These training levels are designed to produce a dog that is three weeks short of a title in any dogsport, or three weeks from learning the basics of any job. A dog that thinks, that eagerly goes into new situations, that performs reliably, that is comfortable in public, a good traveller, capable of giving full attention to the handler and working at any reasonable distance.

Please read the INTRODUCTION before you start working. Work these behaviours in any order, but do them all before going on to Level Two.


The dog must play the Come Game between the handler and a friend or stranger standing 20’ apart. An actual cue to come is desirable but not necessary.

DISCUSSION: If I could only ever play one game with a dog, this would be it. It’s difficult to believe that one easy game can have so many amazing benefits. The Come Game teaches the dog to go to people (aside from the millions of times a day I call my dog, if I ever lose her, I’d rather see her living a long and happy life with someone else than creamed on the road because she was afraid to approach another person). It teaches her to go to the person who’s actually calling her. It teaches her to leave treats that she knows are there. It teaches her to approach people looking down, rather than jumping up. It teaches her to sit to greet people. It teaches her anybody calling her is a great person to meet. It teaches children a useful and fun way to interact with a dog. This is a GREAT game!

For more information on working behaviours without food, you can start at Level Two Sits and Downs.

EASY BEGINNINGS: You can play this with any number of people, but for the sake of discussion, we’ll talk about two. If you’re in a room by yourselves, please play it off leash. If you’re in a roomful of other dogs and people, or out in the park, one person can hold the end of a long line attached to the dog.

Stand a little bit apart – how far apart depends on the dog. If you pretty much think he’ll come, stand maybe 15′ apart. If you pretty much think he won’t, stand 5′ apart. Both people have treats and a clicker (or, if you’re playing with a young child or stranger, you can click for both people). Person A calls the dog. Since we’re JUST starting to teach the dog to come, DO NOT say the “C” word (“Come”), or use the dog’s name. There are lots of other ways to call a dog – “Puppy, puppy, puppy!” or “Yo, doggy, doggy” – use your imagination.
While Person A is calling the dog, Person B is looking UP at the ceiling. Why? Because even an untrained dog has difficulty moving away from a person who’s staring at her.

So, Person A calls the dog. When the dog is partway to him, he clicks and drops a treat between his feet. Doesn’t matter if it bounces, you’ll get better as you go along. Dog eats treat. End of round 1.

Now Person A looks at the ceiling. I don’t see a dog, I’m not interested in a dog. Person B looks at the dog and starts calling her. The dog doesn’t want to leave Person A because Person A gave treats. LOOK AT THE CEILING. Person B keeps calling until he gets the dog to come toward him. When the dog is partway to him, he clicks and drops the treat between his feet. Dog eats treat, end of round 2.

Repeat these steps until the dog realizes that it is the OTHER person who has the next treat.

When the dog figures out the game, he’ll eat the A treat and spin to run to get the B treat. NOW he understands!



Relax, part of this game is People-Who-Have-Food-But-Aren’t-Interested-In-Dogs Zen. Keep standing and looking at the ceiling. If the dog absolutely won’t leave because she’s so interested in your treats, the other person could come over, stick a treat in her face, and do ten or twenty Rapid-Fire Reinforcements to change her mind.


This is a normal thing for young puppies, whose eyes aren’t mature enough to follow something dropping across their field of vision. And it’s pretty common for older puppies too. Try using hard treats or kibble on a hard floor so she can hear the treat fall. Or make a big arm motion – here it is, here it is, aaaand THERE it is!


We’ve played this game with dogs who had years of training NOT to come behind them. One dog was so suspicious of the entire event we started by making a noise to get him to look at a person, then tossing the treat right at his feet. After several minutes of that, he was able to take a step toward a person to pick up a treat, then two steps, and within fifteen minutes he, too, was racing joyfully back and forth.


The time to add a cue is when you’re getting the behaviour you want ON A VOLUNTEER BASIS. What this means is that you can say anything you want to get the dog to come to you, but do NOT say the “real” words you want to use for the rest of his life. For myself, I want the dog’s name and “Come” to be her “real” come cues, so I don’t use those when I’m teaching her this game.
Sooner or later, the dog will figure out what’s going on, and will start anticipating that, after one treat, the other person will call her. Then she starts grabbing one treat and running for the next one. NOW she’s volunteering the behaviour you want, NOW you can start telling her what the real words are. So, as she’s turning to come to the next treat, call out “Stitch!” or “Come!” or whatever word you want to use.

There’s a real benefit here for kids. Dogs usually know that kids are pushovers, while mom and dad are involved in housetraining and other unfortunate events, so usually a dog will start volunteering to come to a child before the parents get the volunteer behaviour. At that point, someone can say to the kid “Wow, she must like you best! You’re the very first person who can say ‘Come’ to her!”

When you say your cue as she’s turning to volunteer a come, you aren’t telling her what to do. She’s already doing it. You’re only telling her what it’s called. “Oh, by the way, that thing you’re doing? We’re going to call it ‘Come’, OK?”

Play this game every day for a week, then sometime when she’s not thinking about coming toward you, ask her to come. If she comes, EE HAH! If she doesn’t, that’s OK. Play the game for another week. And of course if you play it periodically with her throughout her life, she’ll ALWAYS have a reason to come when you call.


It’s a game! Make better rules! Move further apart (think what great exercise a pup can get playing the Come Game long before she’s able to walk down the street with a loose leash!). Go up and down stairs. Hide in different rooms. Inside the house and outside the house. Play with more people. Play with total strangers. Play with young people and old people and people wearing hats and nuns in habits and people with turbans and people in uniforms. Play by yourself by dropping one treat between your feet and tossing another way over THERE.

You can also change what happens when the dog arrives at your feet. If she comes all the way and you haven’t clicked or dropped the treat yet, what’s going to happen next? She’s right in front of you, looking down. No treat. She’ll probably look UP next, to see if you died, or forgot to click. Nose goes UP, tail goes DOWN, bingo, you have a sit. Or you could play so you have to touch her collar before the click happens. Or put her collar on and off.


The dog must Down from a Sit or Stand with no more than two cues – hand and voice, voice and body language, two voice cues, etc. It is not necessary for the dog to stay in the Down position, simply to lie down.


Not quite as handy a cue perhaps as Sit, but close to it, and the beginning of putting the dog over on her side for grooming and nail cutting. Not to mention that it’s a major part of Go To Mat, a behaviour which would probably keep half the year’s total of dogs out of the Humane Society! Down is the easiest position cue for dogs to understand, so the easiest one to ask a puppy for when you just need her off your head and shoulders for a moment.


This is an ideal behaviour to capture. Even the most active dog lies down a billion times a day. If you’re desperate to have the dog lie down (please, God, just let the kerflushinner puppy lie down for ONE MINUTE!), click when she does and toss a treat between her paws so she can eat it without having to get up. Continue to click and toss every few seconds while she’s still lying down. If you’re more interested in teaching the dog to lie down on cue (the two aren’t mutually exclusive, you can start with one and switch to the other later on), click when she lies down and toss the treat slightly off to one side so she has to get up to get it. This puts her in a perfect position to offer you another down to get another treat.

You can also lure a Down, but that’s easier to do when she already knows how to Sit. From a Sit, hold a treat in your hand, put it right up to her nose so she can nibble it a bit, then very slowly move it down and then forward. If she rises out of the Sit, you moved your treat too far forward and not enough down. You’re aiming for a spot on the floor slightly in front of her front paws. For more information on how-to lure, see the Level One Sit.


WHEN I CLICK, SHE GETS UP AND COMES OVER TO SEE IF SHE CAN GET ANOTHER TREAT: Sure, that’s reasonable. Just ignore her. If you’re having trouble ignoring her, train Zen for a couple of days before you go back to Down. Pretty soon she’ll get bored with hanging around waiting for you to drop a treat. She’ll wander off, and sooner or later she’ll lie down again. Click and toss another treat.

I WANT A FOLD-BACK DOWN AND SHE’S JUST FLOPPING DOWN: If she’s a puppy, relax and click what she’s offering you. Put a cue on the flop down such as Park It. When she’s got some control of her legs, you can teach her the fold-back Down by luring her nose back between her front legs toward her back feet, then put your Down cue on that behaviour. Or you might find that the down she offers you is the one you wanted all along.

ADDING A CUE: When the dog is offering you the down that you want, clearly knowing that the offering will result in a click, you can begin to tell her the name of the behaviour. Give your cue while she’s giving you the behaviour. When you’ve paired the behaviour and the word a hundred times, try asking her for the behaviour when she’s not thinking of it. If you get it, click and treat. If you don’t, that’s OK, pair it another hundred times and try again.

CONTINUING EDUCATION: Play with the behaviour. Teach it from the beginning in different rooms, indoors and outdoors. Teach it in your car, on carpet and hard floors. Teach it with you standing, sitting, and lying down.


Handler lists, in writing, five things s/he hopes to accomplish by working the Levels.

DISCUSSION: Well, I can’t help you with your own hopes or plans, but I can tell you that the Levels were designed to fill in the gaps in training – things we forget to teach while we’re going to class, running around, and trying to keep the puppy from eating our socks. And to organize our training. Humans are natural lumpers. We think “This dog needs to learn a 60′ retrieve over a kangaroo” and we don’t stop to think if the dog has ever MET a kangaroo, or if the dog knows anything at all about retrieving. As you follow one behaviour through all the Levels, I’m hoping it will help you learn to split behaviours into smaller pieces. Now it’s your turn.


The dog must Sit from standing position on one cue only (may be a voice OR a hand cue, but not both, and no extra body language from the handler). The handler may use the dog’s name to get her attention before starting.

DISCUSSION: Sit is the standard preventive incompatible behaviour – dog can’t jump on you if he’s sitting. Can’t get on the couch if he’s sitting on the floor. Can’t leap on visitors if he’s sitting away from them. A behaviour necessary to virtually every dogsport, and a useful default behaviour When in doubt, sister, Sit!

EASY BEGINNINGS: Kids love to teach this behaviour. It’s a great one to lure. With a soft, nibble-able treat in your hand, put your hand right on the dog’s nose. Give her a chance to take a little nibble of the treat, then slowly start moving it up and back. Be sure that her nose is coming UP – nose goes UP, butt goes DOWN. As soon as the butt hits the ground, click and treat.

Be careful with luring – lure with the treat maybe five times, then make the same gesture with your empty hand. If the dog follows your hand and sits, click and treat. If she doesn’t, lure with the treat maybe twice more, and try it without again. You’re trying to get rid of the treat in your hand as quickly as possible.


SHE’S JUMPING UP TO GET THE TREAT INSTEAD OF PUTTING HER BUTT ON THE GROUND – That’s because you’re holding the treat too high. You WANT the dog to follow the treat, so if you hold the treat high over her head, she’s going to jump to reach it. Put the treat right down where she can nibble it at her regular nose-height, then SLOWLY move it up and back. Note that the treat never leaves her nose as her nose follows it up and back..

SHE DOESN’T SIT WHEN I LURE HER BACK, SHE JUST BACKS UP – Hmmm, a very athletic dog! Try starting in a corner where she can’t back up!

SHE ONLY CROUCHES HER BACK LEGS, THEN SHE GIVES UP AND STANDS UP AGAIN – OK, for this dog, luring isn’t going to work by itself. You’re going to have to shape the behaviour a bit. Click the crouch ten times, then wait for a TINY bit more crouch than she gave you before. She’s standing back up, as you say, because she tried what you wanted and, getting nothing for her effort, she gave up. You need to tell her that she IS on the right track, you WILL reward her for bending her back legs. Once she’s secure on that point, you can affort to wait for a slightly bigger effort from her without her quitting.

ADDING A CUE: The nice thing about luring a behaviour is that it automatically builds in a hand signal. After a couple of days’ practise, a short sample of the same gesture which produced the Sit in the first place will tell her you want her to Sit.

If you want a voice cue for the Sit as well, try to separate it from the gesture. Click the Sit often enough that she begins offering it to you without waiting for your gesture. When she’s offering it, you can tell her what it’s called – almost as if you’re saying “Oh, by the way, that thing you’re doing there? That’s called ‘Sit'” Pair the word with her sitting a hundred times, then ask for the behaviour when she’s not thinking of it. If she responds correctly, click and treat. If she doesn’t, never mind, pair it another hundred times and then try again.

CONTINUING EDUCATION: Where can she Sit? Can she Sit on the floor? On a carpet? On a hard floor? On a stool? On a grooming table? On the floor of your car? On top of her crate? Under a table? Before you open the door to the yard? Before you give her her dinner? Before she gets petted?


The dog must deliberately Touch the handler’s hand with her nose on only one voice cue. The hand in position is, naturally, a second, allowable cue.

DISCUSSION: We taught the dog to stay away from your hand (Zen). Now we’re going to teach her the opposite to touch your hand. There are an infinite number of things you can get a dog to do if he’ll follow your hand, including heeling, getting onto the scale at the vet’s, spinning, and jumping. It’s also the first step in retrieving. When I meet a new dog that’s jumping all over me, wrestling me for treats, giggling and bumping and trying to knock me down, I teach her Zen first. Then he’s a little more balanced and we can start having a conversation. On the other hand, when I meet a new dog that is afraid of me, or that doesn’t feel confident enough to offer me much, the first thing I teach is Touch. It’s usually a very easy behavior for a beginner dog to learn, quick for the trainer to explain, and gives everyone a little more confidence. Also, if I have a dog that’s afraid of men, for example, I can make men look a lot less scary by magically changing them from monsters into objects to be Touched. Once the dog can manipulate something to get a treat, it’s hard to be afraid of it any more.

EASY BEGINNINGS: The first cue for hand Zen is a closed fist signaling “Stay away from this hand!” Since you now want the dog to approach and touch your hand, be very careful that you aren’t showing her your fist. Put your fingertips and thumb together as if you’re holding a treat. Hold this imaginary treat out so the dog can sniff it. When he reaches forward to sniff, be ready, and click when her nose touches your fingertips. Give her the treat from your other hand, or drop it on the floor. Repeat. That’s all there is to it!


HE ISN’T INTERESTED IN MY HAND! Of course, if you’ve been working the Zen lesson, or if for any other reason he doesn’t seem inclined to sniff your fingers, you’ll have to help her out a little until he gets the idea. Most dogs will sniff your fingertips if you pretend to eat your invisible treat and then offer it to them (Mmmm, wow, this is good! Want some?). If she won’t fall for that, try a couple of rounds (10 treats per round) of Rapid Fire Reinforcement shovel the treats in her mouth one treat at a time as fast as you can – and then try holding your invisible treat out again. If she still won’t fall for it, maybe you’ll have to actually hold a treat in your fingertips to lure her to touch, click when she touches, and hand the lure treat to her. I’ve never had to smear my hands with peanut butter, but that’s another possibility. Do NOT reach out and touch her nose. Let her touch you. Her nose is sensitive. If you’re going to bop her, she’s not going to bop you.

SHE WAS DOING GREAT BUT THEN SHE LOST INTEREST. Look at your three problem-solving questions.

What’s your Criteria? Simple she touches your hand with her nose. You can’t ask her to cross rivers or even to cross the room. Hold your hand right in front of her nose so learning is easy for her and you can get as many repetitions in as short a time as possible. If you’re waiting for her to whistle a tune or tapdance before you click, stop it. Click her for touching your hand with her nose.

How’s your Rate of Reinforcement? If you weren’t getting the behavior often enough, you weren’t clicking often enough. If nothing’s happening, she’s going to wander off. Lure her if you have to. Get rid of distractions. Stop training altogether until just before her next meal when she’s hungry and maybe more interested in how to get your treats.

Finally, how’s your Timing? If your click is half a second late, you’ve been clicking the dog for NOT touching your hand, because she DID touch you, then pulled away, and THEN got clicked. Learn from this. If the click isn’t marking the exact behavior you want, what IS it marking? Better find out, because that’s what you’re going to end up with!

SHE’S NOT TOUCHING, SHE’S BITING! If she’s over-enthusiastic about getting the treat from you, present your palm instead of your fingertips. That way she doesn’t have anything to grab. Drop the treat on the floor instead of handing it to her. If she seems to think she’s supposed to put her mouth ON your hand instead of just touching it, wow, congratulations! She’s halfway to retrieving! That doesn’t solve the problem of getting her to touch your hand though. Again, present her with your palm so it’s tougher for her to get it in her mouth. Click before she actually gets to your hand, until she stops putting so much effort into the grab. Forget about your hand and get her to touch something bigger, like a book or a plate, that she can’t put in her mouth. Or just forget about the whole thing and jump directly to teaching the Retrieve. You can always go back and teach the Touch later!

ADDING A CUE: Common cues for Touch are “Touch”, “Bump”, or “Bop It”. Later you’ll be teaching her to touch things with her paw. When you’re looking for a nose-touch cue, remember that you’ll need a different paw-touch cue, so save something like “Punch” for later. When she’s reliably bopping your hand with her nose, tell her your cue word just as she’s making contact.

CONTINUING EDUCATION: When you have 10 Times Right on your nose-bopping, start moving your hand around. Put it below her nose so she has to stoop a little to reach it. Put it above her nose so she has to reach a bit. Put it left and right. Think about limbering up her neck while you’re figuring out where to put your hand next. Put your hand in front of her nose when she’s standing up. When she can handle that, put it WAY out in front of her so she has to take a step or two to reach it. Higher, farther, faster…


The dog must stay away from a treat in the handler’s hand for 5 seconds. There can be only one voice cue, which will be given before the hand is presented.

DISCUSSION: “Zen”, as we use the word in dog training, is so important as to be virtually the foundation of civilization. It means “self-control”. An untrained dog is a dog with no self-control. She wants food; she eats food, whether that food is on the floor, on the counter, or in a toddler’s hand. She wants to greet someone, she greets them, whether she has to pull her handler over to them with a tight leash or not, whether that person wants to be greeted or not, whether that person is on the other side of a busy street or not. An untrained handler tries to control the dog – to keep her off the counter and away from the toddler, to hold her back with the leash, to hold her down off people, and to physically keep her out of the street.

A trained dog understands that the way to get what she wants is to control herself, and a trained handler knows that true control of an animal must come from the animal herself, not from the handler.

The trained dog sees a person with food, and sits, because polite dogs get treats. She greets people with all four feet on the floor because standing dogs get petted. She makes sure the leash stays loose because tight leashes NEVER go in the direction a dog wants them to go. She comes when she’s called because what the handler has for her is always better than what she could find by herself.

What does this have to do with “Zen”? Simply that the way to get food out of the handler’s hand is to stay away from the hand. The more the dog wants the food, the harder she has to pretend that she doesn’t want it.

The great thing about doggy Zen is that once the dog has learned enough of it, she starts to apply the principles of self-control to her entire life. She practices “leash Zen” by keeping the leash loose, “floor Zen” by ignoring bait on the floor in the show ring, and “table Zen” by sitting and “wishing” food off the table instead of jumping up to help herself.

EASY BEGINNINGS: Appropriately, the easiest way to teach Zen to a dog is to do very little. Show the dog a treat, then fold the treat into your hand so it’s totally protected. There must be no part of the treat available to a questing tongue or prying teeth. Put your hand down in front of her at mouth height. Note that your hand protecting the treat is a fist. This fist will be the dog’s first CUE. The fist cue says “Keep away from my hand.” Later you can change the cue if you want to, add a word that means the same thing, or change your hand appearance and position, but for now, your hand will always be in a fist when you’re talking to the dog about hand Zen.

Trying to protect the treat by holding it up above the dog’s head, or jerking it out of her reach as she approaches it, are common mistakes. Holding it up high will only encourage her to jump up to get it, and jerking it away from her will force her to grab at it to try to get it away from you. You’re already protecting it by holding it in your closed fist. Let Zen do its work. Let the dog figure out how to get that treat out of your quiet hand.

Pawing doesn’t work. Mouthing doesn’t work. Licking and gentle gnawing don’t work. If the dog spends a long time working on your hand, trying to get that treat, great! Think of all that stamina and enthusiasm she’s using to get what she wants! Once you’ve explained what’s going to work, she’ll use all that for you! If she sniffs briefly at your hand and then starts to lose interest, great! Your explanation will be short and easy!

So how DOES she get that treat out of your hand? She moves her nose away from your hand! Yep, that’s all she has to do, just get tired of fussing with your hand and start to move away. What if she’s actually leaving? What if she doesn’t lick it at all? What if she moved away by accident? Who cares? We don’t! There’s only one question – did she move her nose away from your hand? If she did, click and open your hand so the treat drops to the floor.

That’s right, drop the treat on the floor. Don’t just hand it to her. You can teach her Zen by handing her the treat, but the explanation is usually shorter and clearer when you drop it on the floor. “Don’t touch my hand, now eat from my hand” can get a little confusing.

That’s all there is to Zen. Keep the treat safe from her until she moves away from your hand, click as she moves away, and drop the treat. Watch for the magic moment when she realizes how to make you drop the next treat.


EEK, SHE’S HURTING ME! If the dog is actually hurting you with her mouth or her paws, you have several options. You could wear gloves or protect the treat under a plastic cup instead of holding it in your naked hand. You could drop it on the floor between your two (well-shod) feet and let your shoes protect it. You could pull your hand away from her mouth or paw, hold it away from her for a moment (tucked in your armpit, perhaps), then offer it to her again when she has four paws on the floor. If you’re going to try this one, though, remember to pull the treat far away from her, not just far enough away to make her grab at it. If she seems a reasonable sort who is just a little over enthusiastic in her attempts to get the treat from you, you might shout OUCH! and use your folded-up hand to bop her lightly on the nose to discourage her excess enthusiasm.

Throughout the dog’s training, your most important tool will be your imagination. Define your problem (I need to keep her from hurting my hand while I teach her Zen). Then figure out how you’re going to accomplish what you need. Feel free to come up with truly strange and wonderful ideas when you’re problem solving, because strange and unusual will open your mind to real possibilities.

WHEN I DROP THE TREAT, SHE CAN’T FIND IT! If the dog doesn’t know the treat left your hand after the click, you’re going to have to give her some clues until she starts to notice food falling. Use a dramatic hand motion as you THROW the treat down, rather than just politely opening your hand so it can fall to the floor. Work on a tile or linoleum floor with dry kibble or other hard treats so she can hear them fall. Use bigger treats so they’re easier to find. Use your imagination! This is a common development for puppies and dogs with little experience in finding treats on the floor.

SHE BOPS MY HAND AND THEN BACKS OFF! This is a neat little chain many dogs discover – advanced work already, the clever little guys! Many dogs figure out that the necessary behaviour is a) bop the hand, b) back away from the hand, c) get the click and treat. Unfortunately, we didn’t mean to teach this chain. We only wanted her to learn to stay away from the hand to get the click and treat, without that initial bump. If you notice that she has to touch your hand before she moves away from it, you could pull your hand away as she’s trying to touch it, then click as she draws back when she misses. Or you could click as she’s moving toward your hand, before she actually hits it. This small misunderstanding shows us a lot about training. It shows how amazing the dog is, and how fast clicker training can be. It shows us the dog learning a chain made up of several different behaviors. It shows how easy it is to teach things you don’t want the dog to learn if you’re not paying attention. And it shows how easy it is to get things back on track once you notice the mistake.

ADDING A CUE: Decide what word comes easily to you when you’re thinking about keeping the dog away from something. Common cues are “Off” and “Out”. “No” can be used, but most people have a very bad habit of bellowing “No!” at the dog when she’s shaking after a bath, when she’s chasing cats, when she’s barking at the sheep on TV, and when she’s drooling on the rug. What we’re looking for in a cue is clear information about what the dog should be doing.

CONTINUING EDUCATION: I particularly enjoy teaching Zen to very large adult dogs with owners who don’t think the dog is smart enough to learn her own name. Within a couple of minutes, this “crazy stupid” dog can be sitting three feet back from a coffee table, staring intently at a delicious piece of liver resting all alone on the table. Once the owner sees that the fault lies in the explanations and not in the dog, we can start forging a real relationship.

When the dog is reliably staying away from your hand to make you click, you’ll notice that her “staying away” is getting harder, faster, longer. Pick one response, and shape it into something better. If you choose to work on distance, for instance, figure out how far she usually moves away from your hand (say, 6”). Click 6” and any response that moves her nose further from your hand than that. Don’t click any nose that is closer than 6”. In a little while, you’ll see that her usual distance has increased to 7”, so you start clicking 7” and beyond, and nothing closer.

Do the same for time. A rule I like to keep in my mind is “Ten times right, one time wrong”. If you click her for being successful at 3 seconds ten times in a row, you can afford to wait for 4 seconds one time. If she isn’t successful, well, you tried it and it didn’t work. Click her another 10 times at 3 seconds, then try for 4 seconds again. If it doesn’t work, go for another 10 at 3 seconds. If it DOES work, continue clicking for 4 seconds until you get your 10 times right. When you have 10 times right in a row at 4 seconds, try waiting for 5 seconds.

Ooh, now the TA DA part. When you’ve got some decent time and some decent distance, find a convenient coffee table. Show the treat to the dog, put the treat on the coffee table, and cover it with your hand. If you think this is going to be easy, think again. Staying away from your hand is NOT the same thing as staying away from the coffee table. Basically, you’ll be explaining Zen again right from the beginning. Maybe it’ll be so fast your head will spin. Maybe she’ll go right back to scratch and be trying to dig the treat out from under your hand. Both are normal.

So, treat on table, covered by your hand. Dog can’t get it by normal means. Sooner or later, by accident or deliberately, her nose moves away from your hand on the table. Click and flick the treat onto the floor. Yes, back on the floor again. You certainly don’t want to click and then let her eat the treat off the coffee table!
When she’s made the connection (oh, TABLE Zen! Now I get it!), live dangerously. Move your hand away from the treat. Of course, when you move your hand off it, she’s going to grab for it, so be ready to cover it again. Then, as she moves away (Duh! Don’t let mom sucker you into grabbing for it!), move your hand away again. Click and flick it off the table when she’s staying away from it. Build your time and distance until you can safely lean back away from the treat, leaving it totally available on the coffee table – except for the dog’s self-control. Wow, look what you guys just learned! When you can lean back and leave the treat alone, with the dog holding back waiting for you to click and flick it off the table, add your cue (Off, or Out, or whatever you decided on) as you’re placing the treat on the table. Use a lovely, quiet, trusting voice because that’s how you’re going to be speaking to your dog. Besides, it makes the control so much more impressive when you simply asked for it rather than bellowing and threatening!

That’s all there is to Level One. Good luck, and welcome to the Training Levels! Click HERE for Level Two.