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Overview of Behavior Modification

From Andrew D. Luper's Training Manual

Puppies, like children, are extremely cute and cuddly. Unfortunately, as with children, they are not born housebroken or toilet trained. To successfully accomplish housebreaking a puppy, you must first have an understanding of what their natural instincts are as well as knowing how to communicate with the dog on its own level, along with developing an attitude and desire to try to see things from the dogs point of view. Many thousands of years ago dogs descended from wolf like creatures. Man realized the role that dogs could play as companions as well as assistant hunters and work mates. It was also discovered through selective breeding that the vast array of the different breeds, sizes and types of dogs that we see today could be bred to serve even more specific functions.

Inherently, dogs are pack animals and every pack has a leader (what is called the ALPHA dog). When a puppy is separated from his litter (ideally at 6 - 8 weeks of age) and brought into its new home it should perceive you as its new pack leader and your home as its new den. Prior to coming to your home the dogs learning experience in the litter was with its mother and is based upon a variety of different tonalities from its mother (the bitch). This is what we refer to as "para-language". Para-language is how the dog hears the words you say. The tone is much more important than the words you are saying. Essentially, there are three tones of voice to be used. Not only for housebreaking but also for behavioral problems and teaching the dog to obey basic commands.

The three tones of voice we need to utilize include the command tone, praise tone and corrective tone.

The Command Tone is an affirmative tone; you are telling the dog to do something and expecting him to do it rather than asking him to respond (i.e., Rover, come; Rover, heal; Rover, sit - or down, or stay).

The Praise Tone is given much as you would use to encourage a youngster - it's a happy tone (i.e., What a good boy; good sit; good come).

The Corrective Tone is used to say "NO". Its sharp and abrupt similar to a growl the puppies bitch might emit should the pup (in the litter situation) exhibit socially unacceptable behavior.

As previously stated, the overall effect of teaching your dog basic obedience commands, in terms of establishing the proper role of leadership with the dog and increasing the dogs level of self confidence, really does wonders in terms of getting at the motivation behind the problem. Additionally, it enables you to control and communicate with the dog in all types of situations. The proper approach to obedience training is also the perfect avenue for the dog to get the attention and affection that all dogs crave. Please remember dogs are unlike any other animal on earth. They are extremely social: to the point that social interaction, praise and affection is actually the most important thing to them (the survival instinct set aside).

Keep in mind that whatever you are teaching the dog essentially contains two sides of a coin (i.e., you not only have to teach the dog to relieve himself outside but you need teach him to control himself inside).

Praise is what teaches a dog what to do. Corrections teach the dog what not to do. What is meant by correction is simply "negative stimuli". In other words, the type of things the dog wants to avoid. There is generally no need for physical punishment or discipline with a young pup. A correction only need be firm enough that the dog wants to avoid it or that it distracts the dog from the behavior.

In my career, often times I am called as a last resort. I hear the owner of a new pup or an older dog calling in frustration saying, " what can I do? I've tried everything possible to housebreaking (of whatever the problem is) this dog, but to no avail!". Yes, everything possible that they're aware of! Perhaps a friend has told them to "rub his nose in it", "hit the dog with a newspaper", "make a sound with the newspaper against your hand". Unfortunately, these techniques are not only humiliating to the dog but also distract from the dogs relationship with the owner. This can actually compound the problem. Skepticism is the byword of people calling and looking for the "secret" to accomplish a quick and positive solution.

To illustrate the primary concepts of training I like to use an analogy to make people realize that the proper principles of behavioral modification, when consistently applied, are undoubtedly effective. Keeping in mind that a dog does not have the ability to use logic and to reason (like people) you will realize the key difference between dog and man. Thus, it should take longer to and be more difficult to train a human than a canine...and, it does. Therefore, it takes longer to potty train a child than to housetrain a dog.

Let me explain how "even you", in the matter of minutes, can be convinced away from a behavior that you are actually highly motivated towards. Lets say, for example, I placed a beautiful seven course meal on the table. Lets also say, for the sake of argument, that you haven't eaten for a couple of days and you are very hungry, very motivated. But, every time you approach the table you receive an electric shock powerful enough to knock you to the ground. My question: how many times would you have to approach the table before you decide it is not worth it? Take a moment - think about it! Usual answers range from one time to several; occasionally, someone says they would try forever! But, if you examine the situation more closely, we would use logic and reason. There are four sides to the table, are there wires to disconnect, is there another way to get the food...but, how many times would you subject yourself to the negative stimulus? Chances are not many!

If I had to define dog training or behavior modification to a single sentence I would say it is a combination of firmness and consistency in correction in conjunction with praise at the proper time. The key words in this sentence are firmness, consistency and timing.

Thinking back on the scenario with the food I utilized just this method. I told you every time you approach the table you experienced a shock. This illustrates the importance of consistency. In other words, if you had been successful in eating the meal and then experienced the shock, chances are it would have taken a while for you to make the association between the two (if you ever figured it out).

To the dog, more than a couple of minutes may as well be an hour - its as good as a year ago - or more! In other words (for example), catching the dog before he is successful in relieving himself is one of the key ingredients. It is a lot more difficult to teach him he cannot be successful after he has already been successful. I also told you that every time you approached the table and you experienced this negative stimulus that you would want to avoid it. If the negative stimulus were only a tingling sensation it would obviously not be enough to discourage you from trying to eat the meal. This illustrates the importance of firmness.

So, the three main ingredients involved in what is called aversive conditioning (teaching the dog not to do something) are firmness, consistency and timing.

Timing also applies to praising the dog and using positive reinforcement in terms of teaching the dog (for example) where to relieve himself. For example, getting a pat on the back and $100. for snacking elsewhere would be a good inducement. The behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. With the young puppy, for example, housetraining can easily be accomplished simply by utilizing positive reinforcement coupled with awareness of your dogs schedule.

These same principles may be applied to whatever you want to teach the dog, including basic commands. Utilizing a sequence I have developed for my programs called "CDP" teaches the dog in proper order. CDP stands for Command, Demonstration and Praise. Introducing, in the positive way, the behavior you want and reinforcing even the slightest movement towards it with praise truly works. Only after the dog knows and understands what you want should a sequence of CDP be applied. Whenever a dog is corrected to disobeying a command that he knows you should always follow the correction with praise.


   1. Consistency pays. Always use the same words for the same ideas. For example: if you are working on "down", don't say, "lie down, Prince" one time and "down boy" the next. Keep the commands short. Most of all make them exactly the same, every time. The same goes for hand signals.

   2. Introduce commands slowly and only after the dog has performed the behavior you want spontaneously. You wait, he sits. You say "good boy, prince, good sit." In this way the dog learns to associate the word with the action and with pleasure. The only real winning combination to teach anybody to do anything.

   3. Make training sessions pleasurable for the both of you. Play with the dog a few minutes before you start any type of work. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be serious about training, you should. Be pleasant, friendly, and animated. The only taboo is laughing at the dog during training. You will either humiliate him or turn him into a clown.

   4. Keep sessions short (especially at first). Start with ten minute sessions and work up to twenty. This is really for your sake. Don't lose your temper and spoil all the effort the both of you have put in.

   5. Patience, patience, patience. Not that the dog is a slow learner, far from it, but owners are sometimes unreasonable in their expectations. If your attitude is "Let's see what happens today," rather than "Today Prince, you will learn to sit," you'll have better and faster results. If you are relaxed and patient you will be rewarded in the short run by a more pleasant training session and have a better trained dog in the long run.

   6. End the session before either of you tire of it. If you feel yourself getting short tempered ,STOP. Even if you've been at it only a few minutes.

   7. Use praise as reward, not food. Your dog will perform for food only if he's purposely starved, which will hardly make him look forward to the sessions. Prince also needs to learn to work for your love and affection. Dogs will do more for love than they ever will for food. (With few exceptions).

   8. Be firm, both with the dog and with yourself. If you pay attention to what your doing, praising and rewarding the exact behavior that you want, the dog will learn easily and correctly after a few repetitions. If you are inattentive or lax, you'll only confuse your dog and make your job harder. Be sure you see exactly what you want (or movement towards it) before you give praise. Between sessions reward desired behavior whenever you see it, but don't be fanatical. If the dog is led to expect praise every single time he performs, he'll be disappointed and confused on the inevitable occasion you forget. Rewarding behavior most of the time works better than all of the time in the end result.

   9. Never punish. What you must do is arrange for unpleasant consequences to befall the dog if he misbehaves. This is entirely different from punishment and much better for the purpose of training. This is what we call "correction". The use of a neutral intervening stimulus can also be effective.

  10. Use the dog's own name as part of moving commands. Say "Prince, come" or "Prince, heel." There is no sound more pleasant for the dog as the sound of its own name.

  11. When you first start training, do it in the same place every day and make sure there aren't any distractions. This is one reason why a group class isn't a good place for real training (especially for beginners). After your dog has learned his lessons you can work him in other surroundings, slowly adding distractions, so he gets used to all situations.

  12. Never grab at the dog or run after him. At first, use only coaxing and praise. Later work the dog on a leash with a training collar. If you chase after or hit him you can make your dog hand shy and almost impossible to handle.

  13. Vary your tones with the appropriate words. Praise, of course, is given in warm friendly tones. It doesn't matter what you say as long as you say the same thing every time. When a dog is knew to an experience, cajole him and coax him along. Later, when he can be expected to understand, use the command tone of voice. The command tone of voice means that you expect obedience, you demand it. Your dog is better than you are at recognizing changing tones of voice, so beware not just of what you say, but how you say it. Avoid that irritable crabby voice that sounds like whining. If that voice appears it's time to quite.

  14. Be sure your dog is in the same happy mental state of mind when you finish a session as when you started, The simplest way to do this is to be sure YOUR frame of mind is good. If you are still "up" and full of enthusiasm your dog will be to.

  15. Remember that commanding and the sharp corrections that go with it, come only after the dog has learned to associate certain behaviors with praise and reward. In the beginning, you must wait for events to occur at random, (and learn to induce them) and then reward the ones you want to encourage and correct the ones you are trying to discourage. Praise is what teaches dogs what to do, corrections are what teach the dog what not to do and they are equally important.

  16. When we are first teaching a new command or behavior to a dog, the sequence should be: command, demonstration and praise. Once the dog has learned a command or exercise the sequence becomes: command, correction, and praise. There is no use in correcting the dog for a behavior that he does not associate it to or if he does not understand what the correction is for.


   1. Never, Never hit your dog.

   2. When heeling your dog, never stop for your dog. Walk in squares, not in circles. Watch the dog. Be vocal at the right time.

   3. Always be in the position to correct the dog before any command is given.

   4. Be aware of para-language. ( A conflict between your body language and the verbal command given).

   5. All corrections must be immediately followed by praise.

   6. Never repeat a command.

   7. How quickly you correct the dog for not responding is precisely what teaches the dog how quickly to respond.

   8. Use the dogs name, to get his attention, before all commands, with the exception of the word "NO".

   9. The correction must be firm enough for the dog to want to work to avoid it.

  10. Regarding certain behavioral problems; in the beginning, confine when you can't observe the dog; observe the dog when you can't confine it.

  11. Regarding advanced obedience work (off-lead) remember: strive for perfection through repetition on leash, and then gradually transition to off-leash.

  12. Regarding the "stay" command; increase the time first (gradually) before increasing the distance.

  13. Never leave a training collar (or choke type) on your dog while unattended.


Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).