Positive Dog Training Methods that Work

Positive dog training is more than just giving rewards to our dogs. However, that is crucial component. As we are rewarding dogs for behavior that we like and redirect or ignore behavior that we don’t like, we run into obstacles.

How can we train our dog in a positive way if we are constantly feeling frustrated? How do we move past this frustration and get back on track? What do we do with our thoughts, actions and emotions that seem to pull us away from positivity?

Negative thoughts hinder training

How many of you have negative thoughts when training your dog? Here are some examples:

  • My dog knows this command and is completely blowing me off!
  • My dog is so stubborn.
  • I just can’t get my dog to listen.
  • My dog is so dominant. I need to gain control of my dog.
  • My dog is stupid.
  • My dog doesn’t want to listen.

These are examples of thoughts that we have in our head about our dogs on a day to day basis.

I want you to close your eyes and think about one these thoughts. Notice how your body feels. Where do you feel tension and stress? Especially pay attention to the following body parts:

  • head
  • stomach
  • chest
  • throat

When you have these thoughts and feel this tension in your body, how do you act? Think of the following:

  • What do you say?
  • What tonality do you use?
  • How do you move (stiffly or relaxed)?
  • What actions do you take toward your dog?

Now imagine training your dog with these thoughts. How well does that work for you? Probably not that good. That is because your thoughts affect your results.

Your thoughts create your emotions. Your emotions affect your actions. Do you think you would respond well to a teacher that had the above negative thoughts about you as a human?

Positive thoughts help when training your dog

The first step is to gain control of your thoughts. The best step is to gain awareness of your thoughts. Then begin to ask yourself good questions:

  • What do I want to create with my dog?
  • How would I like to …
    • act around my dog?
    • feel around my dog?
  • How do I want my dog and myself to function as a family unit together?

Once you have those answers start adapting your new thought patterns. Some thoughts might be the following: I want to be…

  • a team with my dog.
  • happy around my dog.
  • friendly toward my dog.
  • supportive.
  • loving, caring and understanding.

Now once you have those new thoughts. What actions will you take with your dog? More than likely you will choose to listen. Your dog is not a robot. He has feelings, thoughts, wants and needs too. If you choose to listen to him you will have a better relationship.

When I have these thoughts I tend to talk to my dog in a happy voice. It is also easy for me to reward behavior that I do like. I am easily forgiving toward behavior that I don’t like. I break training down into simple steps so that my dog can easily be successful. These are all actionable steps to create positive dog training.

Intention and commitment setting

Think about the above positive thoughts and create an intention or commitment statement that resonates with you.

I am working with a dog named Diesel. His owners live in Mantua, They put a sign on their wall: “I intend to create friendship and understanding”.

Diesel, a Labrador mix, is extremely hyper. He jumps and mouths. This frustrates his owners. When they think of this statement they can easily remain calm and help Diesel to learn to relax. Acknowledging his needs for play is easier as well.

Another client of mine lives in Southington. She has Boxer / Labrador mix named Tara. She gets uncomfortable around some people and has bitten some of of them.

Before Tara bites she exhibits signs that she is uncomfortable. As a result, noticing these signs and helping Tara to become more comfortable is crucial. Negative thoughts generally lead us to punish Tara when she reacts in an unhealthy manner such as barking, growling or biting.

With positive thoughts, the owner can actually work as a team with Tara. She can notice when Tara is communicating that she doesn’t feel safe. From there she can remove Tara from the situation or help her feel more safe around the person.

Tara’s family decide to create this statement: “I commit to work together to help Tara participate with joy in our family life.”

Click here to learn more about the positive dog training programs that Diesel and Tara are taking with us.

Visualizing the results you want to create

This is another important key in positive dog training. It is easy to visualize what we don’t want and to set up our dogs for failure. The lack of awareness of these visual mental pictures is the problem.

Notice when you visualize what you do NOT want your to do. You probably do it more than you realize. Start by gaining the awareness. For example, you ask your dog to sit. Minutes later you notice your dog broke the sit. You then realize that the super long duration is why your dog broke the stay.

You must break behavior down so that it is simple and easy for your dog to grasp. As a result, if you break behavior down it will be easy for you to visualize your dog performing the behavior correctly.

What you see does become your reality. Science has proven this again and again. So start by seeing what you want to create.

I worked with a client recently that has a Shetland Sheepdog, named Liberty. He lives in Mantua. Liberty kept breaking his sit stay over and over again. The more he broke the stay, the more frustrated that owner got. Liberty’s dad voice got more stern. As a result, Liberty’s behavior deteriorated.

I asked Liberty’s owner to stop for a moment and to visualize success. He then began seeing Liberty staying, talking to Liberty in a happy voice and noticing how his body felt happy and relaxed.

After, that exercise Charlie began improving on his stay. This had a long lasting effect and is the basis for positive dog training.

When you visualize it is important to include all of your senses. What do you…

  • feel?
  • hear?
  • see?
  • smell?
  • taste?

By visualizing with all of your senses your brain thinks of the visualization as the current reality. You now can now manifest exactly what you want to create.

Positive dog training is faster when a clicker is used

If you choose to use a marker such as a clicker, you will train behavior faster. This is because the click serves as a marker for the behavior before you give the treat.

If don’t have a marker, then you have to give your dog a treat during the actual behavior that you like.

Imagine using a clicker. The click means: “I like this behavior, and I want you to do more of it”. The click sound takes less than a second. Reaching in your treat bag to get a treat out usually takes 2-3 seconds and even longer if the treat is across the room.

Timing is crucial for learning. You want to mark the exact behavior you like. So start using a clicker now.

If you feel resistance to using a clicker, I recommend you read this post on the top 10 myths regarding clicker training.

Listening to your dog is an important step in positive dog training

We have talked about this above quite a bit above. It is important aspect to remember. When I was a little girl I constantly ask myself this question: “Am I working with my dog or am I working against my dog?”

I grew up using punishment based training methods. I hated it over time. At a young age, in middle school, I became a cross over trainer. That means I changed to using positive dog training.

Because it was new for me I got stuck quite a bit. In the past I wanted to control my dogs. It didn’t work so well. So I began asking the above question.

I learned some crucial information from this question on numerous occasions: My dog…

  • was too distracted to even comprehend what I was saying. I needed to use higher valued treats to keep his attention, or I needed work in a lower distracting area.
  • wanted to run and needed to get energy out. It would be best to exercise my dog first and then do training.
  • needs a break. I am pushing him too hard in the training session. I can come back to this later.
  • is confused. I need to break the training exercise into smaller successful steps.

There is so much you can learn from your dog if you just listen. If you choose to listen to your dog, you won’t regret it. You will be able to get your dog to listen. You will both feel safe, supported, loved and heard.

Allow and expect unpleasant emotions

When training gets frustrating it is easy to project those emotions on your dog. Expect that at some point you will feel sad, mad, scared, frustrated, disappointed, anger, remorse, guilt, regret, impatient, annoyed, irritated, violent, etc.

Emotions are normal especially unpleasant ones. These emotions are key points to change. They help us identify what isn’t working and what we want to do better.

If the emotions are super intense it is best to take a training break rather than project them on your dog by yelling, hitting, or even just using a rough tonality.

Give yourself some self-care. What can help you ground? Come back to training later when you feel more grounded and full of happiness or inspiration.

Johanna Teresi practices positive dog training in Middlefield, Ohio

I am a firm believer that positive training isn’t just about the dogs. Owners struggle too. As a result, I became a certified NLP (neurolinguistic programming) practitioner.

I learned that our emotions, thoughts and actions shape our reality. I help teach owners this. Our dogs reflect how we feel, think and act. Once we can change that, our dog’s behavior changes. I currently accept clients in Middlefield and surrounding areas.

Learn more about Johanna Teresi here.

Christina Fleck
Christina Fleck
18:11 15 Mar 24
Johanna has been super helpful and knowledgeable in helping me train our puppy. We went over... several techniques including practicing not pulling while on the leash. Our puppy is very responsive to the training tools Johanna has taught my children and me. She’s a wonderful person and a terrific trainer! Highly recommend!read more
Caleb Edwards
Caleb Edwards
19:11 20 Dec 23
Working with Johanna was an absolute pleasure and my crazy Corgi Skye enjoyed it very much as well.... Johanna was extremely diligent and patient with her and myself throughout our learning process. She explained the concepts very well and broke them down into simple to understand steps, which was super impactful for me. It’s a lot of information to learn at once but taking it a step at a time truly helps comprehension. She has helped us get Skye on track to being a calmer and more welcoming household dog and also helped us find better ways to get Skye’s energy out when she needs to. If you need assistance or advice on training or just being better connected with your pets, I would highly recommend Johanna!read more
Rosemary Krupar
Rosemary Krupar
18:04 01 Dec 23
Johanna's positive training system has not only helped our dog but has also helped us to be better... pet owners. By learning our dog's body language and applying our own calm demeanor and positive reinforcement, we can help her maintain her own level of calmness during what used to be stressful situations for her. The knowledge and the tools we have gained with Johanna have brought about a more peaceful and pleasant relationship with our dog, Ginny. We highly recommend Johanna for your dog training more
Kathleen Clyde
Kathleen Clyde
17:25 22 Sep 23
Johanna is a really special trainer. We signed our rescue dog Scout up for training because she... almost ran away chasing deer in our neighborhood. Scout also pulled really hard on the leash and I was afraid someone might fall when walking her.Johanna helped us fix all that and more. Scout is a boxer hound mix, so her smell/chase instinct is really strong. Using all positive reinforcement, we were able to train her to go "easy" on our walks and not pull the leash. Scout also comes when we call her, even facing tough distractions like other dogs or food. We can now walk her off leash on trails and be confident she'll stay near or next to us and not run off chasing something. She also learned other commands like sit/stay, go get it, and lay on your bed.We humans were trained too! We learned what harness and leashes to use, which treats were best, when to treat her, how to get her interested in training, how to progress through a more complex command, and more. Johanna really knows both animal and human psychology, and working with her was such a fulfilling and rewarding experience — well worth the investment. Scout loved her and we did too. We cannot recommend her strongly enough!read more
Christi LaPrairie
Christi LaPrairie
17:58 16 Sep 21
I felt pressured to pay prior to services.
Donna Shaffer
Donna Shaffer
19:51 04 Sep 18
Our dog, Bella, was skittish around new people. She would bark and growl. Our veterinarian... recommended training. We contacted Johanna from Ohio4LeggedScholars. Johanna taught us counter conditioning and commands paired with treats. Bella has responded well to the training. She has become more comfortable with new people and new situations. We learned to watch Bella's body language to know when she is feeling confident and comfortable.Thank you Johanna!read more
rachel downey
rachel downey
19:32 23 Aug 18
I love them. Before they came, my dog max, didnt know how to sit for anything, he kept pulling on... the leash when we went for walks on our road, and he kept not waiting when we tried to take him out. He would bolt out. Now he sits a waits for the leash to get it on him. Hes such a great listener more
Stacey Brazie
Stacey Brazie
00:23 26 Jul 18
We were ready to rip our hair out when I found Johanna online. I contacted her and discussed our... problems with our 1 year old Lab Laney. She was jumping on us, afraid of people, barked at everyone/everything that walked by, walked horribly on a leash, and barged at the door when someone was there. Johanna immediately reassured me that she could help! She taught us the different signs that our dog gives us. She also taught us about counter conditioning. She gave us the tools we need to change Laney’s behavior. It is not an overnight fix. You need to be able to work with your pup until it sinks in. Laney has made much improvement in all areas! We are grateful to have found Johanna!!!read more
David McCoy
David McCoy
02:49 21 Jun 18
Four Legged Scholars provided our family with the expertise and guidance needed to train our new... puppy Drew. Trainer Johanna Teresi was the perfect person to help us. Johanna's calm demeanor, excellent knowledge and organized approach allayed any fears that we had about dog training. Drew responded well to her weekly training visits and our ongoing daily training routines. My family wholeheartedly recommends Four Legged Scholars and Johanna Teresi as fantastic and caring solutions when one considers the best method to train your dog.Dave McCoy Ravenna, Ohioread more
Karen A
Karen A
20:25 10 Jun 18
I contacted Johanna when Cooper was almost 6 months old. He had major issues with jumping on... people and constantly barking at other dogs. I was impressed with her persistence and patience when training. She probably spent as much time training me as we spent training Cooper. Classes are over for now and Cooper has met all but one of the goals that we set for him. Johanna has given me the tools and techniques to continue to train him, and I am confident that he/we will someday be able to walk in the park without his barking at every dog he meets. Taking the class has and will continue to benefit my relationship with Cooper for years to come. Thank you more
Sandy Bailey
Sandy Bailey
00:19 12 Mar 18
Johanna Teresi with Four Legged Scholars helped my husband and I so much with our Chocolate Lab,... Autumn. It has been years since we have had a puppy and forgot how much work they can be. Our major concern was how excited Autumn would get when we would get company or our grandchildren would come over. Autumn would jump on everyone. The little kids would get knocked down. My husband and I finally said, we're calling for help and called Four Legged Scholars and spoke with Johanna. Johanna was able to see what we were doing wrong and how we were causing more stress for Autumn by being stressed ourselves and within a few sessions we could see a hug change in Autumn's behavior. Johanna showed us how to react to Autumn"s jumping on our guest. We let all our guest know how to respond if Autumn tried to jump on them and they were all great about helping with the training. We providing a video to Johanna that my grandson took while having a birthday celebration with a house full of people. Johanna was able to look at our video and see that her techniques were working and she could see the improvement in Autumn the next time she came to our door. Autumn's behavior is so much better and we are not afraid for guest to come over or be embarrassed at Autumn"s behavior anymore. The leash training was also extremely helpful. Autumn was constantly biting at her leash and actually had bitten them to the point of breaking her leashes. I was amazed at how the clicker training works, but it was great.Thank you Johanna!read more
Portage Rescue
Portage Rescue
16:39 24 May 17
Johanna has been volunteering her time at the County Dog Warden for several months. I love her... positive methods. She is very patient with the dogs even when they are acting hyper. Johanna explains everything to me and takes notes so I know what she has done with each dog. I strongly recommend her progressive and positive methods. She has helped me learn so more
Jamie Flanders
Jamie Flanders
19:34 17 May 17
Johanna was a mentor for me when I was first starting out as a dog trainer. I took my very first... puppy class through her with my very first puppy. Johanna is unfailingly kind, not only to the dogs that she works with but the people as well, which is a great trait for a dog trainer to have. Many trainers can work with dogs but have very poor people skills but if you want to make a difference for the dog you have to be able to reach the person. Johanna helped shaped me into the trainer I am today and with her initial guidance my puppy turned into a great companion and more
Robyn Jones
Robyn Jones
01:26 13 May 17
Johanna Teresi with Four Legged Scholars is an incredible trainer. She constantly goes above and... beyond the expectations of her clients. I watched her train her own dog in the kindest of ways. She thinks so easily from the perspective of the dog, and is always making sure that the dogs needs are being met as well as the owners needs (both emotional and the training goals). Her classes move smoothly as she is very knowledgeable about all things positive reinforcement. She uses the clicker training and it works magically. She really knows her stuff and uses those skills fantastically. She is the only trainer I'd let help me train my more
Ruth Weisman
Ruth Weisman
20:22 12 May 17
I had the opportunity to observe Johanna's work for about two years. She is committed to ethical... training through humane practices and tuning herself and her clients to their dog's behaviors and needs. In her own home she focused on addressing even the comfort level of her dog as her family grew, making sure that he felt safe with an over excited toddler as well as successful training to lessen his barking at the door. I highly recommend Johanna for both basic dog training and specific needs. She'll tailor the training to suit your pet and your more
Angie Kieffer
Angie Kieffer
16:05 11 May 17
I met Johanna about 8 years ago, and I was a full-time parent. I had four kids and four animals.... One of my dogs needed training. I see my animals as equals, so I was looking for a positive way to connect with my dog that didn’t involve alpha rolls. One of my dogs, Karma, was very skittish.I had Johanna come to my home. She taught me that my feelings of anxiety were being projected on my dog. I learned to shift and let go of my thoughts and emotions especially around fear and anxiety. I was then able to be more present and focused with Karma. She was able to release her anxiety. Karma has gained more confidence around people, places, dogs, grooming, and other animals such as horses and cows. Johanna taught me how to allow Karma to have her own experience and to not project my own life experiences and thoughts onto my dog.Working with Johanna was a rewarding opportunity. I would recommend Johanna to anyone looking for a successful option to positive reinforcement training with their more
Susan Steinwand
Susan Steinwand
17:28 10 May 17
I volunteered with Johanna for about one year, attending and assisting in her group courses.... Having met numerous dog trainers using varying training techniques, I can say with confidence that Johanna truly cares about her clients, both human and canine, and will work together to ensure a happy, understanding relationship between pet and owner. She teaches with positive methods that help owners understand how to effectively and kindly communicate with their dog, which results in better training outcomes. One thing that makes her training unique is that she not only focuses on how to modify the dog's behavior, but also helps owners understand how their actions can affect the dog's behavior, and how changing them can help the dog to learn more quickly.I have been using Johanna's training methods with my own dog, Aspen, and in the short time we have had her, she has already learned so much and we have clear, mutual understanding of each other. Whenever I have difficulty with training a behavior, or get frustrated, I think back to Johanna's words and am able to re-approach the situation and get better results.I highly recommend Four Legged Scholars for anyone seeking help training their dog. Johanna creates an open, fun, and accepting environment where owners can learn how to have a loving relationship with their well-behaved more
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