Tuesday Training Tip: Adjust as You Go!

Mama Sally:

In my job, I train many of the very same actual commands to new dogs every day, and it never, ever gets old for me!  And do you know why? At times I have wondered why I never get tired of training, Sit, Stay, Down, Come, Heel, Place, Stand, etc. over and over and over!  A big part of it is because each dog and owner that I work with is completely unique, and no one learns the same way, dog or human, so my job is always new, and it’s always a different experience.

One thing that really serves me well in training dogs, is that I have learned to adjust a training style or the environment, or bait, etc. in order to get a dog to comply with what I’m asking him to do.  I give my favorite training style the good old college try, and if the dog just can’t figure out what I want from him, I quickly adjust things at my end so that I can have success with that dog.


This is where experience helps, because I know what to look for, and when I don’t see what I need to see in a reasonable length of time, I know that I need to adjust a thing or two, so that a dog can figure out what I’m asking him to do for me.  Sometimes, I am simply moving too quickly for a dog, and I need to slow down and cut my steps into smaller, more manageable steps so that he can come along with me.

I look for patterns of behavior from the dog when I’m training. I’m always watching his body language in response to me.  That tells me if he’s anxious about what we’re doing, so I can know to slow down or ease off that command for a bit.  If I’m working on Sit/Stay for example, and I take five steps away from the dog, if he consistently gets up on my step three, that tells me that he’s probably uncomfortable with me getting too far away from him, so I start again, and I only go three steps for a few repetitions so that I can boost my dog’s confidence before I take those extra steps.

If I carefully watch what I’m doing, and watch my dog’s response to me….and then adjust what I’m doing accordingly, I will give my dog time to figure out what I want, and give him confidence to learn from me all at the same time.  It’s a definite win!



Rugby James:

One fing I doesn’t understand about Uprights is that usually, if a dogger doesn’t figure out what they want him to do, they blame him and fuss at him, and sumtimes they say that their dogger is dumb, or stubborn, and mean fings like that.  And then sumtimes, Uprights just get cross wif their doggers, and when that happens to me, it makes me just want to shut down and not try anymore.


Lil doggers really try hard to figure stuff out.  This is what I has hadda teach the Mama:  to see the heart of a dogger, and to understand and know how hard we work, even if we don’t make lotsa progress in one training session.  I’m still working hard, even if I’m not getting as far as the Mama wants.  It’s been a whole lotta work, but I fink she gots it now, so she gots lots more patience and she stays a lot less anxious herself!

And I has teached her to really watch for patterns from a dogger, so that she can change fings.  If Uprights keeps doing the same fing over and over, their doggers will keep doing the same fings over and over too….so if Uprights wanna see sumping different from their doggers, they gotsa adjust what they is doing what will help their doggers know to try sumping different too!

And really, the Mama makes lil bitty adjustments….like where she holds her bait, what bait she’s using, where she trains me, and that kinda stuff.  Sumtimes I feel more secure if I’m next to a wall, instead of out in the open, and that kinda stuff.  Scared doggers needs a softer touch, more patience and lotsa security for them to relax enuff to learn.

When doggers is scared, all they can fink of is saving theirselfs, so they can’t learn new stuff at the same time.  The Mama has learned to really make sure I’m not scared when she’s trying to teach me new fings.  She just gets me comfortable first, and really, that makes all the difference.

I has teached the Mama how to really know what I am saying by my body language, so she gets me, and she knows when I’m ready to move forward or when she gotsa slow down and give me time and space to process and figure fings out.  This is where we really has worked togedder to become a team.  I has teached her fings, and she has teached me fings, and we get how each udder works, so we can trust each udder and make progress forward.

003 (2)



  1. Denise Baker says

    Oh Rugby James, your perspective is so insightful and reminds me to pay attention what Bentley is trying to tell me. Sometimes I forget that we are a TEAM and only by working together will we achieve our goals.

    PS: So do pups like us "uprights" to pet them on their heads? I've always wondered that. Thank you, Team Rugby James!!! You and Miss Sally are tops trainers in my book!

    • Sally says

      Well, Mama Denise, I try really hard to help Uprights understand what's going on wif their doggers, on account of how else can they be a team togedder? It's really when Uprights and doggers understand each udder that they can learn how to work togedder and become a team!! I'm all about that! Nopawdy gives back a dogger when they is a team togedder!

      Really, doggers learn to let Uprights pet them on their heads. Mostly, Uprights hands is so big coming down on a dogger's head, that it can feel a lil bit scary and intimidating....especially for lil doggers. But, over time, we learn to let Uprights do it, and when it's sumpawdy we know and trust, it's a whole lot easier for us. Strangers doing it is weird for me....and kinda scares me.

      Fank you for your kind fings what you has sayed about the Mama and me. You has maked me feel really important! 😀

  2. says

    Those are some great tips - but you had me at the title, "Adjust as you go" -- so very true when it comes to training! Patience is key 🙂

    • Sally says

      Thanks so much, Nichole! Rugby really taught me SO much about training dogs, because he just didn't trust me for years! Trying to make progress forward was challenging, because he was so worried about everything. As a result, I have really learned to just be patient with the progress and adjust what I'm doing every step of the way! Thanks for reading and for your kind comment! 😀

  3. says

    Kilo the Pug is a very anxious dog so these perspectives are interesting. I try to adjust but need to do more for him to learn certain things. He took quite a while but he now understands a lot of behaviours and will generally do them for treats. Doing simple things is actually a great way to distract/relax him if he is anxious.

    • Sally says

      I love it!! You are right on it, Susan!! When a dog is more anxious, it can be very helpful to increase the distance from the source of his anxiety, and ask him to do something he knows. Doing those simple tasks help him plug into the cognitive side of his brain, instead of just letting his emotions drive his behavior! Using a high value treat will be helpful to you, and get it right to his little Puggy nose and hold it there so he can focus more easily! Sometimes, anxious dogs just don't want food, so it can be challenging! Part of the issue I've always had with Rugby is that he's so anxious, he won't eat away from home, so I've had to rely on using his Thundershirt to help minimize his anxiety, and then just keep him at a distance and re-direct his attention with simple tasks to help him focus and think....rather than feel. Good luck!! 😀

  4. says

    Lots can be learned by pet's body language. You are spot on about understanding where emotionally they are at, especially with an anxious dog. I'm still working on training wit my 2 yr old sheltie who is anxious.

    • Sally says

      Thanks, Jodi! I'm HUGE on watching body language when I train!! I train LOTS of special needs dogs, and it can be a deal breaker if I'm not in tune with how they are feeling!! I did a book review of a really great book on body language with dogs. The book is titled, "On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals." The author is Turid Rugaas. I think it's a book that belongs on every dog owner's bookshelf! You can read my review if you like! My Rugby James is a Sheltie mix, and they really are a high strung breed with lots of anxiety and energy!! Don't give up with your dog!! Rugby is nine, and he still surprises me with steps forward in working through really tough behavior issues from time to time! Good luck in your training!! 😀

  5. says

    I really like your perspective that each dog is different and I can see how that would keep things interesting, just like when I taught second grade. The individuals are what make it so special. I wish more dogs and their humans were able to work with you, including myself. My dogs are okay, but I know they are capable of more, I just haven't made it a priority.

    I love the term Uprights.

    • Sally says

      Thanks, Beth! Your comment was so very sweet and encouraging, and it just made my day!! Part of what is so much fun in training dogs, is watching them learn!! I LOVE watching dogs figure out the specific behavior I want from them. I really am blessed to work with amazing dogs and their "Uprights" every day! If you lived close enough, I would be delighted to help you with your dogs!! And I absolutely would LOVE to have you take some amazing photos of Rugby!! 😀


Leave a Reply