Teach your Dog Inside Voice – Capture Dog’s Natural Behavior and Place it on Cue

Big_MacOne of the neat things about using an instant reward marker is how you can capture a natural behavior and then teach your dog to do it on cue.
Here’s a recent email exchange with my client, Elizabeth, who has a 4-5 month old large mix breed dog, Big Mac.

BETH’S EMAIL:
Well, I taught him….Inside voice….and he acts like he is going to bark but doesn’t make a sound……Now he just sits and looks at me and gives me inside voice!!!!  This is fun……Thanks!

OK….I have created a monster!!!!!  This new trick he learned for inside voice…..HE WON’T STOP!!!!  He just sits there an looks at me and keeps doing it…..I keep praising him and I sometimes give him a treat….but ok…what do you do when he has it down right?????

MY REPLY:
Hi Beth,

I’m glad to hear you are teaching Mac new stuff!!!!

Please tell me, in detail:

How did you teach him? Did you mark the behavior with your instant reward marker when he used the inside voice (IV)?
Did you tell him anything about outside voice?
Did you say anything?

Now- do you ask Mac for inside voice? If so, how?

Your next step is to place the behavior “on cue”, which means he only does it when you ask.

Answer my questions and I’ll tell you how.

BETH REPLY:
How did you teach him? Did you use the “X” when he used the inside voice (IV)? Yes….I caught him doing it once and said X and gave him a treat.  Did that a couple of times  I caught him again said X and inside voice and again gave him a treat….  Then I just said inside voice and he started doing it….Now I don’t say anything and he keeps looking at me doing it….This is where I don’t know what to do…..I don’t want to discourage him

Did you tell him anything about outside voice? No I have not said anything about outside voice

Did you say anything? Yes inside voice

Now- do you ask Mac for inside voice? Yes If so, how? Now I put my index finger to my lips like SHHHH quiet and I say Inside voice……He’s got it down tooooo well.

Your next step is to place the behavior “on cue”, which means he only does it when you ask. Ok….Now how do I do that because right now he is sitting here looking at me doing it over and over and over……I praise him but he’s not looking for praise he wants a goodie!

MY EMAIL:
Hi Beth!

You are almost there. I’m so proud of my new student!

Exactly what do you want Mac to do, and under what conditions do you want the behavior to occur?

Exactly what do you want Mac to “not do” and when?

BETH REPLY:
Exactly what do you want Mac to do, and under what conditions do you want the behavior to occur?  Kinda like your tough guy thing with Bentley….it’s just something cute!  Do it on command……Mac….Show your inside voice!

Exactly what do you want Mac to “not do” and when?  I don’t want him just sitting at my feet doing it over and over again……I feel if I don’t acknowledge when he does he will get discouraged.

My EMAIL
Here’s what you do:
Step 1: Reinforce the behavior you want.
Step 2: Punish the behavior you don’t want.

Don’t add touch or his name or talk to him during this exercise.  Follow these instructions as written! 🙂

Step One:
Cue the behavior (shhh signal), X the behavior, give tasty food treat. Don’t talk or pet him. Repeat the same sequence 3 more times for a total of 4 cycles.

Step 2: Say nothing- no cue – no talk – no touch. Wait until he vocalizes. (DATA A:note how long it takes for him to vocalize). Immediately look away, turn your back on him for about 10 seconds. Do not speak or make eye contact during this time out.

Turn back towards him, say “Hi Mac”-
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until DATA A equals 10-15 seconds.
When you do Step 2, he will probably bark louder and be more demanding. Perfect. That means he’s about to give up!
When he quiet for 10-15 seconds in Step 2, praise him! Add touch!!!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Private and Group Dog Training – Memphis, Collierville, Germantown TN

Stop your dog from pulling you on walks!

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HNewYearTake 2, 20 Minute Walks each day.

In addition to the obvious exercise benefits for you and your dog, walks build relationships.

Many people avoid walks because their dogs pull. Teaching a dog to walk nicely is easy – if you have the right tools!

Alan J Turner – Private Dog Trainer – Memphis – Collierville-Germantown, Bartlett, Tn,  Olive Branch MS
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Canine Behavior Modification for Reactive, Unwanted, Behaviors, including Fear and Aggression


LilyOkay, so your dog is fearful, barking, lunging and otherwise distressed when he or she sees people, trucks, cars, or dogs. Depending on who you are talking to, those behaviors may be classified as territory or protective aggression, possession aggression, inter-dog aggression, fear aggression, or leash aggression.

I’ll refer to the other people, other dogs, trucks, cars, as “triggers”, because they trigger the fear or aggression in your dog.

There are volumes of articles and books on how to modify fearful and aggressive behaviors in dogs. Some of the information may be helpful and other information is outdated and less helpful.

A canine modification plan is fluid. It changes as you progress. Because of all the variables, and the constant adjustments when treating fear and aggression in dogs, it’s not feasible for me to post all the methods and solutions I would use in a private consultation.

But I can give you this overview and some instructions that might work with your dog.

This article is about visual triggers. If your dog reacts to noises, the same concepts apply.

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First you need to change your dog’s perception of the triggers. Then you will use rewards to pay your dog for desirable, non reactive behaviors, when the trigger is in sight.

Before you actually do exercises with your dog in the field, please review this checklist.

Meet your dog’s physical, social and emotional needs.

Kindly prevent your dog from practicing unwanted reactive behaviors.

Establish a method to communicate precisely. Condition a reward marker.

Enact the Rewards Awareness Program.

Establish a Reward System.

Teach your dog “attention on cue” or “look”.

Practice “look” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive, behaviors).

Teach your dog to sit on command.

Practice “sit” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive, behaviors).

Teach your dog to bump your two-finger target to the cue, “here”.

Practice “here” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive behaviors).

Teach your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead or to heel.

Practice walking nicely in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not include the triggers).

Optional: Obtain a Gentle Leader head collar or a Canny Collar. Introduce your dog to the head collar and practice with the head collar, so that your dog is not distracted by wearing the head collar. Head collars make it possible to safely move or control your dog’s pulling behaviors.

Optional: If your dog is “crazy excited” for squeaky toys or balls, get a couple of new ones and save them for these exercises. You can use the toys as rewards, or as distractions to get your dog’s attention when the triggers are too close.

Now you can begin the real work!

Identify the Threshold

Find the distance where your dog can see the trigger but not react with “out of control” barking, lunging, et cetera. I’ll refer to this distance as the threshold for reactivity. It may be 400 yards or 20 feet. It will change depending on the environment, your dog’s current emotional or physical state, or any number of factors.

The threshold is fluid, not static. You’ll need to find the threshold every time you start a practice session. Whatever it is right now, this distance or threshold will become shorter and shorter as you practice. You’ll always start each session outside the threshold.

Set up the Practice Session

For this step you’ll need the help of others. Their jobs will be to present the trigger outside the threshold, move a few steps closer and then move back outside the threshold.

If you don’t have any helpers, you can still set up the session. Go to a place where you are likely to see the triggers, such as a walking path at the park or a parking lot of a pet supply store. Get several feet off the path or away from the traffic, outside the threshold.

It helps if your dog is hungry. Do this before feeding time or withhold dinner and feed during these sessions.

Change your Dog’s Perception

Before you start with the triggers, ask your dog to perform a few simple commands such as “here’ or “sit”. This will engage your dog to pay attention to you!

Stand outside the threshold of a trigger. The instant you see the dog or person or car approaching, announce the trigger. Tell your dog something like “that’s a friend or that’s a truck” and immediately feed your dog several treats. Keep feeding until the trigger has retreated and is no longer nearby.

(If your starts barking or lunging, you are too close the the trigger, move away. If your dog starts to stare or looks like he or she might be ready to bark and lunge, command “here” and present your two finger target, or ask your dog to “look”. Either one of these commands gets the dog to look away from the trigger and focus on you.)

This sequence is called a cycle. You will hold many cycles during a session.

Between each cycle, give your dog a tension rest to absorb the recent events. The tension rest should be as as long as it took to perform the cycle. So, if the trigger is in sight for 10 seconds before it moves outside the threshold, the duration of the tension rest immediately after the cycle will be at least 10 seconds.

Repeat this process for at least 30 minutes per session. Perform another cycle followed by a tension rest. The idea is to change your dog’s immediate, involuntary responses to the trigger.

Instead of “oh no, there’s another dog, which is immediately followed by involuntary barking, fleeing, freezing or lunging (fight, flight, freeze behaviors), you want your dog’s initial involuntary response to the sight of the triggers to be anticipation of food. You are using classical conditioning to associate the trigger with the delivery of food. Your dog cannot be aggressive or fearful and salivate in anticipation of food at the same instant!

As you progress through the session, you will notice your dog will begin to ignore the trigger and focus on you and the food as soon as you announce the trigger. Perfect. Now you can move a bit closer to the trigger and continue. The threshold is getting shorter!

Repeat these sessions until your dog automatically looks towards you whenever a trigger is in sight. Continue to announce the triggers on routine walks, and anytime you are interacting with your dog, be it during a practice session, or not.

Real LIfe Ambush

If you get “ambushed” by a trigger during an outing, and you are not ready with several treats, kindly ask your dog to sit facing you, or to bump your two finger target. If she is too excited, move her away from the trigger and ask again. Repeat this sequence until your dog is far enough away that she will listen to your commands.

This basic method will work with most dogs, and most reactive behaviors, however it is not as efficient as perception modification via Syn Alia Training System.


Keep in mind, there are many factors about your relationship and your daily interactions with your dog that influence behaviors. In addition, your dog may be influenced by other dogs in the household, medical conditions, diet, nutrition, genetic and or neurological factors. If your dog constantly barks at triggers from inside the house, or fence fights with the dogs next door, the prognosis is poor.

You’ll need to prevent your dog from practicing fear and aggression if you want to succeed!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

How’s Bentley

Canine Behavior Modification for Fear, Aggression in Dogs – Memphis TN

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For years, I have suggested head collars for my clients.  Clients use the equipment to get the dog to perform the good behavior, then they reward the dog for walking nicely!

A core problem with the Gentle Leader, Halti, and the Snoot Loop is fitting the collar correctly. Until now, all head collars required fine tuning and adjustments.  Toss in an exuberant dog (why else would the people need a head collar?) and many people become frustrated and switch to other no pull devices.

The Canny Collar has fast become my favorite choice for many situations!  Just order the correct size and you are ready to start enjoying walks with your dog!  Click Here for a Size Chart.

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Visit the Products Page to order your Canny Collar today!

Alan J Turner

Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer – canine specialization

How’s Bentley – Memphis, Collierville, Germantown TN

Private and Group Dog Training