The Trendsetter in Canine Performance Video!™


Training Through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn has won an AVA Digital Awards Platinum Award!

Canine Training Systems Wins a 2015 Communicator Award of Distinction for Training Through Pictures- Learning to Learn with Dave KroyerTraining Through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn has won a 2015 AVA Digital Awards Platinum Award!  It's a beautiful production, many of you have told us too.  We're proud of it and as more titles near release, it's good news for us to receive word of it's 7th production award.  The highest award they offer!

From the AVA Digital Awards website-

"The Ava Awards recognizes outstanding work by creative professionals involved in the concept, writing, direction, shooting, and editing of audio-visual materials and programs. Entrants include video and film production companies, web developers, advertising agencies, PR firms, corporate and government communications departments, producers, directors, editors and shooters. Judges are industry professionals who look for companies and individuals whose talent exceeds a high standard of excellence and whose work serves as a benchmark for the industry. There were 2500 entries from throughout the United States and 17 other countries in the 2015 AVA Digital Awards Competition."

Very nice.

That’s 7 Awards which nearly matches the 8 won by Training Substance Detector Dogs with Randy Hare- Detection 1

New titles are coming! As always, we appreciate your business and thanks for your feedback.

To learn more about the AVA Digital Awards, visit


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The Introduction of Toy Interaction in the Working Dog with Dave Kroyer: Part 3

Phone Interview with CTS President, Doug Calhoun, and Dave Kroyer.

In this third part of a multi-session series on toy interaction, we discussed common problems handlers have, how to schedule prey and food sessions and how to end sessions.  Part 1 and 2 can be read here and here.

Q: We’ve discussed starting prey interaction with a tug and establishing rules and contracts for interaction, what problems do you see with handlers?

A: These are a lot of things I see people bypass with their dog, they’re so busy working on things like sit and heel position and all these other things but one day they are going to have to use the toy and if these formal things aren’t put in place they are going to run into a road block when that prey item is introduced.  

One of the main problems though is not dedicating enough time to formal sessions or trials of teaching the dog how to play.  That’s the #1 problem, the #2 problem is we may have a very large, strong dog that someone who is very small, that maybe doesn’t have the strength of a larger person, will have a very difficult time playing tug. The dog could actually be manhandling the person.  It could be a 100-pound person and a 100-pound dog.  A lot of times, the dog will win that fight and drag them around.  This is where a game of fetch is actually better.   So someone that is not strong or mobile may want to play a game of fetch.

Another problem is with impulse control.  Let’s assume that the dog performed a behavior and we moment mark it and the handler can’t even reach for that toy without the dog taking our arm or hand or jacket.  That stems back to not enough out training and impulse control.  If we want to go back even further, it’s basic target training and how to work away from your prey and focus effort into behaviors or even stillness in the presence of prey.  The reason it’s based in this is because we’ve taught the dog two things- 1. to work away from the handler and not orient toward the handler or reward source and 2. because the dog understands to work for the mark, the click in my case.

It’s interesting really and timely, because this morning I was working with my pup, a young dog actually this morning.  I was working with a toy doing some targeting.  The dog was outing his toy and targeting to the table for a mark to return to a dead toy that he would push into me for play.  I would tug and then give him the toy and prompt him.  He would drop the toy and move to the table for his mark.  This is the first thing a dog has to learn, right, if you leave your toy you can have your toy and that’s impulse control.

Q: How do you schedule play sessions with food session in terms of predictability?

So we already know from Training Through Pictures- Learning to Learn how to establish food predictability.  Play is really just an extension, initially of those sessions.  At the end of a session of work with food, I will get the toy out and play with the dog.  I will use a tug and basically begin out training from day 1.  So it took like 1 week to 10 days to solidify the out from the tug, to make it very clear.  Once I had that then I started working on “out then you can take it back”, and now I’m going to let go of the tug but you have to interact with me.  Once I felt I had that under control, at around the 4-week period, I started playing fetch with the ball more.  

Now that you understand the rules of the out, I’m going to introduce a new type of game, fetch.  You go out and I throw one and I throw one, you come back and go between my legs and we play and you out the ball.  I may give it back to you, you may bring it back and push it into me to play and then out, create a behavior and throw it again.

So generally, now that my puppy is 5 months old, I have prey predictability basically done.

Q: At you near the end of a session how do you prepare the dog for the end of play?

95% or more of my play sessions end with the dog taking the prey item off of the field.  I still have to get it from him from wherever he’s housed whether it’s in the house or in a crate or a vehicle or dog box or trailer or kennel.  But, I’m very careful that when I put the dog away not to steal the toy away.  I usually have a minute or so more of work with the dog.  So if I’m 5-10 feet away from where the dog is housed, I may work on outs again.  An out, moment mark, give it back, out, moment mark and give it back and maybe then an out, moment mark and toss some food into the crate or kennel as a trade.  

Sometimes it’s one step further because the dog understands targeting.  I’ll ask them to kennel, crate or go into the trailer with the door open and when they enter I’ll click and let them return to me for the toy or ball.   At some point, the dog simply won’t receive the toy again as I give a terminal cue “we’re done” and offer a piece of food.  It’s never simply taking the toy away with nothing then.  I want an element of trust maintained but I do have to remove the toy.  It’s a balancing act and can be a bit different for different dogs but what I don’t want is the dog clamping down on the toy and me TAKING it away from him.  I want the dog to believe that there is ALWAYS a possibility of him getting it back.

Q: Is there a ratio of trading of items you maintain or how do you know when to adjust things with the dog?

When the dog becomes fluid with interactions surrounding the toy, I know we have trust.  With my very highly prey driven dogs, when they will approach the kennel or trailer and simply release the toy and enter, I know I have what I need from them.  They know a toy session will happen and understand the lack of finality of releasing a toy- they trust enough to let it go and that it’s done, for now.

Q: What is the big problem with teaching the out from a handler’s standpoint?

There are a number of things that go hand in hand.  First, not reading the dog and giving him a chance to be successful.  A good dog has drive and the handler needs to consider what the dog wants.  He wants his toy.  The release is a contradiction initially to the transaction.  

What we often see is that the dog will pull on the toy and if it’s a strong dog, the dog gets satisfaction from the pulling.  Often once the handler does get the dog to let go, IF the dog willingly lets go of it, the handler is often so quick to snatch it away from the dog- to remove any possibility from the dog’s point of view that he can get it back.  He’s actually really lost the toy, not simply released it.  We want the dog to make a choice to leave the toy alone, the opportunity to think about what he’s doing in the presence of the toy, to be an actual part of the process, to have some control in the matter.

In the past what a lot of people would do is put a leash on the dog to block the pulling behaviors, maybe do some type of coercion training to stop the pulling.  What I’ve found works really well and it doesn’t matter if it’s a puppy or a big dog is I’ll take a chair and place it along a wall close to a corner and work the dog up toward the wall.  I’ll sit down in the chair and place the dog so he’s backed toward the wall.  With a wall behind him and me in a chair, he can’t pull.  What you’ll see very quickly is that the dog will stop pulling because the behavior is taken from him.  So without gratification from that sooner or later the dog will let go.  We’ve just isolated a release to be clear now.  We can moment mark and give it right back to him.

So the pulling behavior is something I see with a lot of people including myself.  I’m not a huge person so if I have an 80 pound dog, it can be hard on my back.  

Another thing people seem to do almost instinctually is that when the dog let’s go, they move the prey away.  Instead of the dog moving away from the toy, the handler moves it away.  Movement is a super strong lure for the dog, it’s prey instinct.  The goal is really that the dog let’s go and the toy is static.  Any prey movement should only take place, if at all, after the moment marker.  So in a perfect world, the dog would release the toy, show impulse control, hear the moment mark and then bite the toy again.  The dog is showing super clarity here and what we should strive for.  

Q: In recap Dave for purposes of this interview, what do you think needs to be emphasized here?

To get the point hit home, we kind of decided the point of this interview was that I was seeing people not devoting enough separate, formal training sessions to any type of play predictability or teaching the dog some kind of game.  They just kind of assume that as the dog is older, we’ll start rewarding with a toy but there is no rhyme or reason to the system and then we create a whole other problem with the dog.  What is really important is that the rules are clear, we have lots and lots of successful practice and that the dog understands how to toy works in training and that an element of trust is maintained and perpetuated.

Now with dogs with less prey drive, we have to make some conflict with the dog sometimes to really get the dog to want it.   A lot of times I will tell people that if your dog doesn’t really want to possess a toy, don’t teach it an out yet.  In consideration of both realms, I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite here.  For a high drive dog I want to create impulse control but for a lower drive dog I want to create drive and interest in the toy so it’s really quite different than what we’ve discussed here.  That will be a great topic to cover in another interview and one I get asked about a lot as well. 

To be continued...


A "Texas" Hat Trick! Training Through Pictures: Learning to Learn with Dave Kroyer has won a 2014 Videographer Award of Excellence!

Canine Training Systems Wins 2014 Communicator Award of Distinction for Training Through Pictures- Learning to Learn with Dave KroyerTraining Through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn has won a 2014 Videographer Award of Excellence!  It's a beautiful production, many of you have told us too.  We're proud of it and as the next title in the series nears release, it's good news for us to receive word of it's 4th production award. 

From the Videographer Awards website- "The Videographer Award of Excellence is awarded to those entries whose ability to capture the event or communicate the message is exceptional."  Cool.

We had no idea what a "Texas" Hat-Trick was.  A customer told us which seemed fitting because it's largely a hockey term.  Four goals in one game.  Nice.  Well, okay, we'll use it and it seems fitting since Dave Kroyer lives in Austin, TX.  Back to editing for us, the next title is on the cusp of going to DVD authoring as it's for the most part done. 

Watch this space, more to come!  As always, we appreciate your business and thanks for your feedback.


It's World Cup Season so... HAT-TRICK! Training Through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn has won a Telly Award!

Canine Training Systems Wins 2014 Communicator Award of Distinction for Training Through Pictures- Learning to Learn with Dave KroyerIt's nice to get feedback.  It's really nice.  Success comes in many forms and ultimately what drives us is customer feedback.  It's icing on the cake when a product does well among broadcast production industry professionals though.  Training Through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn has won a 2014 Telly Award.  The award is nice to win but we're humbled by the comments we've received about the video.  It's a long process to produce a quality title, and it's doubtful that many realize what goes into producing one.  There are a lot of choices and we realize that. 

In addition, the title has already won:

  • 2014 Communicator Award of Distinction
  • 2014 Marcom Gold Award

Word is still out on a few others we've entered, but we're working on the next few titles in the series.  We'll update here as we know more.  It's a great title and valuable for anyone that trains, regardless of discipline.

From Dave Kroyer-

"Although the DVD took quite a while to produce, the project was a major undertaking for a few reasons. Up to this point in dog sports, no one has really touched on this type of training and theory and the beginning stages are very 'conceptual'. It's not really a 'this is how to teach sit,down,heel behaviors' project.  It's something MUCH greater and has many depths and layers to it.  It was crucial my info made a clean transfer from outline to script into narration and video.  Doug and CTS hit it outta the park!!!  It's a beautiful production and I feel the info is ULTRACLEAR!  I am super proud of the work everyone has contributed to the project!"

As always, we truly appreciate your business and hope you enjoy the final product!



The Introduction of Toy Interaction in the Working Dog with Dave Kroyer: Part 2

Phone Interview with CTS President, Doug Calhoun, and Dave Kroyer.

In this second part of a multi-session series on toy interaction, we discussed the out, play predictability and toy usage.  Part 1 can be read here.

Q: What’s Missing for Most People?

A: What’s missing is this really remedial game of picking up a toy and the dog being willing to release that one for a toss of another.   I want the dog to release one toy and travel through my legs to get the other one.  You can get a 2-3 minutes of repetition with this and maybe 4, 6, 8 throws or more on the field.  It becomes a VERY predictable game that I can use for the training.  It’s very simple and very remedial but a lot of people don’t use it.  So it’s real simple, like what Gottfried Dildei did in his videos, it’s just using two balls instead of two hoses and the dog is moving through the legs.  If the dog doesn’t release the ball, you just wait a moment and stimulate him with the other and when he drops it, you just toss the other through your legs and pick up the dropped one while he’s chasing the other.  The difference though is that I’m not going to rely on the transfer of the toy for the out.  

Q: What do you do differently?

A: Outside of that session, I’m working on the out in a very formal setting.  The two balls is a means to an end to get the dog coming back with a tight turn when he gets the first ball with speed and vigilance and going between my legs to understand later where I want to you to go with that first ball that I throw.  The second ball can be removed after awhile.  

Q: What role does trust play in this interaction?

A: I think it plays a big role because when I watch people, there are conflicting behaviors between them and their dog when they use the toy.  I think it all stems from a basic lack of trust.  

The dog thinks where am I getting the toy?  How am I getting the toy?  Should I just molest you for the toy?

I see that a lot because nobody puts in any time to create a predictable game with the dog, they just decide one day that they are going to reward with the toy. Because they have a dog that is very active for the prey, they may not have any impulse control so you see the dog nipping at them, biting at them and grabbing at jackets.  You wouldn’t believe the number of jackets and sleeves I see get ripped at seminars.   

Another thing I see frequently when using a ball is the dog biting the string.  The dog is frantic to get something but he’s never been TAUGHT to bite something or target something and that is another complete exercise itself.  You could do formal training sessions with just that but the dog is so anxious to get the toy and possess it, all forethought into a mutual interaction goes out the window.

Q: When you first start the out or release of the prey object, you prefer a tug, why?

A: I don’t want to say it’s more interactive with a tug, but in one way it is.  With the ball and a very strong dog, you can’t easily make the ball immobile when you’re trying to work on an inducive out.   With the tug I can manipulate and inducive out better because I’ve got two hands on it and I can completely immobilize it when I want the prey to go dead.   So that’s the tool I actually use to teach the act of outing.  

I teach the dog that the tug is an interactive toy and one I’ve established an out, there are things I do to teach the dog to interact with me and even push into me with the toy and engage with me with the toy and that it’s not something that they want to go lay down in a corner with and covet.  A lot of times people will say to me, ‘well my dog won’t bring it back to me’ and they’ll see my young dog who’s actually driving the tug back into me and they’ll say ‘well your dog is different’ and my comment is, “No, my dog was exactly like that but I had to do many, many sessions over days and weeks to teach the dog to interact with the toy with me”.

Q: When do you switch to a ball and why?

A: When all of the rules are in place with the out and interaction with me, I generally don’t use a tug in training any longer I’m going to use a ball on a string.  I can tug with the string and throw the ball with the string but the dog has already learned how to out off the tug and to return to me and drive into me and interact with me.

So with the game with two balls and the out itself there are rules and contracts.  Once those in place, training with prey can’t proceed but I see a LOT of people start early when the rules don’t exist and they never get the repetitions of behaviors to make them really clear before polluting things with lots of drive and overactivity.

I like to use the ball because I like to play fetch.  I can throw the ball down field or across a room and the activity of running helps free the dog’s mind up.  Running and action is great for freeing the dog’s mind up.  Because with my system we gets lots of repetitions, and maybe a very session of learning something and he did good, I want to be able to reward the dog and free their mind through running a bit.  

To be continued…


What goes from 0 to 14 in dog years in two days? Training Through Picures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn, that's what!

Canine Training Systems Wins 2014 Hermes Gold Award for Training Through Pictures- Learning to Learn with Dave KroyerIt's been a busy week.  Really. Really. Busy.  A new product release is always an exciting time and this week is no exception.  Thanks for the incredible feedback on our new DVD release, Training through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn. We love hearing about the difference a good instructional video makes for a dog-handler team, group instructor or student of higher education.  Clarity.  Detail. Performance.  Results.  Yes!  It's positive reinforcement (R+) for us and drives us forward.  We LOVE what our products do for our customers and we love to hear feedback.

We received a big envelope in yesterday's mail from the Hermes Creative Awards with the judging results of our entry in the 2014 competition.  We won a Hermes Gold Award!  The Hermes Creative Awards Competition is an International Competition with over 5,500 entries that honors "the messengers and creators of traditional and emerging media".  We've gone from 35 industry awards to 37 in just two days.  We strive to produce a product that is not only educational but is produced to video production industry standards, is highly marketable and something our vendors have pride in offering.  It's also nice to have shiny, heavy objects on our desks to hold down our stack of outgoing order receipts, idea lists, scripts and goals.  This makes two awards in two days and it's only been shipping for two days!

Don't worry, we're busy working away on uncoming releases in The Kroyer Sport Dog Series and, as always, we truly appreciate your business.  Your patronage let's us continue making a difference through producing titles with the best of the best in dog sport.  Thank You.



Training Through Pictures with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn DVD

It feels like we're about to step across the finish line at a marathon.  Over 1,500 (one thousand five hundred) video, audio, overlay and graphical elements have magically stumbled together to create a gorgeous, detailed introduction into the much anticipated Training Through Pictures Sport Dog Series! The date is nearly upon us!  The much anticipated Training Through Picture with Dave Kroyer- Learning to Learn DVD is being replicated.  Once we have an arrival date, we'll begin pre-orders. 

It's absolutely gorgeous.  Really gorgeous.  It's detail rich, full of information on the first 6-8 months of Dave's system of training.  Whether you're working a puppy, new dog, needing to fix some problems or training across venues, this title is ideal.  There is a long laundry list of topics that are detailed over the course of 105 minutes.  This is the longest title we've produced and despite it's length, it's not a seminar or survey video!  It's the quality you expect, carefully written, meticulously filmed, edited, narrated and beautifully packaged!  This is the foundation of Dave's multi-dimensional system of training!

Here's the first 5 minutes.  If you'd like to be notified upon availability of the remaining 100 minutes, join our newsletter list, send us an email, or follow us on Facebook


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The definitive guide on the first 6-8 months with your puppy or working dog with Dave Kroyer!  Known as a teacher of trainers, a competitor and coach, David Kroyer and his students have stood atop podiums in the arenas of Schutzhund/IPO, Mondio and French Ring Sport, Police K9, AKC Obedience, Agility, SAR and AKC Tracking.  He has represented the United States Internationally on multiple World Teams while gaining notoriety both domestically and abroad.  As a student of animal behavior, Dave's approach to training is intuitive, calculated and utilizes the tools and techniques of many disciplines and styles in a system of training that has helped his students achieve National and International success.

Through a systematic approach that yields a strong partnership based on trust, reliable, clean dialog and a habit of correct performance, the techniques in Dave’s system repeatedly demonstrate how to create a picture of excellence and shape your dog into an eager, engaged, interactive learner capable of the success you strive for regardless of discipline.

Featuring detailed instructional footage throughout, beautiful illustrative graphics and a step-by-step progression of the first 8 months of Dave's system, this title is ideal for anyone wanting a broad, comprehensive foundation in dog sport.  This title is multi-dimensional and the concepts taught are beneficial for ANY dog sport- Kennel Club Obedience, IPO, Ring Sport, Agility, Nose Work, Police K9 and more.  This title features rare footage of the father of Classical Conditioning, Ivan Pavlov, and his experiments on salivary secretions.  Beneficial to puppy owners, trainers with problem dogs or anyone wanting a more clear understanding of how to isolate behaviors.  To anyone wanting to create a dynamic, interactive worker while establishing a common language, this title is a must have!

Copyright 2014 Canine Training Systems®, 16:9 Widescreen Hi-Definition DVD, 105 minutes.




An Introduction to Toy Interaction in the Working dog with Dave Kroyer- Part 1

Phone Interview with CTS President, Doug Calhoun, and Dave Kroyer.

Q: What is the biggest problem you see regarding prey/toy interaction?

A: There’s a number of problems but the first one I’ll mention as the biggest problem is, what is the contract between the handler, toy or prey item and the dog.  When I talk about a contract, what I mean is, what are the rules that the dog and handler have to follow to be able to use that prey item in some type of productive way?

Q: What is the ideal contract?

A: There are 2 or 3 things and in no special order.  The first thing I need the dog to understand is that the toy belongs to me, the handler.  It’s no the dog’s toy or prey item.   And a lot of times when I see people reward the dog, they reward the dog with the toy and the dog will alone with the toy, chewing on a ball or a tug getting self gratification with it and that’s where the fun actually ends when the handler doesn’t interact with the toy.

The second thing I see is that the dog’s don’t know how to let go or relinquish the toy.  The third problem that I see is that the dog has no predictability of understanding how or where the toy is going to be produced in conjunction with the handler’s body.  So you’ll see a lot of displacement behaviors happening.  Handler’s getting bit in the chest, jackets being ripped and stuff like that.  There are often lots of impulse control problems that go along with this.

Q: What are the obstacles for many trainers to the successful use of prey/toys?

A: One of the things I don’t see enough of when I’m helping people is some type of predictable game or play session with the dog- something that happens where those other three problems can be avoided or worked through.  It’s just a random swinging of toys around and the dog can’t predict where it’s going to come from, how it’s going to get it or the fact that it belongs to the handler and that it’s an item that is interacted with through the handler.

So I try to tell people that with the dog’s foundation training, where we’re doing all this very interesting operant foundation work with behaviors such as The Spin and Get In for heeling, but one piece that they’re missing is how we play with the dog.  They’re so focused on this other stuff, they don’t have any type of play session or play predictability or any type of anything as far as the toy is concerned.  

So as training proceeds, we can’t inject the toy into training until there is some kind of predictable play session as far as logistics go with the toy.

Q: How do you begin?

A: I like to start with a simple game of fetch.  The dog offers a behavior you like and you moment mark it and throw the toy.  Of course the dog has to understand to bring the toy back.  Well bring it back to where?  Bring it back to 3 feet in front of me and drop it?  Bring it back and slam into me?  Run off with it?  So it’s important that the dog can understand where to bring it back to.  I like my dogs to bring it back to me through the legs.  We create this habit through the food toss discussed in DVD 1 Learning to Learn.

The behavior of out, tight turn and back is the precursor to how we are going to play toy.  That’s a precursor to the game of fetch which itself will be a reward to the dog.  When I give the dog the ball, I don’t want the dog to just lay down and chew it, I want to reward him with a game of fetch.  Will talk more about this in a bit in terms of how to structure fetch, strengthen cooperation and build trust in with prey DVD 2.

Q: What’s next?

A: I play a game that I just refer to as two balls.  It’s similar to what people have seen before but I don’t want people to mistake it for bribery or to get the dog to come back to you.  We are going to address the out elsewhere so the second toy shouldn’t be used to entice the dog.  We’ll take the logistics of the food toss game and do it with a ball.

I toss the ball and once the dog has acquired it, I will stimulate the dog with the second ball and encourage him back, I need a tight turn in the backend when they pick up the first ball.  The habit in the food toss is critical here.  Then just as we lured with food in the food toss, we’re going to lure with the ball to come back and as the dog reaches us, we’re going to toss that second ball between our legs and click that moment.  Even though we’re doing a toy transfer, the out is separate and worked on separately with a tug.

To be continued….


The Importance of Engagement in Dog Training

The Importance of Engagement in Dog Training
By Doug Calhoun

Through an interview with technical expert and World Team Participant, Dave Kroyer, I was able to speak on the topic of engagement and what that meant to him in his dog-training career. He not only shared his insights on this topic, but also gave some great advice on puppy training in order to maintain engagement.

What is engagement and why is it so important in dog training?

Originally the term was not conceptualized for dog training, but in our context the most applicable standard definition of engagement is emotional involvement or commitment.

Kroyer has his own slightly modified definition of engagement: “Actively participating in training.”

This concept of getting the dog to actively participate in training is the cornerstone of Kroyer’s training technique and has yielded him with great success over his career.

Being invested in training, the process, and the relationship of interaction and response from the handler is critical.  Initially, it’s a natural process for dogs but not remaining engaged is quickly learned as the environment becomes more interesting and rewarding.

What happens when a dog is not engaged?

For beginning pet, performance and sport dog trainers, a common problem is that their dog is completely disengaged.

This can be the dog being far away from the handler or leaving the handler to go explore their surroundings; basically a very distracted or disinterested dog. And this kind of behavior leads to unproductive training sessions where much time is spent trying to create an interest in interaction with the trainer.

“For me I have to have a dog actively participating, which means completely focused on me. The dog is in a two to three foot perimeter of my body, envision a circle around my body,” Kroyer explained. “And the dog could be doing a number of different things, but not leaving me, not distracted and not disinterested.”

With engaged, even if Kroyer trains a dog for three to five minutes at a time, he is getting the most bang for his buck. Once the dog is actively participating, there is a point where the dog is actually pushing the handler. This intended outcome is what is desired during every training session.

“I have a young little puppy that I’m working with that will theoretically engage with me as I walk around and produce pushing behaviors, which would be jumping on me or circles me and barks at me. And that is without giving him any food reinforcement or primary reward like that,” said Kroyer.

Having the social reward be the primary concern for the dog makes food or a toy the icing on the cake.

How is puppy engagement different?

“When you take a puppy from the mother, at six or seven weeks, they’re still pretty emotionally attached to the mother,” explained Kroyer.

And because of this it is important for the handler to take the place of the mother immediately. Everything that the dog needs to survive is then provided by the trainer and blocked from outside sources, so that the trainer’s role in the puppy’s life cannot be confused.

In order to do this, Kroyer uses ‘deprivation training’ to his advantage.

Contrary to the negative connotation, deprivation training really boils down to the trainer supplying all of the dogs needs and preventing the dog from getting those resources from somewhere else.

For example, because the trainer is unable to stay with the dog all of the time, a consistent schedule is set up for the dog for interaction, feeding, play and socialization. This schedule ensures that the puppies do not overly engage in self-play, or have another dog or person entertain them when the trainer cannot provide these resources.

So ‘deprivation training’ is simply controlling the environment for the puppy.

This training makes it possible for a puppy to be fully engaged and excited to interact during training.
Kroyer also advises to “keep sessions with young dogs fairly short, because they mentally have to grow to have longer sessions.”

He believes that it is more effective and reasonable to build over time so that the puppy leaves the training session wanting more the next time. Kroyer recommends starting a puppy with three to five minutes of active participation training.

Kroyer’s example of short training session success is of an elderly client who wanted to train her dog in obedience. She had severe arthritis so she could only stand for a minute or two at a time. But when the dog went into the ring to compete he looked unbelievable. This example illustrated that the woman who trained in short engaged sessions could still produce great results.   The dog’s mental attitude toward training was intense and powerful.

What is the difference between one-way and two-way engagement?

Two-way engagement means the trainer is running around with a toy, and basically cheerleading the dog to stay engaged with the trainer. This is a huge problem to Kroyer because while the dog is excited to be there, the basis of the interaction is the toy.

“What I would like to see out of the dog, within the first week or two of training, is one-way engagement, which means theoretically I could be neutral in a training session and the dog is pushing me to show it something or get a reward,” said Kroyer.

It is important to sometimes start with two-way engagement and very quickly wean away from it to develop one-way engagement. This way, instead of begging the dog to work with the trainer the opposite will occur

In the beginning it is also important to find a productive behavior that has an emotional pairing with it. Although biting and jumping are engagement behaviors, they are not necessarily productive. Kroyer suggests barking.

Barking is one of the first things Kroyer teaches his puppies.  Because puppies or untrained dogs really have no behaviors to offer for reward, barking allows an outlet for frustration and energy and sets a baseline for a behavior-reward relationship.

What are the benefits of engagement in competing?

You can have genetically superior dogs, but if they are not engaged, they are not going to be able to compete to the best of their ability.

The first thing Kroyer wants the dog to do is, “look at me and show interest or excitability about what we’re about to do. If I have the dog’s attention then I can get a lot done and have productive training.”

Any kind of performance dog will have to enter what is ultimately a stressful environment, like a competition ring with in unpredictable conditions, and the goal of training is to turn the whole idea for the dog around. Instead of training the dog to do something, the dog should want to do something.

The dog at this level of engagement is in charge of his own future. And a dog that is excited to be in the ring competing will handle stress much better than the other dogs, fall back on his foundation and give more sound, joyful performances.

Kroyer has also found that dogs trained in this manner have the longevity of their performance career greatly extended.

Engagement can be seen as very beneficial to the dog’s overall behavior and performance, as Kroyer has found out. Check out his sneak preview.

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Advice for a New Generation of Dog Trainers

Dave Kroyer, nine-time World Championship Team member, is concerned about what he sees in the new generation of dog trainers. Fortunately for the future trainers of the world (and their dogs) he has some advice to offer them.

What the New Generation is Missing

The lack of drive in many sport dogs is especially concerning to Kroyer, who spends a majority of his training on his dogs’ high level of drive and engagement. He believes that these changes have incurred because of the influx over the last eight years of demanding more correctness out of the dog.

Kroyer posits that this increasingly intensified focus on correctness is resulting in “a lot of dull, lackluster training…and they’re missing a whole piece of history of working in drive and animated type of work and showing power in heeling.”

Trainers in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s were heavily focusing on drive, and not as much on correctness. For Kroyer, learning the correct drive state from these trainers is irreplaceable, and even if Kroyer is trying to make correct training he will never lose sight of the correct drive state. Kroyer does this by implementing what he calls, “play predictability.”

Play predictability begins before working on absolute correctness and the assignment of cues or verbal commands to behaviors. Kroyer describes play predictability as the dog predicting that play (food presentation initially) can and will happen.

Without this essential part of training, dogs are checking out. “They’re trying to get some way to correct behavior before rewarding and playing with the dog, which leads to flat, lackluster type of heeling,” explained Kroyer.

The Importance of Heeling

“Heeling starts with training on the dogs agenda, which means at specific times of the day we’re going to train, …and repeat day after day week after week until the dog recognizes that he’s about to go have fun at that time,” said Kroyer.

This mental preparation then conditions the high level of expectation and play predictability desired. Heeling is also significant in Kroyer’s training method, because he uses it as a default behavior.

“The heeling is going to be taught in between my legs with food in one hand, for an extended time. Once I can go forward, backwards and lateral with the dog between my legs, and that’s for food, then I’m going to incorporate a toy and remove my hand,” said Kroyer.

Since in-between-the-legs is not a heel position, this allows Kroyer to continue to lure the behavior without the negative consequences of extended luring in heeling.

The heel position, against a wall, is a static position for the dog. This should also be fun and rewarding for the dog because it is very detailed work, advised Kroyer.  The position is shaped and a high desire to be in the position is critical for dynamic heeling.

When these two behaviors come together, they create the full heeling behavior.

Kroyer has also positioned his heeling as a default behavior because that’s where most people have their dogs fall apart, especially in stressful situations. A default behavior is something that the dog can revert to in a stressful time.  If heeling is a position of high reward and drive, when things become challenging this is where he’ll want to be.  This is a good thing!

Kroyer describes how strong this behavior is with this example:

“It’s not uncommon that when I walk into my operant chamber, where I have a wall and a mirror set up, and I start heading for the wall that my dogs will normally go and throw themselves up against the wall while I’m still ten feet away.”

This powerful behavior shows that the dogs are engaged and want to be there.

Kroyer’s Advice

“There is something to be gained for the new generation to study the older trainers. The DVD’s in Canine Training Systems product library are important for understanding how to achieve these things.  We can all make correct obedience, but the real art is making it correct, in drive and the dog is actually collecting its body and being an active participant in the heeling instead of a follower,” stated Kroyer.

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