Moose's Traincation

by Alexandra Bassett

Dog Savvy Los Angeles

July & August 2017

The training exercises in this booklet offer you guidelines for games you can play with Moose throughout the day. 
Making training fun is essential! Moose will look forward to his "play training" sessions with you, and you will notice he will start to naturally offer nice manners more and more readily in other situations, as well, without being prompted. 
I find pup parents are most successful at carrying over their puppy's training when they incorporate these games into their daily routine. Consistency is the key ingredient to any form of dog training, and these games add structure to your interactions with Moose and clear consequences for the choices he makes. 
I hope you enjoy referring to this booklet for fun games to play with Moose!

2 Rules To Follow

For Easy Dog Training:

1. When your dog does something you like, reward them with treats, praise, playtime, or access to something they like.

2. When your dog does something you don't like, take reinforcement for the behavior away and try to prevent it from happening again. Decide what you'd like your dog to do instead and work towards shaping that behavior.

The Initial Steps 

1. Find something of great value to your dog (a few pieces of cheese, his favorite treat). Get comfortable.

2. Close your hand around the “treat” and hold it out so your dog can sniff your hand, lick your hand, nibble at your hand but NOT get the treat. Sit low enough that your hand will be below your dog’s head while he is standing/sitting. Anchor your arm on your knee to prevent movement.

3. Say nothing just open and close your hand in response to your dog’s choices. Wait for a choice from your dog!

4. Wait until he stops TRYING to get to the treat, and then you can give him a piece of it. The first session sets the understanding for your dog that “in order to get what you want you must first do what I want”!

The IYC game starts out teaching your dog to make easy decisions. Building upon successes, you can grow this game into any form of distraction training. IYC should become part of your daily routine.

It’s Your Choice 

It’s Your Choice (IYC) is a critical core foundation game because it sets the stage for teaching self-control over all future reinforcers (reinforcers = anything your dog likes or enjoys). It teaches our dogs that all things of value must be earned. The premise of the game is that the “work” is what earns the reward not just the presence of those rewards in the environment. 

It’s Your Choice can be played with anything the dog finds reinforcing such as toys, people, other animals and environments (i.e., access to the couch or your yard). This game allows the dog the freedom to choose his own actions which may, through correct choices, earn the reinforcement he wants so badly. Choosing correctly earns the dog the reinforcement and teaches a strong foundation of self-control! 

This approach is also less effort for you in the long run because YOU are no longer responsible for telling the dog words like “leave it!” or “aah aah” but rather THEY CONTROL THEMSELVES around things they love, waiting for the words “go see” or “get it” for great self-control choices. Our only job is to observe behavior and choices, and if an incorrect choice is made, YOU may need to control the reinforcement (not the dog), preventing access to the reinforcement should they make an incorrect choice.

In this picture, Moose is waiting patiently for treats from a bowl on the floor. This helps him to recognize bowls and other dishes so that he understands he shouldn't steal food from them.


1 x a day

at mealtimes


1. Your dog advances.


2. Your dog sniffs, paws, or nibbles at your hand.

REMEMBER: Always keep your hand in the same position so that your dog learns to back away from your hand (if you pull your hand away, you are initiating a game of chase)!!


You can always reinforce this concept with your dog anytime your dog wants something. Just make eye contact with them and wait for a sit. The best times to implement this training is when you are just going about your day in the following situations:

1. At doorways and gates: Wait for Moose to sit before opening a door or gate.

2. When you are putting on his walking gear: Wait for Moose to sit before putting on his harness or leash.

3. Before you give Moose anything like a treat, toy, or access to something he likes (i.e., sniffing, the couch, saying hi to a guest): Wait for a sit before allowing him to sniff, get on the couch, or say hi to a guest.


1. Your dog backs away.


2. Your dog backs away and sits.

3. Your dog backs away, sits, and makes eye contact.

The Initial Steps 

1. Start the same as when you are playing IYC. When your dog is both sitting and making eye contact with you, mark "yes!", and then toss a treat off to the side as you say the release cue "ok!".

2. Wait for your dog to come back to their starting position and offer another sit with eye contact. As soon as they do, mark and release, tossing a treat off to the side again.

3. As your dog gets quicker and quicker at making eye contact, see if you can get them to make eye contact multiple times before you mark and release.

3. Finally, you'll want to wait for your dog to make eye contact for longer and longer time periods, so wait for 3 seconds of eye contact before marking and releasing, and then see if you can stretch the eye contact to 5,7, and 10-second increments.

Building A Duration Sit/Stay 

1. Start in a standing position facing your dog. When your dog makes eye contact with you, mark "yes!", and then toss a treat off to the side as you say the release cue "ok!".

2. When your dog comes back and sits, give them a treat. Do this 3x.

3. Once your dog readily returns to their starting position, begin to add a little distance between you by taking a step backward. If your dog remains in a sit, step forward to your original standing position and give them a treat. If your dog breaks from their sit/stay, step forward to prevent them from advancing and wait to see if they return to a sit. If they do, reinforce with a treat. If they do not, place them back in their starting position but do not offer a treat. Try again!

3. If your dog can remain in a sit/stay for three consecutive times of you stepping backward and stepping forward, mark "yes!", and then toss a treat off to the side as you say the release cue "ok!".

Troubleshooting: If your dog keeps breaking their sit/stay, you either need to offer more treats for holding their position to reinforce how good it is that they don't move or you are going too fast! Always go back to the last place your dog was successful and increase the number of rewards you give your dog for doing a good job until they fully understand what you want.

It's Your Choice - Wait For Release

The next phase in IYC training is to add a release. This is the beginning of duration training that helps your dog to understand that when you cue a behavior, they need to stay in that behavior until they hear a release. 

This exercise also builds up your dog's ability to make and maintain eye contact with you, a necessary element of almost every training exercise. The reason why is that eye contact gives your dog a focus during training - YOU - which helps immeasurably down the road when you're doing distraction training. 

Adding movement to this exercise also keeps it interesting for your dog while raising what's called their "arousal state," a mindset that helps your dog to tune out distractions and make them more likely to focus on you.

Give the release cue "ok" as you toss a treat off to the side.

Wait for a sit 

and eye contact.

When Moose returns to his original position, you can mark "yes" and give him a treat. Start the game over!

The Initial Steps 

1. Run around and play with your dog to get arousal up first. 

2. Have a handful of cookies and play IYC by moving your hand around so your dog can see the treats in your hand. If your dog comes in to take the treats, close your hand over them (as you would do in the IYC game). If he sits, RELEASE (the sit is a control position, so be sure to release with an ‘ok’ first), and then take off running, rewarding your dog with the treat on the move. 

3. Start the game over! You can build up to a duration sit.

Building A Duration Sit 

At first, release your dog as soon as you get a sit, and then move on to building up the duration of sitting. 

Phase 1. Go into a 'game on' position. Look for the dog choosing to sit and hold position as you strike this new pose and go and reward your dog for holding a sit if they don't move. 

Phase 2. Go into a ‘game on’ position again. If your dog stays in a sit, take off running as you give the release cue "ok". Deliver the cookie to your dog on the move.

Phase 3. Take one step away from your dog, and then go into a 'game on' position. If your dog stays in a sit, take off running as you give the release. Deliver the cookie to your dog on the move.

TroubleshootingIf your dog does not offer a sit straight off, you can cue it, but only do this the first 3 times. After that, be patient and wait for your dog to offer a sit. If your dog has trouble staying in the sit, give them multiple treats in a row to show them how great remaining in the sit really is!

It's Your Choice Sit & Run

It’s Your Choice Sit & Run (IYC Sit & Run) takes IYC to the next level by incorporating a game of chase and a release cue. You are teaching the dog that you want speed in everything expected from him, starting with fast sits, intense focus, and driven chase, all of which creates value for YOU.

You are shaping the “thinking” dog who sits to get what he wants most, which is to hear a “release word” from the control position to be allowed to chase you! It is important to use a release cue in this game as it gives your dog permission to leave the sit and drive to you to get the cookie. 

Please, please, please, be instantaneous with this game initially. The moment your dog’s butt hits the ground, give the release cue "ok!" and play. This helps your dog understand that taking the treats away isn’t a game ending exercise, but a game beginning exercise! You taking the treat away should result in your dog sitting with intense focus on you!

Step 1: Move your hand around until Moose sits.


1 time a day, 3 times in a row

@ mealtimes

Step 3: Feed on the move as soon as he catches up to you!

IYC Sit & Run

Step 2: As soon as he sits, say the release cue "ok" and dash off!

Step 1: Show Moose a tug toy. 

Step 2: As soon as he sits, say the release cue "ok".

Step 3: Let him tug with you!

Tug Sit & Run

The Initial Steps - Teaching "Out" 

I recommend using the cue “out", but you’re welcome to choose whatever feels natural to you (i.e., "drop it" or "give").

1. Start the game off with a little arousing play session with a tug toy your dog loves.

2. When you can see your dog is really into the game, grab their collar and wait for them to release the toy. 

3. When they do, take the tug toy away, but keep holding it in front of them. Wait. 

4. If they show some self-control and don't go after the toy immediately, tell them to "get it" and resume the tugging. If they immediately lunge for the toy, grab their collar until they release it again. Keep doing this until your dog waits for you to say "get it."

5. Start over! This game creates a positive association with releasing the toy and anticipation for hearing the release cue.

 Phase Two - Sit & Tug

1. Start the game off with a little arousing play session with a tug toy your dog loves. 

2. When you see they are into the game, take the tug away and wait. What does the dog offer? If they sit, RELEASE (the sit is a control position, so be sure to release with an ‘ok’ or ‘get it’ first) and take off running. 

3. When the dog gets to you, reward by playing with the toy. Start the game over! 

Building A Duration Sit - Adding The Release

You can build up to a duration sit if your dog understands letting the toy go on cue. 

Phase 1. Go into a 'game on' position. Look for the dog choosing to sit and hold position as you strike this new pose and go and reward your dog for holding a sit if they don't move. 

Phase 2. Go into a ‘game on’ position again. If your dog stays in a sit, take off running as you give the release cue "ok". Let your dog get the toy when they catch up to you and start tugging.

Phase 3. Take one step away from your dog, and then go into a 'game on' position. If your dog stays in a sit, take off running as you give the release. Let your dog get the toy when they catch up to you and start tugging.

Troubleshooting: If your dog won’t release the tug or tries to grab it, play Its Your Choice for the toy until they don't grab for the toy unless it is offered. 

Be sure you are releasing your dog when they are in a sit, not a crouch or when their butt is a little off the ground. Just wait until they think and go into a better sit. 

It is important to use a release cue in this game as it gives your dog permission to leave the sit to drive to you and get the toy.

General Rules To Follow In Training

- Make training sessions short, varied, and fun!

- Use a "high rate of reinforcement" when shaping and cementing new behaviors (give lots and lots of treats!).

- End a training session on a high note (so for Moose, this may mean only doing an exercise 2-3 times before moving on to another game or ending the session).

- Only add a CUE to a behavior when your dog can perform it 9 out of 10 times.

- Think of your dog as having choices and that you control the consequences. If you want to see a behavior again, positively reinforce it; if you don't want to see a behavior again, take reinforcement away (and find ways to prevent it from happening again, i.e., use gates, exercise pens, or putting your dog on a leash to prevent your dog from doing something you don't want them to do).

- Using meals to train your dog is the most advantageous way to maintain their training and keep them motivated on an ongoing basis. If you can turn Moose's meal-times into play-training sessions, you'll see rapid improvement and more focus and drive from him when you do train. You'll notice that he listens to you more and more in distracting environments, as well!

Things to Avoid

- Too many timeouts: if you find you are needing to give a lot of timeouts, then you need to examine why. It's better to find ways to help our dog be successful, so preventing an unwanted behavior is far better than allowing it, and finding ways to reinforce a more desirable behavior is always the way to go.

- Overusing cues: make sure there is a purpose behind why you are asking your dog to do something and that they are regularly deriving reinforcement for the behavior - or else, over time, they may decide it's not worth it to listen to you.

- Going too fast: you want to find ways to make your dog successful and build their confidence. You may think Moose knows what you want him to do, but if you're not getting the behavior you'd like to see, then go back to where he was last successful and build up his understanding until he can do as you ask, without a struggle.

I've included this to familiarize you with animal learning theory. In choice and reinforcement based dog training, POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT (adding something like treats and praise or allowing access to things your dog enjoys like toys in order to encourage desirable behaviors) and NEGATIVE PUNISHMENT (taking all of those same things away in order to discourage unwanted behaviors) are primarily used to guide a dog towards acceptable behaviors and away from unacceptable ones.

This approach builds confidence in your dog and trust in your relationship because the application of a reinforcer (or lack of one) is what drives your dog's behavior, not fear or avoidance of pain. In a nutshell, the rewarding or non-rewarding consequences that you provide determine what sort of choices your dog will make in the future. 

As you can see, the opposite training principles (POSITIVE PUNISHMENT and NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT) employ force and coercion and, usually, result in a damaged relationship with your dog. These are the training principles that traditional or military style dog trainers use, unfortunately, and why shows like The Dog Whisperer have come under fire (never watch that show!).

Animal Learning Theory: 4-Quadrant Training Principles




Negative Punishment: Time-Outs

In a time-out, your dog briefly loses the opportunity to interact with you, other people or other animals in the household. Or he briefly loses the chance to be at large in the house or is put back on a leash outside. In technical terms of learning theory, a time-out is a punishment: a consequence you apply to a behavior that makes it less likely to happen again later.

The mechanics of a time-out are simple. You use a word or short phrase to mark the moment your dog goes off the rails. "No!" is usually the first reflexive response, but you can also say “Oops!” or “Too bad!” A good time-out doesn’t involve reprimands, you’re just pointing out to your dog that a certain behavior ends the party for a little while.

Timeouts: Three Strikes, You're Out

Phase 1: Take the reinforcement away for a behavior by withdrawing your attention, treats, toys or your dog's access to something. This can be as simple as putting a toy behind your back and turning your head to the side or just turning your back to your dog for a moment

Phase 2: Leaving a room can be a form of taking reinforcement away. I usually do this if a dog hasn't taken the hint after a 'Phase 1' time-out or in response to demand behaviors like when a dog barks or whines to get something they want. You can also take the reinforcement away for a behavior by grabbing your dog's collar for 5, 10, or 15 seconds, maybe even holding them against your leg as you do so, and then release for another chance. 

Phase 3: If, after a fair warning, your dog is still engaging in behavior you don't like, you have the option to tether or crate them until they put themselves into a down. You can also choose to put your dog back on a leash if you are outside (always do this without fanfare if your dog decides not to come when called!). 

A rule of thumb to follow when you tether or crate your dog is to wait for them to down themselves, and then let out of the crate or off the tether for another chance to get it right. Always reward your dog for making a better choice after being put in a time-out (i.e., rewarding Moose for going to his bed or staying on the floor rather than jumping on the couch). 

One Strike, You're Out

When you have been actively working towards training an alternate behavior, but your dog keeps doing something you don't want like jumping on the couch uninvited, then it's perfectly acceptable to stick to the "One Strike, You're Out" rule. This means that you will swiftly tether, crate, or put them back on a leash when they do something you don't want them to do. 

Likewise, if you don't have time to give your dog fair warning like when you are in a public setting or at a social event, it is perfectly fine to stick to the "One Strike, You're Out" rule.

Things to Avoid

Distress gets in the way of learning, so if time-outs actually upset your dog, you will need to tweak your training strategy. Usually, this means you need to spend more time teaching them an alternate behavior and using a high rate of reinforcement to cement their learning in order to guide them towards choosing a preferable behavior.

Some Final Notes:

Moose does best when you keep verbal responses to a minimum during training. It's best to stick to a high rate of reinforcement (giving him lots and lots of treats) as much as possible without saying very much when you are shaping a new behavior. This encourages him to "experiment" with how to get the treat and offer a variety of behaviors until he gets a reward. Helping him to be successful during training boosts his confidence, and you always want to build up and protect your dog's confidence during training.

With only a few exceptions, I never let Moose roam free in the yard unless I was there to supervise him. It's difficult to cement your dog's learning if they can get reinforcement from the environment on their own. This means that if Moose has access to the yard whenever he wants, overall it's harder to get him to listen to you when you want him to come back inside, and it can lead to digging behaviors that can be tough to curb if he's let unattended.

That being said, it's a good idea to ask Moose for a sit before letting him outside, and if you're ok with him roaming around in the yard by himself, use it as an opportunity to practice recall training by having treats in a bowl nearby and calling him back to you periodically. When he comes to you, give him a treat, and then release him back to what he was doing. This is called a double-reinforcer because he gets a treat and gets to go back to carousing in the yard. This is also an easy way to practice recall when you let him off his leash in a public setting.

Finding ways to incorporate training into your everyday routine will help ensure the long-term success of his training and strengthen the bond you have with him!

~ The End ~