Could Counter Conditioning Help You And Your Dog?

Could Counter Conditioning Help You And Your Dog?

Have you ever heard of counter conditioning?

You may have even used it before without realising it.

You might need to use counter conditioning if you’ve ever:

  • Felt embarrassed by your dog’s behaviour while out in public because they’re freaking out and you can’t get through to them
  • Wished you could just talk to your dog and explain that your neighbour’s possum shaped lawn ornament is not a demon
  • Felt like you’re being towed behind horse and you may as well be on grass skis every time your dog sees another dog

These are often fear based responses and they keep both you and your dog from being able to enjoy your time together to the fullest.

With counter conditioning, you can:

  • Change the way a dog feels about something that they’re fearful of
  • Turn a negative association into a positive one
  • Transform your dog’s behaviour in the presence of that originally scary thing.

As a trainer who uses counter conditioning often, I can help you break down the science into simple steps and achieve results like improved confidence in your dog.

A dog that actually looks forward to seeing things that previously triggered them.

A more enjoyable time together on walks and out in public.

Are you ready for this?

Work through step by step in Frantic To Focused, my signature course that helps owners with dogs who are reactive to triggers (including but not limited to other dogs). You can see all the details by clicking here.

Is It Bribery To Use Food Treats In Training?

Is It Bribery To Use Food Treats In Training?

A lot of people I meet are concerned about using food treats in training.

When the dog is performing well, they’ll say, “he’s just doing it for the treats,” or, “she’ll do anything for food!”

When it boils down to it, there are two motivations in dog training – the dog is either working to receive something or working to avoid something.

There is then a spectrum of value on either side. For most dogs, food treats are of high value compared to say, verbal praise or pats.

The other advantage of a food treat is that you can be more precise in timing the treat to be a clear reward for a specific moment in time, especially using marker training.

Not many dogs will work for praise only when they have no prior experience with the command.

When they’re experienced with the command through training with a higher value reward such as food, they can be gradually weaned to praise only. But when you’re starting from scratch you need a way to show the dog what to do and how to move their body.

There are usually two options for this: show the dog where to move their head by following a treat or physically move the dog into position. You can also do a combination of the two. For most dogs, receiving a reward as part of the process and not being shoved around is a lot more motivating.

The next step is to ensure the food reward happens as a reward, not a bribe.

The dog may initially learn the movement by following the treat but next, you want to create the behaviour to happen first, then present the reward second.

In this way the food can truly be a reward rather than a bribe, and can be reduced to a sometimes thing, rather than a necessity.

To read more articles in dog training, visit our blog.

Realistic expectations with baby puppies

Imagine this: a young girl tells her parents that she would like to take up figure skating and they sign her up for classes.

At the first class, she wobbles and falls a few times but by the end of the class she is skating from one end of the rink to the other without grabbing the sides or falling.

She is stoked with herself! “Did you see me mum and dad? That was so fun!”

Her parents sigh. They look at her with a face full of disappointment. They tell her, “we were watching and you fell twice. You only skated in a straight line and you didn’t do a single spin. You didn’t even try skating on one foot. What kind of figure skater are you?”

Holy crap right? Wouldn’t that be horrible?

Everyone knows that it takes time and practice to learn a new skill for a child. It’s the same with a puppy.

They aren’t born knowing a single word of English and what we want from them. It’s up to us to teach them what we want and to practice in many different environments before we can expect them to just do it.

If your dog isn’t listening to a command, check first – have we spent purposeful training time on this, or are we expecting them to just know it?

For help with how to do this, visit the Dog Matters Academy and join the Virtual Dog School program.

Owned dogs all my life

Owned dogs all my life

Is owning dogs all your life enough to know how to train them effectively?

I’ve had a vagina all my life, but that doesn’t make a gynecologist.

But what is it that sets apart someone who has a lot of time around dogs and a great love for them, and someone who can create effective change in behaviour to reach goals in not just their own dogs, but others?

I have seen trainers who appear to be total naturals.

I actually don’t feel like fit that category. People sometimes say now that I am a natural or some kind of dog whisperer, but I feel I had to work for that, it didn’t just happen easily.

In my case I studied a course that gained me a qualification on paper. That’s nice to have and it’s important to be educated. But theory and practical application are two entirely different games.

In fact, it can be a dangerous thing to have a lot of book knowledge without practical experience – because you feel confident and empowered by knowing a lot, but if you’re not out there working dogs then not only do you miss out on learning how to apply that theory in reality but you’re also not getting those hard yet valuable lessons where you realise you still have a LOT to learn.

There’s nothing as humbling as getting too relaxed and making a mistake that causes a close call with a dog’s teeth and thinking, “sh*t, do I know anything about training dogs?!”

Like with many things, the key is to acknowledge that you’re always learning, it never stops, and everyone is at different points in their journey – and so are their dogs.

I’m sure we can learn more from each other…

Here’s 4 ways I may be able to help you.

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area
We’ve tried EVERYTHING

We’ve tried EVERYTHING

Have you already tried everything to solve your frustrations with your dog?

If so, I am sad to say, you are a rare case and it’s time to give up.

I mean, if you’ve already tried everything, what other hope is there?


Because I know there’s always something else to try, even if it’s doing the same thing you’ve done before but in a slightly different way.

I have been in client’s homes who have, “tried everything.”

They are frustrated and frankly, over it. They’re also usually skeptical, understandably.

But deep down they know there must be something else otherwise I wouldn’t be there.

And the good news is, we always find something to try that they hadn’t thought of before, and that makes progress, and gives hope!

Where might you find a new technique to try?

Here’s 3 things that could help:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area


Waiting for food

Waiting for food

Does your dog sit and wait for his or he food at dinner time? Awesome work!

As a person who easily gets hangry, I marvel at how well dogs can wait for food.

Because they’re dogs and food is usually a top motivator, we can use feeding time to our advantage for good manners.

From what I’ve observed over the years, here’s some tips to make this skill work to your advantage even better:

  • Make sure your dog doesn’t go for the food until they get a release word
  • Set the rule that your dog has to look at YOU (not stare at the food) to get their release to eat
  • After putting the bowl down, if your dog has mastered waiting, practice a couple of other commands they have to do before released to eat

If you are finding yourself wondering how other people do this and thinking your dog would never wait for their food and would just about crash tackle you to get to the bowl, this is a great opportunity to work on some training that is actually more simple than you might think.

Get started at the Dog Matters Academy to learn the principles to help you teach this and much more:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area