy is the builder, the warrior in a positive, the protector, and the engineer. An engineer is a male energy that is functional. A builder is functional. A warrior that protects the family or individuals is functional male energy. I always like to look at that building and protecting mode to think about functional male energy. What do you think? Do you have anything else that you want to add to that? Did I miss anything there?

I don’t think you missed anything. If I were to speak to it, I would describe it as approaching situations from a proactive stance as opposed to an aggressive one. There is a difference between being proactive and being aggressive.

There is a difference between being proactive and just being aggressive. Share on X

Assertive as opposed to aggressive.

That is an even better way to say it.

What we have been discussing is the rise of functional-feminine energy. What we are seeing in the world is the conflict between dysfunctional masculine energy that doesn’t want to take a step back and functional-feminine energy that wants to take a step forward. If we want to talk about something a little more worldly than dogs, for one, you ladies should be given a chance to rule the world because we men have messed it up quite a bit. You can see that all over the news. Tell me what your definition is of functional or divine feminine energy. The divine feminine is what we hear so much.

Divine feminine energy is a receptive energy where you facilitate a constant flow of receiving and pushing that energy back out. If you are familiar with karate or tai chi, they practice taking the energy in, manipulating it, and sending it back out in a flowing way. Healthy feminine energy is not sitting back and allowing yourself to be told what to do all the time. It is not a weakness. A lot of people mistake it for weakness. You can get the same things done in feminine energy that you can in masculine energy. It is just a different approach. Neither one is stronger or better than the other.

BDBN 21 | Dog Training

Dog Training: You can get the same things done in a feminine energy that you can in a masculine energy. It’s just a different approach. Neither one is stronger or better than the other.


I always look at feminine energy as being the nurturer, developer, and collaborator. I was in a business mastermind that was run by a lady named Lisa Sasevich. She got a very successful business. I told her one time, “Lisa, I have learned so much being in this mastermind. I have learned that you ladies collaborate a whole lot better than we guys do. We guys want to go out and kill everything in our way. You might pick at each other a little bit but you were able to collaborate and work together a whole lot more effectively than we guys seem to do. We guys seem to want to fight everything.” She smiled and nodded.

When I think about how this applies to what we do with our dogs, what we do with our training with our dogs, and how we create lives for our dogs, this is a subject that can create quite a bit of controversy among people who do what you and I do. There is this feeling that we must master our dogs and dominate them to have control. To me, that is dysfunctional male energy.

It is the epitome of toxic masculinity, where you have to conquer, control, and dominate.

The feeling that we must master our dogs and dominate them in order to have control is the epitome of toxic masculinity. Share on X

We are not saying that your dog gets away with doing whatever he wants to do, rules your household, and is in total control. We are saying the way you get the scenarios set up so that everybody can work together doesn’t have to be using dominance.

At first blush, this whole masculine-feminine polarity thing would seem counterintuitive that would apply to dog training but it does because there are simply different approaches. It applies to everything in life. Anything that you do in life, it would apply to.

You and I have discussed this before. If you are interested in this, there may be another episode on the subject like this coming in the near future but we are going to stick with dogs in this episode. Here is what I want you to do if you would. We are not going to name any names but you told me about a problem or issue you had with a trainer that was referred to you because you had a little bit of a behavior problem with one of your dogs. Tell everybody what the result of that was or a little bit of the background and what happened.

When I worked with the Great Dane Rescue, we would get in all manner of dogs with issues, which a lot of times is why they were surrendered to rescue and their initial owners were unable to keep them. I had a dog. The dog had a bit of an aggression issue. The trainer that the rescue worked with employed a chain-jerking yank and crank.

The thing is I liked the guy. His heart was in the right place. He loved these dogs. He dedicated countless hours for free to help people either keep their dogs and not have their dogs go into rescue or rehabilitate the ones that did come into rescue so they could go on to find their forever homes. We are not talking about a hateful, mean, awful, terrible person. We are talking about the training method that he employed was aggressive and intense. You have to dominate the dog. Correct me if I’m wrong, is it the Koehler Method?

Will Koehler was the big trainer in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s in the United States.

It was a time when toxic masculinity was dominating over feminine energy. He used that method. In my opinion, it was brutal. Although, at the time, I employed a lot of the techniques because I didn’t know any better. This was the person presented to me as an expert in solving these difficult issues. What I saw in the dog was not working for this dog’s particular personality. I’m of the opinion that you need to have a lot of tools in your tool belt as a dog trainer.

Ideally, you want to customize your training to the individual dog because dogs, like humans, learn in different ways. We have different personality styles. When you take a single approach and blanket every dog with it, you should be wary of trainers like that because that is what this trainer did. He was very adamant that this was the only training method that worked and was worth a damn. Any other techniques or training methods employed were subpar and didn’t work. The people did not know what the hell they were doing.

What did he do to your dog?

He did a lot of chain-jerking. You could see that the dog was shut down. When the dog shuts down, there is no learning happening. Nothing is landing with the dog. From being a kid, I have this innate connection with animals. I can tell what is going on with them without explaining why. I thought, “This is not right for this dog.” It was brutal, in my opinion. I had to abort the mission there and search for other methods. That was the best thing I could have ever done. That is what expanded my repertoire to deal with all different kinds of dogs.

Let me tell you something that is in the Koehler book, the way to stop the dog from digging holes.

This is awful. Say it because people need to know.

Fill the hole up with water, take the dog’s head, and dunk it down into the hole filled with water until the dog is choking. Yank his head out and do that every day for three days. Soon, the smell of the mud, water, and hole itself will be disgusting to the dog. He will never dig a hole again. I find that to be amazing that anyone would want to do that to an animal, much less your pet dog, unless you are angry and full of toxic masculinity. Have we talked about my theory about where this comes from?

I don’t recall.

I believe it comes from our theory about wolves. I have talked about it in this show before. There is an alpha male in the wolfpack who rules with force. As long as he is more forceful than any of the other males who are constantly trying to take over the wolfpack, he will remain the leader. When he can’t get his way physically, he won’t be the leader any longer.

That is something we thought we knew about wolves for many years. Knowing that our dogs are descended from wolves, my hypothesis is that is where all this comes from. If it works for wolves, it must work for our dogs. We must dominate. The problem is it is not true with wolves. Dr. David Mech, who is the foremost authority on wolves, came out on YouTube several years ago.

He said, “I was wrong. I am the person who put the term alpha on a lead male in a wolfpack. The reason I was wrong is until the study that I did on Ellesmere Island. We couldn’t study wolves in the wild. We had to study them in captivity. In captivity, which is like a prison for wolves, there was a bigger and stronger male who did dominate. In the wild, the wolfpack is a family.

“There is a little structure in a wolfpack. There is no conflict. Nobody is trying to take over. It is mom, dad, and the kids.” As he says in that video, “The idea that a male is the lead of a pack because he fights better is wrong. He is the lead because he bred with a female and they had pups.” He is dad. The alpha female is the mom. If we keep that in mind, that can help change the way we look at the way we deal with our dogs.

The answer is not being an alpha male in the sense of the wolfpack or human alpha male. When you think about an alpha male, that brings up a bit of toxic masculine energy in my mind.

Neither of us is saying there shouldn’t be any male leaders and shouldn’t have strong male leaders or female leaders. What we are saying is we need a balance of that masculine and feminine energy.

Healthy masculine and healthy feminine energy have a symbiotic relationship because we need strong, healthy, proactive male energy for female energy to sit back in their feminine and do things from that. If we have weak males in society, what happens is women feel like, “We have to step up to the plate and be more aggressive.” Things get out of balance.

I’m not saying that women can’t stand up, be leaders, and do everything men can do. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of women out there living in their masculine energy and they do so their whole lives. Bringing it back to dog training, more of a feminine approach is healthier for the dog. You are going to get better and long-lasting results cemented into that dog’s brain. You are going to get behavior change at a very base level.

Let me tell you a story about someone I have been communicating with. She has a little dog that is a Jack Russell Terrier.

I have one of those.

Also, an Akita in him. That is quite the mix. I don’t know how that happened. At any rate, he has bitten his owner multiple times. She showed me the scarring on her arm and her son’s leg and foot. The dog’s name is Scout. Somehow or another, she found me online. She called me. She wanted to know if I could help. I did what I normally do, which is to go through a litany of questions and try to find out the background.

It took me 2 or 3 days. The conversations weren’t pleasant because this lady was so wound up. I could hardly get her to stop. She would go on about how this was going to be a disaster. At one point, I went, “Stop. I can’t help you if you don’t listen to me.” It finally came up that maybe I had gotten not complete information. I said, “When did this start?” She told me the chronology of when it started.

I said, “Is there anything you can draw as far as an event that maybe is the thing since this event started?” She was like, “Yes.” I was like, “What was it?” She was like, “We had to take him to the vet and the vet was afraid of it.” I have seen a picture of this dog. He might weigh 30 pounds. She said, “The vet put a noose on him, drug him into the vet’s office, forcefully did the exam, and took him back out on the noose.” I said, “Had he bitten anybody before that?” She said, “No.” I said, “You can thank your vet for this.”

Why wouldn’t the vet have the owners put a muzzle on the dog?

They tried that after the noose but he wouldn’t have anything to do with the muzzle after that experience of hands around his neck. What happens is they can’t pet him on the head. He will bite him if they pet him on the head.

He needs some defensive training.

She has ordered a clicker. I asked her, “Can you touch his collar?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “We got some footing here that we can work with.” The problem is the poor dog is feeling threatened because he was threatened. That is abuse. I said to her, “What kind of vet would do that?” I’m not going to mention who it was but she told me where the veterinary office is and I’m familiar with where it is. I was like, “I can’t believe that.” That is toxic male energy.

Let me tell you what fuels toxic male energy, whether it’s out in the world or dealing with our dogs. It is going to sound counterintuitive but it is fear. We don’t want to admit as guys that we are afraid. When we are afraid of something, we have to get bigger and bad than that thing. You don’t noose a dog unless you are afraid of the dog. I work with dogs all the time.

BDBN 21 | Dog Training

Dog Training: Fear and insecurity fuel toxic male energy, whether it’s out in the world or in dealing with our dogs.


I talk to somebody. He was telling me that his dog had growled at him. I said, “This would be easy. I’m always working with dogs who want to rip my face off.” The answer to those problems is not correcting the behavior and getting bigger and bad than the dog. The answer to that is behavior modification, desensitizing, and counter-conditioning. That is a more feminine approach, whether it is a guy or a lady doing it. I have seen plenty of ladies who are as abusive with dogs as anything you can find a guy doing. They are the typical old-school female dog trainers. You don’t have to be a guy to have toxic male energy.

Sometimes a lot of women feel like they do need to overcorrect the dog to make up for the fact that the dog might outweigh them or they have a little bit of fear of the dog. It is not just men that employ this.

BDBN 21 | Dog Training

Dog Training: You don’t have to be a guy to have toxic male energy. A lot of women feel like they do need to over correct the dog to make up for the fact that the dog might outweigh them.


My theory is if you are going to rely on corrections, you are being intellectually weak here. Here is the deal. None of us are good enough to never have a correction. If I was good enough in a situation, right off the bat, I would never need a correction. My dog is very reactive. She is a rescue dog. I’m getting her good with my brother. She tried to climb the fence after my brother. I had to yell at her to get her off the fence. That is toxic male energy but she sat down. We could do the stuff we wanted to do to desensitize. As a matter of fact, we had a good session.

I want to impress everybody that when you are thinking about your dog, getting a result, and solving a behavior problem, you want to look for a trainer who does behavior modification and focuses on positive reinforcement. Clicker training is good for this stuff. It is something that dogs get into and get excited about. Keep this in mind. If you have a dog growling at you and anybody, the dog feels threatened. I always like to draw this analogy. Feeling threatened means being scared. When was the last time you were scared that somebody popped you, hit you, or screamed at you that made you less scared?

It doesn’t work like that.

Whether we want to call it toxic male energy, functional male energy, divine feminine energy, or toxic feminine energy, there are methods that work. Behavior modification and positive reinforcement work. We have to calm down and get out of our toxic cells.

It is like disciplining a child. You have to have a better grip on your emotions at that moment than your child does for you to correct your child in a way that’s going to work and be kind and healthy.

I always like to stay away from the word correct when I’m talking about dogs. I like to say to fix it and create another better association. What we are going to be doing with Scout, creating a different association for having somebody touch him. I got another client with a tiny dog who bites them endlessly. They can’t put a leash on her. This is what I had them do. I said, “I like you to stand in front of your dog, hold the leash in your left hand, and have it curled up so that it is not hanging down on the floor but she can see it and face her with your right side. When she sees the leash in your hand, hand her a food treat.”

My client said, “She was very hesitant.” I said, “Keep doing it until she is not hesitant. Text me back when she is not hesitant.” A couple of days later, she was like, “She is taking the treat.” I said, “Let a little more of the leash hang out of your left hand so she sees more of it. What we are going to do is get it to where that whole leash is going to be hanging down on the floor and she is going to take a food treat in the presence of that leash.” This is before we even try to put the leash on her. We got to desensitize from that small bit of work to increase it so that the dog learns that the leash is not dangerous. Seeing that leash means good stuff is going to happen. That is how we do stuff.

I learned this in set training in LA with my dog. There were some complicated multi-step behaviors that these set dogs had to be trained to do in succession. You can’t correct a dog into learning things like that. You have to positively motivate them, make them excited, make it fun, and make them want to do those crazy things they have to learn to do for set work, and it works.

You can't correct a dog into learning complicated behaviors. You have to positively motivate them and make them excited to do it. Make it fun for them. Share on X

We are coming to the end of our show. It is appropriate that we end it with your Hollywood experience. Everybody, hopefully, this has helped you. If you want to get more information on training with clickers, go back to my episode called The Magic of Markers. It will teach you about marker training. There are all kinds of resources.

I always like to pump up the Kikopup YouTube site. Emily Larlham is a great trainer. She uses clicker training and positive reinforcement. You can learn a lot from her. Will Campbell wrote the definitive text Behavior Problems in Dogs but he also got a book that is not a text. It is for regular folks like us. It is called Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs. That is a great book to read. If you need any references, check those out. Ranji, thank you so much for being with us. I’m glad we were able to do this. We have been talking about it for a while. I appreciate it.

Thanks for having me. Everybody, remember, when you are working with your dog and when in doubt, choose the kinder approach.

Ranji, thank you very much.


Important Links


Dogs Are A Gift!

Dogs are spiritual beings. They are given to us as a gift. These loveable creatures were at mankind’s side throughout history, from our cavemen era to the age of civilization. What makes our relationship with dogs special is not just their playful character. Sometimes, it is also in how we train them to modify their behavior. After a hiatus, Doug Ponyter returns to share some quick tips on how to handle dogs in the most precious way, and what to do when they behave not the way you like them to behave. He shares a clicker training technique that can make dogs less aggressive at the sight of other dogs, a method that requires patience and persistence.

Listen to the podcast here


Dogs Are A Gift!

I am the owner of Better Dog Behavior Now. That is a business here in Central Virginia. I specialize in solving canine behavior problems. I use positive reinforcement, marker training, and behavior modification. I always say that there is no canine behavior problem that doesn’t also involve a human problem. What I do is help dogs. I train dogs and people to balance their relationships so that we have a better relationship between the human and the dog.

I said to one of my clients, “The dog is usually pretty easy. It’s the humans that are more problematic in this equation.” I work a lot with people, helping them and teaching them to learn how to work with their dogs to modify their dog’s behavior. This training and solving behavior problem business is one that I’ve been in for years now. This show has been going on. I have to be real with you on this particular episode. They have been dropping every two weeks. It has been a while since a new episode has dropped so I’m late. I have to tell you why.

I’ve had an injury, a pinched nerve. It has been painful, quite frankly, to do the show. I haven’t done this show for quite some time. My apologies to you for that. I want to get back into this, get going again, and hopefully give you some stuff that will help you with your dog. For this episode, I want to focus on not specific training issues but a train of thought as opposed to actual training or a way to think about the relationship that you have with your dog that can possibly help you see things in a little bit of different light and become the foundation for creating a better relationship with your dog.

If you read other episodes, there are lots of information in there about what you can do in terms of dealing with behaviors and how you can work to make those better. This session is going to be in a way that you can think about the relationship with your dog. What I like to tell people is that dogs are spiritual beings. I hope that’s not too far out there for you but if it is, I’m sorry. That’s what I see. Dogs are spiritual beings that are given to us as a gift. Think about that. Dog spelled backward is God. I believe that dogs are a gift from God that is sent to help us.

You can look throughout the history of humankind and dogs have been there to help us civilize the world. In one of the earlier episodes, I made mention of a study I read that showed that dogs may have been one of the prime factors in helping us transition from crawling around in caves to building a society. The help that they provided us in terms of hunting, companionship, and partnership in doing that work allowed human beings to elevate above the caveman stage.

Dogs have been a gift to us since the beginning of time. I would like you to think about your dog that way, “My dog is a gift.” Some of you have dogs that don’t behave the way you would like them to behave. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like you have a gift in front of you but oftentimes, the solving of the problem becomes the lesson itself. I have folks with dogs that have all kinds of aggression issues or reactivity issues. Reactivity is probably more accurate for the majority of the stuff that I see.

I do see some aggressive dogs, and I do work with aggressive dogs but most dogs that seem aggressive are reactive, at least the ones that I work with. What I see is the opportunity for the human owner to work on patience, being dedicated to doing the actual exercises with his or her dog, and seeing the progress along the way. We want problems to be solved immediately. A lot of times, these behavior problems that I work with aren’t solved immediately but they’re solved in stages. It takes patience on the part of the human to do that work and have the results with the dog.

BDBN 20 | Spiritual Beings

Spiritual Beings: Dog owners want to solve problems with their pets immediately. But most of these problems are solved in stages, and it takes patience on the part of humans to gain the best results with their dogs.


One of my best examples of that is a client I had that had a Great Dane that was very reactive to other dogs. She wanted to get other dogs. She had been attacked by a dog when she was a puppy. The exercise that we did was one that’s pretty common. Engage-disengage is what that exercise is called. We had to desensitize and counter-condition this dog and start that engage-disengage exercise from quite a distance.

The way you do it is as soon as the dog in question sees a dog in the distance, you click and treat it immediately before the dog can react. What you’re effectively doing is clicking for a polite look. If you have a reactive dog, you have to be far enough away that your dog can notice the other dog without having a very quick reaction so that you have time to get a click and a treat in. It has to be a high-value food treat.

What happens is that exercise starts at a great distance. There are lots of clicking and treating. When your dog looks at another dog and you click and treat, your dog takes the treat from you and then looks at the dog again, you click and treat again. You may do that 20 or 30 times in a short period. You have to stay at a great distance at the start so that your dog doesn’t react. If you’re too close, then the reaction will be too strong, and we’re not going to be able to make any progress but once we start to desensitize at that great distance, we can gradually move the dog a little bit closer.

This client of mine learned how to be very patient with her dog. We worked with her dog at a distance of somewhere close to 50 yards. That’s how far away we had to start for her to view a dog and be able to see the dog without having a pretty violent reaction. Once we got her desensitized at that distance, then we could move her gradually closer. It took eight months of work.

Every time she took her for a walk, she would have a treat bag full of treats and she would have her clicker. Anytime she saw her dog see a dog, she would click and treat. There were setbacks along the way but she was consistent with the work. She worked every day on this exercise. She did not take her dog out for a walk that she didn’t do the exercise. After about six months, the reactions to other dogs were starting to go down to the point where it was entirely manageable on a walk.

The dog was a Great Dane. Her name was Ada. Ada passed away in 2022. After about the eight-month mark, she could walk Ada. Ada could see a dog from 10 to 15 feet away and wouldn’t react at all. She would look at her owner, get a click and a treat, and go walking along her merry way. It was a great lesson for her owner in patience and persistence. She did a great job of it but it was also building a relationship and a partnership with her dog. It was something that helped the dog and her owner.

It was wonderful for me to see the progress that her owner made and the dog made over eight months’ time. It was a gift. Her dog was a gift and a gateway to a different way of looking at things, a way to be patient, and a way to work through frustration, get to the end, and get to a good result. It is something that her owner can take into other areas of her life.

I want you to think about your dog that way and realize your dog is a gift. The problems that you may be encountering and the things that you need to overcome are also a gift. I encourage you if you’re having behavior problems with your dog to find someone in your area who does behavior modification. Find someone in your area who uses positive reinforcement and marker training. If you’re not sure what marker training is, go back to my episode called The Magic of Markers.

Your dog is a gift, just like the problems you are encountering and need to overcome. Share on X

Find someone in your area who does behavior modification and uses marker training and get to work with this trainer that you find. Hopefully, you can find someone that you get along with and you feel good about, using positive reinforcement, and behavior modification. Work through the issues with your dog and be patient. Look at it as a gift and an opportunity to get better as an owner and help your dog get better and more confident as a dog.

This is a short episode. I’m getting back in. My apologies for being absent because of the injury but I’m back. Hopefully, this episode has helped you think a little bit differently about your dog and maybe the behavior problem that you’re dealing with. I appreciate your time. I’ll be back with another episode and we will talk to you then.


Important Link


“How Do I Know Who To Trust?”

Do you trust your dog trainers? How do they train your dogs? In this episode, Doug Poynter provides insights on looking at where your dog trainer operates at the four quadrants of operant conditioning. It should raise a red flag if trainers are unfamiliar with the four quadrants of operant conditioning. Doug also touches on escape avoidance training and how it is effective but not a motivating method to train a dog. Know your trainer and tune in to this episode today.

Listen to the podcast here

Read more

One Strategy To Fix Reactivity!

What is the perfect strategy to deal with your dog’s reactivity? In this episode, Doug Poynter provides insights for Enfinatie Phillips, the owner of a pit bull named Maya, to learn the strategy to fix reactivity. Doug teaches us how to use a clicker and some treats properly to train our dogs into getting along with other dogs they meet. Tune in to this episode and get more ideas on how you can fix your dog’s reactivity.

Listen to the podcast here


One Strategy To Fix Reactivity!

I am the Owner of Better Dog Behavior Now. That’s a business that’s located in Central Virginia. I specialize in solving canine behavior problems. I use positive reinforcement, marker training, and clicker training. I do a behavioral modification. I work with aggressive, reactive, and fearful dogs. I work with dogs with separation anxiety. I work with unruly and wound-up dogs. I work with all kinds of behavior problems. Canine behavior problems are not just canine problems. They’re also human problems. There has never been a canine behavior problem I’ve seen that didn’t have a human component involved with it.

I’d like to train dogs, train people to help dogs, and help people here with my business in Central Virginia. I service Central Virginia and all over the state of Virginia. I also have clients that I’ve worked with through Zoom in Southern California, Nicaragua, and around the world. I’m not going to travel to Nicaragua to work with the dog. We do that on Zoom. We’re going to do that in this episode.

I have a special guest. Her name is Enfinatie Phillips. She is from Virginia like I am. She contacted me about her dog. What I’m going to do is we’re going to get started and do this session. I’m going to ask her a few questions and then we’re going to see where it goes. Tell me about your dog. What’s her name? What kind of dog?

Her name is Maya. She is a pitbull mixed with a bulldog. I got her on April 18, 2022. She’s three years old.

She’s a rescue dog. Did we know anything about her background?

The only thing I was told about her is that she does not get along with small dogs very much. She grew up with another male dog named Biscuit. When he passed away, that’s when all her issues started.

When you first contacted me in 2022, you were a student at the time. We set up a session for me to come and work with you guys individually and in person, but we couldn’t do it. You had something going on.

I just had started a new job and I was in training pretty much the entire day.

Enfinatie and I have spoken several times over the telephone. What we’re going to do in this episode is we’re going to do a Zoom session the way I do it with folks. Enfinatie, tell us what the behavior problem is that you’re dealing with with your dog.

I feel like Maya has bad reactivity when she’s on the leash and especially when she’s with me. I’ve noticed that when I take her out and she’s around other dogs, she’s very hyper. She wants to bark at them, but when she gets a chance to interact with them, she’s perfectly fine. Not all dogs want a dog to interact with them. My main issue was getting her to be able to go past other dogs without it being such an overwhelming situation for her.

Let me ask you a question before we get started. You said that if she’s off-leash, then she’s okay with the other dogs. Tell me your experience with that. When have you seen that? One of the things we need to be careful of when we’re dealing with the American Pit Bull Terrier is sometimes they cannot be really happy with other dogs. They were bred originally to fight other dogs. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a pit bull that gets along with other dogs, but it wouldn’t be unusual if they did not. Tell me about your experience having her get along with other dogs off-leash. Where have you seen that?

We were at the dog park. I had her in there. I was in this fencing area and a guy walked up and he had his dog with him. I let him know like, “I’m not too sure how she is with other dogs.” He was like, “I’m confident with my dog.” He’s very much like a teacher-ish type of dog is how he explained it. He was like, “If you want, we can try to introduce them. If anything happens, it’s not your fault.” I was apprehensive about it. His dog seemed well-mannered. Maya was in her own little world. She wasn’t paying attention. He came in and they played forever. They were running around. They were having a good time.

She never tried to bite him and didn’t growl at him. That’s when I realized maybe it’s more her being on a leash. My stepdad has several dogs. He also introduced her to one of his dogs, and they did perfectly fine. I also noticed that maybe it was me because when we were in the field, I was on the other side having a conversation with the guy and the dogs were just running. I felt like maybe it was my anxious energy that was giving her that extra energy that she was having.

When you have her on a leash and you see another dog, do you get anxious about that?

I do. The first time I took her to get her shots and there were dogs in the line and she lost her mind, I get very weary when I see other dogs. I don’t want that reaction out of her.

This is very interesting because it gives us a little bit of a foothold here when we know that she doesn’t have a problem with other dogs as long as the other dog is polite and we’re off-leash. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and then maybe we’ll talk about an exercise you can do when you have her on a leash so that the reactivity seems to go down a bit and have a little bit of a calmer scenario. When you have her on a leash and she reacts to other dogs, what is your response?

I’ve been working on her “Leave it” command and then we turn around. We go in the opposite direction.

Prior to that, what were you doing?

I was trying to pull her in the opposite direction to get her out of the eyesight of the other dog.

Can you give me a typical scenario where there would be a problem? Can you think back to a specific situation where she had a problem with another dog on a leash, and describe it for me?

I was a college student. I lived close to Longwood’s campus. I would walk her around the perimeter of it, versus going on campus. On this specific day, I was walking with my friends and there was a dog in front of us. I was like, “That’s fine. We’re going to turn around,” and there was a dog behind us as well. My only other option was to cross the street, Either way, she was still going to see one and she lost her mind. She went crazy and was barking. It was a lot of energy.

Your response to that was to go the other direction. Did you scold her? Did you try to calm her down verbally? What did you do?

I tried to put her in a sit and then stand in front of her because I felt like the only way I could stop her from seeing the other dogs is by blocking her myself. I essentially put my body in between her and the other dog she was seeing.

You probably noticed that that didn’t work very well.

It did not work at all.

I want you to imagine that you’re at home and you’re a kid. You’re mom and dad put your favorite dessert in front of you. What’s your favorite dessert?

I love little Starburst. I was not a cake-chocolate type of person.

They put Starburst in front of you and then tell you not to look at it. What would that make you want to do?

It would make me want to get to it.

You look at it even more. One of the things that we don’t want to do is try to keep her from leaving the “Leave it” command where she can’t look at another dog. It tends to make the dog tensor because we’re telling her not to look at something that she’s intent on looking at. What I’d like to do is, first of all, encourage you to do two things.

One is if you can get some play dates with other dogs that you know are like the guy’s dog that you know you met up with, or like your dad’s dogs that you know she gets along with. We can have play dates with those dogs under scenarios that you know from past experience are going to work. One of the great things that you can do is keep that process going. Is that possible?


Keep that going so she continually has good experiences with other dogs. Here’s one thing I’m going to suggest that you definitely do not do. This might fly in the face of some things that you hear. Do not take her to the dog park.

That wasn’t going to happen.

The reason why I say that is because there’s always somebody at the dog park who doesn’t have control over his or her dog. We get into scenarios that create problems. I had a session with a client with an Australian Shepherd whom I’ve worked with before and had suggested that they didn’t take the dog to the dog park, but they took the dog to the dog park and another dog jumped on him. Now, he’s very reactive with other dogs.

There will always be somebody at the dog park who doesn't have control over their dog. We get into scenarios that create problems. Share on X

We were 300 yards minimum from the dog park, and he was uptight and nervous at that distance from the dog park. All of this happened because of what occurred in the dog park. What I’m going to suggest, especially, given the fact that Maya has got a pitbull in her, and we don’t want to excite any tendencies to fight with another dog, is that we limit these play dates to dogs that you know that Maya gets along with them, you know the person who has the dog and you know the dog that you’re working with is well-behaved and can create a great play date for her.

Let me give you some exercises to do when we got a scenario in which you know there’s going to typically be reactivity and that is when you’re walking on her on a leash. When we’ve spoken before, we talked about using markers and a clicker. Tell everybody what it was you noticed when you used a clicker with Maya.

It was much going on around her that she could not respond to the clicker, but she would respond to me.

I want to make sure that we’re clear in terms of how to use the clicker. The click happens in the instant that you are getting what you want from the dog. It’s not used to tell her to do something or distract her from doing anything. It’s used to say, “That thing you’re doing right now is the thing that I want you to do.” I want you to keep something in mind. If you are out in public with her and she is wound up and excited, that is not the time to click. Could you have possibly clicked in the wrong instance with her?

Absolutely, like clicking when she was already wound up. She has 1,000 things going on. She’s not going to pay attention. I’m not going to get the reaction I want out of her.

If you click while she’s wound up, you are marking being wound up. It’s like you’re saying being wound up is a good thing. Remember, the click happens during the behavior that we want and then a food treat follows. What’s happening is that click is marking the behavior and the food treat that follows is saying the behavior is good, but she makes an association, “I hear that click and something good’s going to happen, I’m going to get a food treat. Whatever I’m doing, when I hear the click, I will keep doing it.” We definitely would not want to be clicking when she’s wound up. I’m going to suggest something to you. We try the clicker again, but I want you to go at it with the idea that “I’m only going to click when she’s doing exactly what I want.” How could you get some practice doing that?

I’m walking her a lot more now that it’s warmer outside. I can maybe incorporate taking her more onto the campus versus walking her around outside of the campus.

Let’s make it even easier for you. How about if you practice with the clicker in the house where there are no distractions?

That’s even better.

Does she know sit?


Let’s think about this. You ask her to sit. When her butt hits the ground, you click and then you give her a food treat. The sequence is to click, pause, food treat. There’s a trainer in San Diego named Emily Larlham. I’m hoping to have her as a guest. She’s good at this. She’s got a great way of describing it. She says, “The sequence is click, pause, food treat.” Everybody gets all worried about the food. Put food treats in your pocket and don’t worry about the food. What you’re looking for is the timing of the click. It’s when she’s doing exactly what you want. If what we want now is a sit, ask her to sit. As her butt hits the floor, click and then reach into your pocket and give her a food treat.

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: Put food treats in your pocket, and don’t worry about the food. What you’re looking for is the timing of the click. It’s when your dog is exactly doing what you want.


I feel like I started to use that clicker like, “Once you hear the click, you do what I’m asking you to do,” versus using it as a marker of, “You did what I asked you. Thank you.”

The reason it works as a marker is that it happens in the instant. It’s like you grabbing a sliver of time and saying, “That’s the thing I want you to do.” The other thing that I want you to do is to practice calling her to you and rewarding her with a food treat, but marking it with a clicker. An easy way to do that is to face her and then back up. As she comes to you, click and treat. What you’re teaching her is to come to you.

You’re going to use the cue as she’s moving toward you. Don’t look at it like, “I’ve got to tell her to do it and then she has to do it.” We want to create an association. When mom says, “Come to me,” I’m walking to her. She starts walking towards you, and as she moves in your direction, let her hear you calmly say, “Come.” As she gets to you, click and then give her a food treat.

The easy way to get her to come to you is to face her and then back up. You can even cheat a little bit by having a food treat in your hand and extending it outwards towards her, and then back up while keeping it extended. She sees that food treat. As you back up, she wants to follow you. You’re facing her when you back up. As she comes to you and gets to you, click and then give her that food treat.

You’re facing her. You back up as she starts to move. She hears you say, “Come.” When she gets to you, you click and treat. One of the things that you can then add to that a sit. When she’s coming to you really easily, when she gets there, instead of clicking right away, just say, “Sit.” When she sits, click and treat.

If you find that that’s not working as well as you’d like, what you can do is do the “Come to me” and the backing up. When she gets close to you, click and treat, and then ask her to sit and then click and treat. That’s two separate activities. When she starts getting good at that, then when she starts coming to you, she’ll probably automatically sit and you can click and treat. Why do you think I’m asking you to do this stuff in the house?

It’s so when we get to the public, she’s more focused. It’s easier for me to communicate with her pretty much.

She understands what the process is. I don’t want to reign on the parade, but let me say this to you. Right now, if a dog is too close, it doesn’t matter what you did in the house. If we’re going to make this work, one of the things that I want you to do is get some idea as to what distance she can be from a dog, see the dog, and notice the dog, but not go into her reactivity. Do you have any idea how far away that is?

It honestly depends. If we’re near the beginning of our walk and she has all her energy, they could be like a football field away and she’s reactive. If she’s tired near the end, she’s like, “I want to get in the car.” It really depends.

When you say she could be a football field away and she gets reactive at the beginning of the wall, is that activity as severe as what you see, or is it hyped up?

It’s just more hyped up.

Let’s see if we can begin to determine when you have her out, what that distance might be, at which point she can see a dog, notice it, but doesn’t get reactive. Do you have anyone that you could use that would help you who’s got a dog where we can have some controlled circumstances?

Yes, I do.

Do you have a place where you can go where you have plenty of room to work and then be reasonably assured that you’re not going to have some strange dog run up on you that you can’t see? In other words, there’s plenty of open space. if you see somebody with another dog coming near you, you can get moving out of the way because you’ve got plenty of notice. Do you have a place like that?


I’m going to give you this exercise. I’m going to give you a little twist on it that seems to make it work pretty well. What I’d like you to do is try it and then contact me back. Maybe we’ll do a follow-up session so everyone can hear about Maya’s progress. Here’s the exercise. You get at that distance where you know she can see the dog, and she sees the dog. Here’s where your timing has to come into play, and this is why I want you to practice with the clicker in the house. As soon as you see her see the dog before she has a chance to react, I want you to click.

I want to make sure that you’re following what I’m suggesting because what I’m not suggesting here is that the clicker is a distraction. It’s not distracting her from seeing the other dog. Notice we’re also not saying, “Leave it.” We’re not trying to get her not to look at the other dog because it’s much the same as you sitting at a table with Starburst in front of you, and your parents saying, “Don’t look at it, leave it.” That would make you want it even more. If you try to keep her from looking at a dog, it is going to make her want to look at the dog even more. That’s not what we’re doing here.

Let me show you a way that can maybe facilitate this and make it a little bit easier for you. That is if the person who’s helping you can be with his or her dog out of sight and let you get set up on the field, wherever you want to get set up on the field, and then you give a visual signal like you raise your hand and then they walk out from behind something, then we’ve got control over the situation so that you can do your primary responsibility, which is this. Once you raise your hand and you know they’re walking out, you don’t need to be looking at that dog. You need to look at Maya. When you see her head turn in the direction of that dog, you click immediately.

Here’s how we know your distance is good or not good. When you click, if she does not turn her head to get a food treat from your hand, then you’re too close to the other dog. In other words, if you click and she keeps staring bullet holes in the other dog, that means you’re too close. You need to back the exercise up.

I don’t want you to worry about how far that might be. I have had to do this before when I was easily on a football field or away from the other dog so that the dog that I was working with would only notice and not react. Don’t worry about what the distance is. The distance is what it is. Here’s the next piece. It sounds like I’m running on and on here, but I want you to get all this. When she looks at the other dog, you’re going to click and treat.

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: You will click and give treats when your dog looks at the other dog. You marked your dog looking at the other dog without a reaction.


When you do that, you marked her looking at the other dog without a reaction. You marked a polite look, which is what we want. She’s got to be able to look at other dogs. Don’t you think? Here’s what’s going to happen in all likelihood if you have the distance right. She’s going to see the other dog. You click, she turns her head to get the food treat, and then she’s going to look back at the other dog. Why do you think she’ll look back at the dog again?

That’s what she’s interested in at the moment.

No, it’s because you marked it and rewarded her for looking at the other dog. She’s going to look at the other dog again. The clicker marks behavior, then the food treat rewards it. Any behavior that’s rewarded is going to be repeated. If she looks at the other dog, you mark it and give her a food treat, she’s going to look at the other dog again. That’s why we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the distance right so when she’s looking at the other dog, she’s not reacting.

It feels like I have to get out of my head that her seeing another dog is such a negative thing.

Keep in mind, because we’ve got a distance and because hopefully, the other person’s dog is going to be on a leash and Maya is going to be on a leash, we have control. There’s not going to be a problem. When you do that, she’s going to look at the other dog again. You immediately click again and food treat, then she’s going to look at the dog again. You might click twenty times and she looks at the other dog, then she gets a click and a food treat. I’ve been out there where it’s like click, treat. When I help people with this live, I can be a real pain in the butt on this exercise because I won’t be clicking and I’ll be telling you, “Go ahead and click. Don’t wait, click,” so that you know how soon you’ve got to click.

There may be one other thing that occurs, which would be a good thing. After you do that, if she looks at that dog maybe 4 or 5 times and she’s getting clicked and treated for it, there is a real good chance at that distance that what she’s going to do is stop looking at the other dog and just look at you. What do you think you need to do then?


Click and treat to keep her looking at you because now she voluntarily said, “I’d rather look at you than the other dog.” It’d be like you going, “I don’t want to look at Starburst anymore. I’m going to look out the window.” Your parents go, “Great,” instead of trying to make you not look at Starburst. If she voluntarily turns her head and starts to focus on you, then click and treat for that. Here is what you need to get straight with the person with the other dog. If that happens, then you raise your hand again and he or she takes their dog back behind the shelter or whatever they were behind where Maya couldn’t see the other dog. Why do you think we’re doing that?

To restart the situation.

No, I want you to think about it for a second. Maya is barking at another dog. What typically happens when that person is walking his or her dog and Maya barks at that dog, where does that dog typically go?

Towards Maya.

Does the dog go towards Maya or walk away from Maya?

They walk away. In my head, they’re walking toward her.

They end up walking away. Would you agree with me that any behavior that’s rewarded is going to be reinforced and therefore repeated?


What happens when Maya barks and the dog walks away? Isn’t that a reward? In her little dog brain, what caused it to happen?

Her barking caused the dog to leave.

Barking is going to continue because it’s being rewarded. This exercise is called Engage Disengage. She looks at the dog and gets a mark and a food treat. As she looks away from the dog to get the food treat, she’s disengaging from that dog. When she disengages voluntarily and starts looking at you, and you keep her looking at you, clicking and treating, and you raise your hand to tell the guy or the girl that you’re working with to get out of sight, when she looks back, the dog is gone. What made the dog go away is focusing on mom not barking at the dog. Do you think that you can do this exercise?


Suppose the distance that you’re working with is 50 yards and you do this a bunch of times and she gets good at looking at the dog and then looking back for clicks. She looks at the dog, you click and she looks back for a treat, and then she does that 3 or 4 times, and then she starts focusing on you. She gets good at that exercise. What is your next step?

Closing up that distance a little bit.

A little bit is not. We’re at 50 yards and now we’re going to go to 10 or 25 yards. A little bit is we’re at 50 yards and now we’re going to do it from 45 yards or 40 yards. The slower you go with this, the faster this will work itself out. You got to practice it regularly. A couple of little hints for you. When you walk with her and you get surprised by another dog, your idea of turning her around and going someplace else is a great idea. Let’s do it by teaching her that exercise away from the scenario. Take her out in the yard and she’s going in one direction, and you go this way. When she turns to look at you, click and treat, then walk in the other direction, and click and treat when she’s walking with you.

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: The slower you go with this, the faster this will work itself out.


You can even do that in the house if you’d like so that you can teach her when she’s going in one direction, you go, “Let’s go this way.” She’ll turn and look at you. You give her a click and have her. When you give her the click, hold the food treat so she has to walk to you to get it, and then keep walking away. As she’s walking with you, click and treat, all the way away.

We have to understand real life is going to happen. You’re not going to always be in a scenario where you have total control over the situation. Sometimes dogs will appear out of nowhere. You’ve got to be able to get her away and have her understand when you say, “Let’s go this way,” that she’s going to turn and walk with you. The best way to do that is to train that completely separate from the scenario in which it would happen.

Real life is going to happen. You're not always going to have total control over the situation. Share on X

I’m going to give you this in case what you see with that 50-yard exercise, the first one that we talked about, the engage and disengage, is it’s not working exactly the way you want it to. You got to be patient. I know that the world says we got to do everything fast. I know because you’re out of school that you’re used to doing everything fast. This is not going to go fast. It’s not supposed to go fast. it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong if it doesn’t go fast. It’s also not a produced TV show. On a TV, show you see the problem and then you see a little bit about the solution, and then in five minutes, you see it’s done. That’s not the way it works.

If stuff changes happen quickly for dogs, there’s a really good chance somebody did something bad to that dog so that we could see something we could get on camera, and make it look like we fixed it. That’s not the way it works. If it’s done right, it takes a while. Here’s the deal. If you are out there and you’re finding, “I’m at 50 yards. She’s looking at the dog. I’m clicking and treating, but she’s still staring at the dog and there’s only so much distance I can get.” What you might do is this. When she looks at the dog and you mark it with a click, you back up away from the dog holding that food treat in your hand, and back up for her to come to get it.

We’re taking her farther away from the thing that distresses her. If you’ve been practicing teaching her to come to you in the house the way we described, then she’ll know that exercise. When you back her up and she gets the food treat, then she turns around and looks at the dog again. You can click and treat and back up a little bit more, then you can slowly, during the exercise, work your way back up to the original line where you started. You might be doing multiple of having her engage there. You click and treat, but you back up.

If you’re putting that back up into it, I would do several of those and then wave your guy to take the dog that he or she has got out that Maya is looking at that your help her. Take that dog behind something as you’re backing up with Maya. When she turns around and looks, the dog is not there. Go back to the line and hold your hand up again, and then he or she appears with the dog and you start all over again. You might not have to do that backup exercise because it might work the way it is, but if you’re finding that’s not working, then do the backup exercise. Do you have any questions? Is there anything you’re going, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about?” Are you clear?

You’re very clear. I realized that the reason I thought the clicker wasn’t working was because I wasn’t necessarily using it in the correct manner. Now that we’ve talked about it, I realize there are some things I need to reevaluate and reintroduce, but being more aware and more knowledgeable about how to use it again.

Let me show you a way that you can get the clicker started. You don’t have to do it now but if you grab seven food treats and stand in front of Maya or be seated wherever. It doesn’t matter where it is in the house though. It doesn’t matter what she’s doing as long as she’s not misbehaving badly. All you do is click and then give her a food treat. Remember, the sequences, click, pause, food treat.

Do that seven times. What you did was created the association for her. It’s called loading the clicker or charging the mark. You created the association for her that, “When I hear that noise, something good is going to happen.” She understands that the clicker means something good. That’s why we have to make sure we’re only clicking when she’s doing what we want because she knows something good is going to happen after that clicker. Whatever she’s doing, when you click, she’s going to repeat it. How do you think you could teach her to lie down?

I’ve tried and I don’t think her legs are long enough.

Does she ever lie down?

She does, but she rolls on her side.

That’s fine, but how do you think you could teach her to do that?

I’m assuming using the treat and luring her to the ground. Once she hits the ground, click.

That’s one way you could do it. There might be an even easier way. If you can get used to carrying some food treats in your pocket and having the clicker in your hand, you say, “This evening I’m going to teach her to lie down.” Let’s think about it. Suppose you’re watching TV or you’re doing some work and you’re watching her and she comes into the room and lies down. As she lies down, click and then treat.

She may get up to go get the food treat, that’s fine, just wait. At some point you’re going to see her go, “Maybe I need to lie down,” then when she starts to offer the lying down because you’ve clicked and treated her every time she’s laid down, when she starts to voluntarily lay down, that’s when you let her hear you calmly say down as she’s going down, then when she’s fully down, you click and treat. That’s how you can teach it. Do you see how easy this is?

That is a lot easier than what I was trying to do.

That’s why this is such a good way to train because it’s pretty easy and you teach your dog to think. You’ll see her looking at you like, “What do you want from me?” You’re waiting. When you see her voluntarily lie down, you click and give a treat. It’s the same thing with the sit. I said one more thing but there is one more thing after the one more thing. Here’s what it is.

When you are working with obedience in the house, a regular food treat is okay. Some people use Cheerios. Some people go online and buy the little tiny food treats. You can get them made out of liver, salmon, or cheddar. That’s okay for in the house. When we are out there working on a behavior problem, we need to have a very high-value food treat. The highest-value food treat is also the cheapest. What do you think it is?

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: Hotdog is the highest-value food treat and is also the cheapest.


Hot dogs. Slice them like a loaf of bread and then slice them in half again. You’re going to need a treat bag if you’re going to use hot dogs simply because hot dogs are greasy. You probably don’t want to put them in your pocket. A treat bag would be good for hot dogs. Remember, one click, pause, food treat. Not click and click. Keep in mind, as long as you follow that formula at the beginning here, when we are marking her politely looking at the other dog, there’s a very high rate of reinforcement, meaning you’re doing a lot of clicking and treating.

I have a client. I feel bad for her because she lost her female Great Dane. Six months before that, she lost her male Great Dane. Unfortunately, Great Danes many times don’t live a long time. The female that she lost had been attacked by a dog when she was little and almost killed. From that distance that you’re describing 40 or 50 yards, the Great Dane would go ballistic that she had dragged her owner down the road, not on her feet, but laying in the road, dragging her because she was big, strong and her owner is tiny.

We did this exercise that I’m telling you, engage, disengaged. We started from that distance. It was about 60 or 70 yards. It was at the end of the block. My client lived at the top of a hill in a cul-de-sac, all the way at the end of the block and at the end of the street, we had a friend of hers brought her dog out, and that was the distance at which her dog could look at another dog and only notice, and get slightly excited, not reactive.

That’s when we started to mark and treat. Click and then she would look back and get the food treat click. Over a period of months, we were able to get closer and closer. Before she lost her dog, she would bring her out on dog walks that I would do for my clients. Her dog could walk down the street with 3 or 4 other dogs within 20 feet of her. She would look at them, wag her tail, and look at her owner with no reaction whatsoever. Her owner told me that she’d had dogs run out of their yard and run at them in the street. While she got a little tense, which would be a normal dog reaction, she didn’t have a reactivity and didn’t try to go get the dogs. We did this exercise that I’m describing to you.

I need to try that. That’s my overall goal with Maya. I don’t feel like she has to be friends with every dog, but at least be able to coexist with any dog.

We’ve got a plan here. What we’re going to do if we’re going to follow this plan is you’re going to do play dates with her with the dogs she gets along with, and then we’re going to work the engage disengage exercise with someone who can help you with his or her dog. That dog should probably be relatively calm. If that dog is way hyped up, then this is not going to work. That dog that helps you with the exercise should be relatively calm, then we’re going to slowly close the distance as we have success with that exercise. We’re going to be working with Maya in the house doing obedience with the clicker and treats.

Now I know more about how to properly use a clicker. I’ll definitely do that.

Are we good for this episode?

We are.

Will you come back and let us know the progress?


Touch base with me back in several weeks, and let me know how it’s going. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call. I’d rather you call me and let me talk you through it than do something that throws our progress back. Guys, I hope this has been helpful. For any of you who have reactive dogs like that, this is a good exercise, Engage Disengage. I hope it was clear what the steps are. I will talk to you next time.


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