BDBN 17 | Positive Reinforcement

“Let’s Work Together!”

Punishment does not work well with dogs. Your dog is a family member, and you don’t dominate your family. Instead, you work with them. In this episode, Doug Poynter highlights the value of partnering with your dog instead of punishing them, and correcting their behavior helps in their dog’s behavior problem. He also shares how his client uses an e-collar on their dog to correct the behavior that turns out to be a disaster. With positive reinforcement, your dog can switch their behavior. So if you want to partner with your dog, tune in to this episode now!

Listen to the podcast here

“Let’s Work Together!”

I am the Owner of the business, Better Dog Behavior Now. I’m in Richmond, Virginia. I service the State of Virginia, Central Virginia, the Richmond, Virginia area, the surrounding area, and the whole state. I have clients across the country. I have had a client in Armenia, Nicaragua, California, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. I’m not going to them the way I go to my clients here in the Virginia area. I go directly to folks’ homes here in the Virginia area. I was in Northern Virginia. I was up in the mountains in the morning and headed into the Tidewater area in the afternoon. I go all over the State of Virginia. When I have somebody in another state or country, that is a Zoom session.

I spent several years helping people over the telephone. I didn’t even charge anything. I had a full-time job and I enjoyed the training. I had vets who would refer people to me. I would help them over the telephone. I got good at being able to describe to folks what they needed to do to take care of a behavior problem right over the phone. I’m considering adding a little bit more of that to my business with Zoom sessions so I can help people around the country or the world.

I have a corporate background in sales training. I’m teaching people how to sell over the telephone. I’m good at being able to explain things in a way that folks can understand. I have considered adding a little bit of Zoom work with the face-to-face work I do in the State of Virginia. I’m even considering and haven’t pulled the trigger on this yet but thinking about maybe going around the country, spending 90 days in a location, helping people in that location and going to another location. It would be a good way to see the country and help a lot of dogs and owners.

I use positive reinforcement in my training and fixing behavior problems. I do marker training. I use a clicker or a yes marker. That is a verbal mark. Sometimes, I will use a whistle with my dog’s works for a clicker. She works for a verbal mark, the word yes and she also works for a whistle as a mark. I do all of that and I use that for solving behavior problems. There is nothing like it. You have read it here before. I have taken dogs aggressive dogs and been able to switch that behavior without one single correction, aversive or punishment at all. I’m just using the combination of clicker work, marker work and rewards of positive reinforcement for the behavior that we want.

If you want to understand more about marker training and clicker training, go to my blog wherever. Go search for that. It’s called The Magic of Markers. It is a little goofy title there but I thought it was catchy. You can find out more about markers. If you want to find out how this started with dogs and how you can get started with it, Karen Pryor has a great book called Don’t Shoot The Dog. I would get that book. Karen Pryor is the person who introduced marker training to the world at large.

Marker Training

It started by and large at SeaWorld with dolphins being able to train precise behaviors from with dolphins that had been wild previously and now were in captivity. You cannot correct a dolphin, wild animal or any animal other than a dog, maybe a horse. I don’t know if you can correct a horse. I’m not a horse trainer.

The only reason you can correct a dog is that they are interested in being with us and pliable that they will take it. That doesn’t mean we should do it. I described this to somebody one time. When you are in school, just because a guy is laid back enough that you can punch him in the arm and he won’t punch you back, doesn’t mean you need to be punching that guy. It is the same thing here with dogs and corrections.

You have read it before. I believe it is intellectually lazy to train with corrections. The proper way is to teach a dog to do something that precludes the behavior we don’t want and teach a competing behavior so the dog won’t do the behavior that we don’t want. A prime example is the session in Northern Virginia with a guy with a cool pit bull named Hunter. He is a sweet dog and strong. He is about 65 pounds. When he meets people, he jumps all over them, which he feels like a cinder block. That’s not good for someone who is not steady on their feet. If a dog jumps on me, it is not going to affect me physically but for somebody smaller and not strong, it would. We got to fix that.

It's intellectually lazy to train with corrections. The proper way is to teach a dog to do something that precludes the behavior. We don't want to teach a competing behavior so that the dog won't do the behavior we don't want. Click To Tweet

Instead of doing the old-school style of training, what I did with Hunter was I taught him to sit. When his owner brought him out to me, he saw me. He got excited, wagged his tail, jumped up and put his front paw on my belt area. He was leaning up against me and wagging his tail. I took a little step back and asked him to sit. When he sat, I clicked and treated him. He wanted to jump again. I went, “Go ahead and sit.” He sat. I clicked and treated him.

Before the end of the day, whenever he saw me, he would sit. I said to his owner, “Do you notice how he is sitting when he sees me? He would run up to me and sit.” At one point, I asked his owner to take him back into the house and come back out. We talk a little bit and get him again. He brought him out. I was a good 15 or 20 feet away when Hunter saw me. He sat right in front of his owner. I walked up to him, clicked and treated him. His owner was laughing saying, “This is great.” I said, “You teach him to sit in front of people that come to your house.”

This is the stuff that I do. It takes a little more effort. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer. I could have popped him with the leash the way a lot of trainers would get him off of me. I would rather he learn it in a way that was more supportive, kinder and rewarding for him. You see dogs wanting to work for you when you do. That is how I train.

At any rate, my session is going to be, I don’t know if I want to call it a rant but I got to get some stuff off my chest that has happened. I’m hoping there is going to be something for you in reading this. I had gotten off the phone with a couple who had a dog who had growled, barked and charged his owner, the wife. He scraped her arm. He didn’t puncture her but he scratched her with his mouth. She felt the need to report that and have animal control come to get him.

He is in the shelter. They are going to get him later but they are all been out of shape because of this behavior, which we don’t want. In doing my discovery work, talking with them over the telephone, I discovered that when I asked them what training they had done with him, I was expecting to hear old-school commands and correct training. It was worse.

They said, “We have trained him with an eCollar.” I said, “How many times has he gotten zapped with the eCollar?” They said, “It has been twice.” I said, “Describe the scenario for me if you would.” They were like, “In both instances, if you didn’t come to them right away, they zapped him with the eCollar.” I said, “What levels?” The guy said, “The highest level on the collar.” I said, “Have you felt that level?” He said, “No.” I said, “Why don’t you try it?”

I don’t think they are going to do it. I have felt an eCollar before at a high level, not the highest level. It is not pleasant. I said, “That is what your problem is.” He was in the barn. The lady was trying to get him out. He didn’t come immediately. She zapped him with the eCollar. When he didn’t come, he shoot at her. At that point, she went into the barn to take the collar off of him and walk him into the house. As she approached him, he growled and snarled at her. I said, “That is because of your presence he associates with serious pain.” They said, “We were thinking that might be it.” I went, “No, that is it.”

It boggles my mind that folks would feel the need to do that. I asked him, “Where did you get your training for the eCollar?” They were like, “We didn’t. We went out and bought one. We mostly use it on the beep and the buzz but if he does something or doesn’t do what we want, that is when we zapped him.” I said, “Do me a favor. No more on the eCollar. Will you put it away?” He is still in the shelter. They are going to go get him later and we are going to work together. The wife is scared of him now. I got to work through that. He is scared of her. These are the things that I got to work with. Let’s file that one off to the side.

The next one that I had to deal with was that those two guys liked their dog. Out of any good knowledge or out of ignorance, they used the eCollar and tried to get something done quickly. He and his wife have two hounds, a female bloodhound and a female bluetick. The wife said, “The dogs don’t act up around my husband.” I said, “Why is that? She said, “He is more physical with them.” I said, “Can you define physical?” She didn’t say that he beat him but she said that he would be much more physical with them than she was. I said, “Is he a big guy?” She said, “Yes, he is a big guy.” I’m thinking, “This is not going to be good.”

I went to go do the session with them. The husband wasn’t there yet. They live out in the country. The bluetick hound came out. She was extremely responsive. I had her seated in front of me, walking with me and focused on me. You could see in her eyes that she wanted to please. It almost broke my heart to think about what this guy has done to his dogs. He is not there when all this is going on. We take her back inside.

The reason I got hired is that the two dogs had a little scuffle with each other. We talked about how to keep that from happening, keep a nice order in the house and keep the dogs working. They didn’t even need me to come out because what I had suggested they do, had nothing to do with punishment and had gotten the fighting under control.

The wife said to me that they love each other. After they got into their fight, they went outside and licked their wounds. They were fine with each other. I said, “This is probably an association with you.” It was and we worked on that. We worked on having her become a kind, benevolent leader and teacher for them. They were following her as opposed to her following them. That worked there.

Dog Zen

What my concern was with the husband. When he showed up, that is when she brought the bloodhound out. The husband said to the wife, “Did she act skittish around him?” She said, “No, she ran out to him and she was fine with him.” I had her sitting and walking with me. The husband said, “She likes to yank food treats out of your hand if you use a food treat.” I had a food treat. It took me about 30 seconds of dog zen to get her to where she sat and waited for me to present her the treat before she gently took it out of my hand.

Dog zen is when you present the food treat, the dog moves its head fast like it is going to grab it out of your hand, you gently pull your hand back and the dog will pull its head back. When it holds its head still, that is when you deliver the food treat. You taught the dog when you are still and not going at hand with a lot of energy, you get the food treat. It took me 10 seconds to get her almost completely calm and in 30 seconds, she was in a seat. She was waiting rock solid, watching me and allowing me or waiting for me to present that food treats right in front of hers so she could gently take it out of my hand.

BDBN 17 | Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement: Dog Zen is when you teach the dog when you’re still and not going to the hand with a lot of energy. You get the food treat.


The husband was looking at me with a puzzled look that I interpreted as, “How is he doing this?” I know what the husband would do. He told me what he would do if the dog did that with him. He pops her with the leash. He said, “I pop her. I can make her stop that.” I said, “She was still trying to do it when I came here. Your popping her didn’t seem to work. What I did caused her to stop in an instant because she got rewarded when she was polite.”

He didn’t get it. I took her for a walk. She wasn’t used to walking on the left side. When I would turn, she would try to get on my right side. He said, “Why don’t you correct that? Isn’t she trying to dictate to you?” I said, “No, she is unfamiliar with walking on the left side. It won’t be long before she is walking politely on the left side.” She was. No corrections, just rewards for when she was where I wanted her to be.

I left there sad because I didn’t think he was going to follow through on what I showed him. He is going to go back to doing what he wants to do. He thinks he is got to be dominant with his dogs because his dogs are trying to be dominant with him. When he said to me, “Don’t you think she is trying to dictate to you,” I want you to think about what that means. The dog has to have a notion that it is going to run the show. In its dog brain, “I’m in charge of this human. I’m running this whole transaction.”

It is not part of a dog’s makeup. We talked about this in a previous episode. Read my episode called What’s the Deal With Alpha? You can hear the newest information, scientific information, not something some trainer someone who does what I do, blabbing off at the mouth or somebody who has a TV show whose grandfather from many years ago had some hair-brained idea about what a dog is. He made a lot of money with something that didn’t even exist.

There is no such thing as alpha as we know it in a real wolf pack. You can read about it in the episode, What’s the Deal with Alpha? No wolves are trying to take over a wolf pack. There is no conflict. A wolf pack is a family. Wolves work together. What is in your dog’s blood is to work with you as a partner. That is what I illustrated for this guy. It didn’t take me but moments to have his dogs gleefully working for me, walking with me, sitting when I asked them to sit and coming to me when I asked them to come. I’m teaching them to down. They enjoyed it because we were working as partners and they were getting rewarded for it.

Sometimes it breaks my heart to see what people do to dogs in the name of being the leader or alpha in the house and basing all of this on something that doesn’t even exist. You would be much better off teaching your dogs to sit, come to you and walk next to you using a clicker and food treats. It can be as simple and goofy as you have a clicker on you and a couple of food treats in your pocket.

Clicker And Food Treats

When your dog lays down naturally as your dog is laying down, you click and give the dog a food treat. The dog will come to you and get the food treat. You wait and you will watch him look at you like, “Can I get another food treat?” You pay no attention. You will watch the dog go back over to where he was before and lay down. As he lays down, you click and treat again. He will start to offer it. He will start to lay down on purpose to try to get you to give him the click and the treat. He is working for you. Once he is offering it, you let him hear you say down as his body goes down on the floor. You click when his body hits the floor. You give him a food treat.

It is the same with sit. Hold the food treat over his head. He is got to look up to see it. When his butt goes down on the ground, you click and treat. That is how you teach sit. It took me, with Hunter, 3 minutes to have this 65-pound dog who would run and jump on everybody seated. I could walk away from him. I would walk 20 feet away from him, turn around, come back and he would be seated and stay seated. I said to his owner, “That stays.” That is good.

That is how long it took. You could see in his eyes that he wanted to do the work and he was happy. He wanted to work for me and wanted to get paid. When people say, “He is only doing it for the food treat,” that is when I always ask them, “Do you work for free?” The food treat is payment. The more difficult thing we need to do or the more important thing that we need to teach our dog, the higher value of food treat we need to have.

The food treat is payment, and the more difficult thing we need to do or the more important thing we need to teach our dog, the higher value of food treat we need to have. Click To Tweet

These are things that come from an attitude of working with your dog as a partner as opposed to feeling like you got to dominate your dog. The only reason people feel like they got to dominate their dogs is that they think if they don’t, the dog is going to try to dominate them. It is not part of their personality. You can even have people who got dogs that do protection work and they will tell you, “He is dominant. He got no problem laying into somebody. You can hit him with a stick or with the baton. That is what they use a lot of the ring sports and shoot on their IPO.”

They have a baton. They act like they are going to hit the dog with it. He said, “He will take a stick hit and he keeps coming. He got a lot of fight drive.” He got a lot of energy and drive in him. The reason why he is good at that is that he has been rewarded for it. That is what keeps a dog working. How dogs learn is whatever gets me what I want, I’m going to do it over again. Once you understand that, we can manipulate that situation. What I want him to do is sit. I’m going to show him that when he sits, he gets paid for it and he will want to sit.

The same dog, Tucker, the pit bull who jumped on everybody. I got him as a client because he was sent to a boarding train. The head trainer at the boarding train called me and asked if I would take the dog on because when they were putting him in the crate, he turned on the trainer and growled at her when she tried to physically put him in the crate. I said, “Sure, not a problem.”

When I got there after we worked on sitting outside, coming to me outside and the dog staying, I said, “Do you want to go inside and work on the crate?” His owner said, “Sure.” We went in to work on the crate. We stood in front of the crate. I tossed a food treat in the crate. As he went in, I clicked. He came back out and sat in front of me. I clicked and gave him another food treat. I tossed another food treat in the crate.

Once he was going into the crate to get the food treat with some enthusiasm, I let him hear me say, “Get in your crate. ” He went in. We did that for three minutes. With no food treat, I said, “Get in your crate.” He walked right into the crate. Once he got in there, I clicked and treated and he stayed in the crate. I looked at his owner and I said, “How long did that take?” He said, “That didn’t take but a minute.” I went, “The problem is when the other trainers were trying to dominate him, they were scaring him. He was feeling threatened. That is why he growled at him.” “Does he look like he feels threatened here?” “Nope.” “Does he look like he is resisting getting in the crate?” “Nope.” “He wants to get in the crate.”

I want you to begin to think that way when you think about your dog. “How can I do it so that my dog enjoys doing this? How can I do it so that it is more fun for my dog to behave than misbehave?” That is what I do. If the dog jumps, teach the dog to sit. If the dog doesn’t come to you, stand in front of your dog with a food treat in your hand and back up while you face him. Back up as he moves to you, click and treat and back up again. Once he is starting to come to you, let him hear you say the word come. As he gets to you, click and treat. When he lays down, naturally, click and treat.

BDBN 17 | Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement: If the dog jumps, teach the dog to sit. If the dog doesn’t come to you, click and treat, then back up again. Once the dog starts to come to you, let him hear you say the word “come”.


When you make this into a game and he gets rewarded for it, he wants to do it and work for you. Now you have a partner. You don’t have some beast of burden that you got to dominate. In your mind, you got to dominate him to keep him from dominating you. It doesn’t happen. What does happen is when you turn him into a partner, work with her and reward her for it, you start to see a dog who wants to work for you. We got a good relationship with our dog.

This couple who got the dog with the lady that he is in animal control now because they zapped him with the eCollar, growled at her and threatened her. When we go to work, I’m going to show them how to get him working for them and having fun. The problem is he got a negative association with them coming close to him when he got that collar on. That means something bad is going to happen. He felt threatened.

When I mentioned that to them over the telephone, they said, “We thought about that.” I said, “We are going to change that. You are going to see that it is not going to take long.” I said to the wife, “When he ‘bit’ you, how bad was the bite? Were there punctures?” She was like, “No, he just scraped me.” This dog is a Newfoundland. It is a big dog. I said, “He could have ripped your arm off if he wanted to. He was backing you away because he was afraid of what was going to happen.” The association is, “I’m going to get that zap.” Trust me. That zap is not fun.

I’m hoping that between now and the time I meet with these folks in person, they are going to have taken that collar and they are going to see what it felt like. I asked them, “I want you to throw that collar away and never use it again. I’m going to show you how we can get this dog working for you and having fun.” My work may be cut out for me here, I’m not sure but I want to turn these folks around. Unlike the guy with the two hounds who think I’m full of it, these guys, to their credit, are willing to listen. I hope this will work out. I will keep you posted.

Remember, your dog is a partner. Your dog wants to work with you. That is their nature. Go look up Dr. David Mech Alpha. You will hear him say, “Dogs and wolves work together. There is no conflict in a wolf pack. There is little structure. It is a family working together to survive. That is what is in your dog’s blood and DNA. We want to take advantage of that and teach our dogs so that they will work with us happily ever after.” That is what I do with my business. is my website. I should say my business is called Better Dog Behavior Now. I do positive reinforcement and dog obedience training. I work with aggressive dogs, reactive dogs, fearful dogs and dogs with separation anxiety. I solve behavior problems in dogs. I use behavior modification to do that. I use marker training, clicker training and positive reinforcement training to do all of that.

You can go to my website. It is still active but I’m changing some of the material on the website here. You can go on now. There is a freebie on there about one of the reasons that dogs sometimes “misbehave.” You can take a look at that. I’m happy to do a discovery session with you. That is no cost for that. Fill out the contact form and put your phone number in there. I’m happy to call you. If I can help you, I’m happy to do that. I look forward to talking with you on the next episode. If some of you decide you want to take me up on the discovery session, I look forward to talking with you by telephone about your dogs. I look forward to talking with you next time.


Important Links