Finn - choosing to work

Here's Finn, an adult Golden Retriever who already knows how to work in obedience.  He is now learning how to choose to work. Note the emphasis on choice.  In Finn's first lesson with me, it took about three minutes before he even glanced at his trainer.  Today (second lesson), he not only chose to work, he chose much more quickly.    His handler is doing an excellent job; I look forward to watching their progress.

Here's the same dog 20 minutes later.  This time he is working in a more distracting area; near the bushes. He can chose to work but he is prevented from getting to the bushes by the leash.

Finn will remain at this stage for a few more lessons.  Over time, a few changes will take place.

1)  He'll be expected to turn in to his handler and to choose to work more quickly.  If he does not, he'll be returned to his crate and given another opportunity after a time out.

2)  His handler will learn to make the work very interesting, so that Finn receives an additional bonus for choosing to work.  Right now, the heeling is boring (on purpose) so Finn is choosing between earning a reward (cookie or toy or praise) and the distractions of the world.  When he masters that, he'll receive a new reason to work; the work itself will draw his attention.

3)  He'll be expected to work for extended periods of time before receiving his reward of either praise/play, a treat, or a toy.  Right now the work in only a few seconds.

As his ability to choose to work improves, so will the expectations that are placed on him.

Never confuse positive training with permissive, "slow to progress", or boring.  Good positive training has all of the qualities of good traditional training - high expectations, consequences, and both handler and dog responsibilities.



Love the videos. It’s helpful to watch something that’s being narrated a bit. Some time ago I tried to teach this game to Dragon but I didn’t set it up quite right and didn’t practice it enough to improve my mechanics, and then I forgot about it. On Sunday, after your seminar, I finally did a proper session with a new cue and he was catching on nicely. Now I just need to remember to actually use it!


If the handler stays next to the dog, then she is ‘participating’ in his sightseeing. Dogs enjoy the company. I want him to make a choice between sightseeing OR mom/work not between mom/sightseeing and mom/work.

Nancy R

Denise, so what do you do when the dog works but only half heartedly? Into the crate? Also do you continue to reward with food and then gradually reward with play that you can do in the ring?


Melinda, you can do this for a short period of time but then you MUST make the work much harder. If not you’ll make a lazy and entitled dog. Within a few weeks, I expect Finn to be able to do full exercises before he gets anything – but if he chooses not to work then that is always an option that is available to him. The opposite of “not working” is not “do whatever you want”. It’s “go back to the house while I do something else” or “hang in your crate for a few minutes”. This is only the very first step. Finn is a very confident dog who can easily handle the pressure of high expectations applied early on. My guess is that Phoenix is the same.


really dumb question here. Why do you keep telling the trainer to “walk to the tail”? is this to take the trainer out of the picture in hopes the dog will look for her?

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