The Armchair Method of Dog Training

The busy trainer’s armchair guide to dog training is dedicated to all those writers and trainers out there who find it hard to fit find the time in their busy schedules writing and blogging to squeeze in training of their own dogs. It was inspired by a comment from Monica Segal, one of American’s leading canine nutrition experts who commented on her Facebook page recently that her dog Tori could not understand why she was always at the computer working on her new book and didn’t have the time to get up and engage in a training session. So Monica here are some quick ideas on how you can have fun with Tori without even leaving your computer.

     Our dogs come up to us regularly and ask for attention. As humans we naturally think in terms of what we can offer in the way of a scratch behind the ear or a cuddle; however there are many more ways that we can interact without even leaving our favorite armchair or our computer chair. In fact each of these exercises takes only a few seconds are ideal to do in the add breaks of your favorite animal show. Personally mine is
“It’s me or the dog” with Victoria Stillwell.
     Meet Napoleon, my clicker savvy miniature poodle. He has been clicker trained since the age of 7 weeks and has a strong repertoire of behaviors that he loves to show off. (See our you tube channel) but even so he needs to have the basics reinforced from time to time.
       The first place to start when clicker training is to pair the sound of the clicker with a nice reward, we use a combination of clunkers (a moist dry food heavy in garlic) cheese, smackos and a good quality dry dog kibble. All the pieces are cut up small and mixed together into a treat pouch or a margarine container. The idea being that the dog is never sure if he is going to receive a high value reward (cheese or clunker), medium value (smacko), or low value (kibble). Holding the reward in one hand and the clicker in another click and immediately offer the reward. Repeat this exercise four or five times at the start of each training session.
Nose touch:
      Dogs instinctive reach out to smell items with their noses. Hold a piece of food in the palm of your hand with two fingers out and place your hand down near their nose. Wait until the dog moves its nose towards your fingers, click and release the food. Repeat this exercise four or five times and then you can graduate to no longer having the food in your hand. The dog nose touches your fingers; you click and then reach for the food reward. The clicker marks the behavior we are rewarding and the reward no longer has to be delivered instantly. Once the dog is reliably offering the behavior (85% of the time) you attach a name to the game. “Touch” is most commonly used. From then on when you say touch and place your fingers out the dog should understand to nose touch your fingers. Remember to keep up a high rate of reward early on to reinforce learning and continue to click to mark the behavior  It is very important that you allow the dog to move towards your hand, resist the impulse to move your hand towards the dog as this does not teach the dog and for some dog’s hands coming towards their faces is considered very aversive.

You can either hand feed the reward or if your dog is acting like a shark and snapping then throw the food a short distance away. This achieves the effect of exercising the dog and teaching it to return (re orientate) to you. Repeat this exercise four or five times. Once the dog understands to touch its nose to your hand you can modify this exercise to be a nose touch to a lid, stick, toy or another part of your body. A further modification is to have the dog touch that object placed away from you on a nearby item of furniture or a toy placed on the other side of the room. Many dogs also enjoy learning a paw touch to your hand or any other type of target. Learning touch is a foundation exercise in clicker training that becomes the basis of many harder skills. It is also used in the film industry to teach a dog to go to a mark placed on the floor in any location in an exercise know as “go to your mark”.


With food in one hand, clicker in another place the food directly in front of the dogs nose then slowly raise the food up in the air and slightly behind the dogs head. The dog’s head should be following this movement which will cause their backside to move into a sit position, as their backside hits the floor click and then reward. If the dog snaps at the food when held near its nose hide your hand behind your back and look away from the dog. It is not necessary to say anything as the dog will understand that the snapping made something he really wanted go away, however it is important that you also remove eye contact as this will be interpreted by the dog as a reward for snapping. If the dog jumps up place the treat behind your back and remove all eye contact and say nothing until the dog has all four feet back on the floor.Repeat this exercise four or five times. When the dog is consistently sitting add the cue word “sit”.

Spin left:

With food in one hand and the clicker in the other place the food down near the dog’s nose, slightly to the side you wish it to move towards. Slowly move the food and the dog’s head should follow. Initially aim for only slight movement in the left direction, clicking and rewarding for any movement even if it is only head movement. As the dog gets the idea then ask for more movement, gradually building up to a full 360 degree spin to the left. Once the dog is reliably (85% of the time) performing this name the trick “left spin”. You can then go on to teach right spin however do not do this until a spin in once direction is mastered. This often takes some dogs some days to achieve, so be reasonable about the degree of movement you will reward for initially. The trick is to get the dog to understand at the start that you want any movement in the left direction and then gradually build up to more and more movement once they understand what you are asking. Many dogs learn best by being given an opportunity to try some approximation of the behavior and then being allowed the time to go away and process this new skill. Dogs that are not used to this type of work will at first find it tiring and be able to process only small training sessions. If at any time your dog walks away and is unwilling to engage in the training respect that this is their way of saying I have had enough to process right now and need a break. They normally come back shortly after for another session. Train in very small session more frequently at a pace dictated by your dog is the key.

    These are three very easy training exercises that you can do from your favorite armchair or whilst at your computer desk. Did you find them easy or hard to train? Any problems let me know? What other fun tricks would you like to be able to teach sitting down?

For more YouTube clips of simple training follow the links:

Start of the recall
Off the furniture
Onto your lap for a cuddle
High 5
Foot touch
Training more than one dog at a time

Regards from Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician – delivering pet care magic for your pets.

Posted on May 27, 2011, in Dog Training, Puppies, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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