Guest Author – Training Basics

Thank you to our group member Joanne Halliwell for her contribution to our website.  Enjoy!


By Joanne Halliwell (Cert IV Animal Care Services, Cert IV Training & Assessment)

For training to be successful, we need to:

  • Set our dogs up to succeed – be trainers, rather than reactors. 
  • Recognise and relieve stress in our dogs – a stressed dog can’t learn anything except to be more anxious about the situation and lose faith in us. 

A stressed dog will show some or all of these signs:

  • Vocalization (growling, frantic barking or whining)
  • Refusal to accept food
  • Excessive or frantic activity level
  • Fight reaction
  • Flight reaction
  • Yawning
  • Licking of lips
  • Tense body
  • Dilated pupils
  • White rim on eyes
  • Drooling/salivating
  • Excessive panting
  • Freeze in position

Ways to relieve stress in your dog:

    • Bug out! – move away from the stressor.
    • Start a desensitisation program to help your dog get used to things he doesn’t like or is scared of.
    • Protect your dog from situations he is not ready to cope with.
  • Distract your dog and keep his mind working so that he doesn’t focus on the stressor (the scary thing). 
  • Use rewards that our dog will work for – be the controller of what the dog wants. 

Rewards that work:

A reward is only a reward if your dog wants it, not because you say it is. If your dog is not willing to work for what you are offering, then you need to think about why:

  • Is he already getting a bowl of food every day for nothing?  
  • Does he not really like being patted? (Most dogs do not like being manhandled, let alone find it rewarding!)
  • Is he too stressed in this situation? (Too many other dogs, thirsty, needs to toilet, confused…)
  • Train in an area with minimal distractions at first and gradually increase the level of difficulty to give our dogs a chance to become ‘fluent’ with their behaviours before we challenge them. 
  • Never use punishment – it inhibits learning, causes stress and avoidance behaviours, jeopardises our dog’s trust in us. 
  • When most of your interactions with your dog involve punishment, you usually end up with a dog that is wary of you and reluctant to come when called.


This is probably the most useful training site you will find. There are some great free downloads, in particular the booklet “After you get your puppy”, which you will find in the free downloads section, along with stacks of great training articles.


From today's walk at Suncoast Park, Blackmans Bay. Photo curtesy of Smeegle Weegle's Mum.

From today’s walk at Suncoast Park, Blackmans Bay. Photo curtesy of Smeegle Weegle’s Mum.


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