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Teaching an (Old) Dog New Tricks

This month we are learning about luring to teach new behaviors. This topic is a bit more hands-on, so it will be in a Q&A form, and videos will be posted on youtube and linked. This is one of the most basic methods of dog training– but also the foundation for teaching your dog new things!

Luring is something that you have to teach your dog– they don’t know automatically. 

They can learn this through playing games and repetition. It can actually be a lot of fun!! But also, it can be a little boring after so many repetitions–which is required to know commands really well. (Practice makes perfect)

Why do we use food when training? And do we have to use treats forever?

Food is often used in training as a method of motivating the dog and rewarding their good work. You don’t like to work for free, neither does your dog! Pay them frequently for good behavior. When we are first teaching new behaviors, we need to reward immediately so they know that what they did is what we wanted (and “hey, the more immediately you do what I have asked you to do, the faster you get a treat”).

We don’t have to reward Every. Single. Time. forever and ever, but we do want to reward frequently enough to motivate our dogs. After your dog knows a behavior very very well (meaning that they do it immediately and in different spaces), you can vary the rewards… meaning that one time you give a reward, and maybe the next two times you don’t, then you give a reward, then the next time you don’t. 

Rewards also don’t have to be food every time, though this is the easiest way to teach a new behavior. Later on in your training, you can reward them with praise, affection, throwing the ball, playing tug with them, letting them have sniffy time outside. 

What words to use??

We often talk too much to our dogs–it becomes blabber–choose a few specific words and use ONLY these words with them when we are training or giving directions.

These are the words I like to use:


Down (lay down)

Release (you can stop doing what I told you to do)


Heel (walk at my side)

Off (no jumping)

Out (go out of the area/ room)


What kind of food to use?

Treats– I like to use really small pieces of treats or treats that are already very small. 

Higher value rewards– when teaching a shy/ anxious/ fearful dog, it can be helpful to use a high value reward.

Some favs: pepperoni, deli meat, cheese, chicken. 

Food for luring: some dogs are very food motivated, which means that their regular everyday meals can be used during training! This does not mean that we don’t give them the food if it isn’t used for training (they still gotta eat), but some dogs really enjoy their food and find satisfaction in working for it. 

When to train// how to know when to stop?

How frequently do you train? Optimally multiple short sessions per day. This keeps sessions short and sweet! We don’t want to train to the point of exhaustion or absolute boredom– this will make it really hard to look forward to future training (for you and them). You will notice when your dog is getting bored (and you’re getting bored). End on a good note, and keep track of about how much attention span they usually have. 

We can start teaching dogs as soon as we get them (this goes for puppies and adult dogs we’ve adopted)– even if that means just playing with them and teaching them to follow a treat. No dog is too young or too old!

When to give treats/ timing?

Timing is really important! 

Give the command, lure into position, say good “xyz”, and give treat very quickly

Example: “Sit”, raise treat over them, they sit, “good sit”, then give the treat

Saying “good sit” lets them know “yes! This is what I wanted you to do. Great job!” and the treat is their payment. 

Do you have questions for us? Leave them below or send them online!

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