Learn to Earn Program – Frequently Asked Questions

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By Dr. Sophia Yin

R.I.P. 1966-2014

In the first two blogs, we covered the benefits as well as the steps for carrying out this impulse control and leadership developing program. If you’ve started or are thinking about starting this program you may have some specific questions. Here are answers to the most common of those questions. For a step-by-step photo-illustrated version of this program, view Perfect Puppy in 7 Days.

What if my dog is not “motivated” for his food? He’ll eat it out of his bowl when he feels like it, but he’s not hungry when I want to use food for training.

Dogs who get their food for free out of their bowls are often picky about when they eat—although most probably eat more than they need to and are overweight or obese. To get them motivated to eat when you want to use food as the reward, you have to make the resource more valued—limit its availability to build demand. If your dog’s healthy and not interested in eating, then feed him less for a day or two. The rule is that he gets only what he’s willing to work for (vs. giving the rest of the food to him for free!). Pretty soon he’ll realize the free-food tree has dried up and he now has to start working for his keep.

Can we have Fido loose in the kitchen with the family when we’re not training him?

Every time you are with your dog, you are training him even if you’re unaware of how. If he’s free in the kitchen with people milling about, most likely kids or adults will be accidentally rewarding him for impulsive or pushy behavior. For instance, he may rub up against them and they could be completely unaware that they are responding by petting him. Behavior modification is more about training the humans than the dog. The dog can learn new habits in just days to weeks. Human error can drag the modification process out for months.

What should I do if he jumps up to surf the coffee table or counter?

Since he’s on leash, you can easily pull him off. Do so swiftly (within a split second) so that it’s clear the jumping didn’t work. Then be sure to reward him a lot for sitting on the floor. At some point, the light bulb will turn on—counter surfing doesn’t work to get food, but sitting politely does.

What if he is fidgety when I’m working at the computer or my desk and he’s tethered to me or to furniture nearby? He’s very active and tends to pace in the house the entire day anyway.

Offer him a toy, even one that’s edible, but that will last. When using edible toys, remember to factor the approximate calorie count into his daily allotment of food. You can also place him in his crate, a separate room, exercise pen, or even a yard as long as he’s not practicing unwanted or anxious, overly aroused behaviors such as barking, lunging, and pacing. Later on, you can work on training him to lie down calmly while you work, since he does need to learn to be calm anyway. An easy way to do this this, which also allows you to get work done at the same time, is to use the Treat&Train® remote controlled reward training system. The Treat&Train® can also be used to help train your dog to be calm in his crate, when separated in a room, and when outside in the yard.

How about exercise? How should I exercise my dog?

At this point in the game, when you’re focusing on the indoor exercises and your dog has not yet developed fantastic focus inside, you can take Fido on walks the way you normally do. Later, once you’ve worked on heeling exercises in the house and have good focus, you can focus most of the training outside. Other alternatives to outdoor walks include playing fetch in the yard or treadmill exercise.

You may need to teach your dog to play fetch first. Realistically though, while exercise is important, when your dog learns that impulse control and calm behavior gets him what he wants, he won’t need to be worn out through exercise to behave calmly and politely.

Do you have any specific questions you would like answered about the Learn to Earn program?  Ask them in the comments area below!


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9 responses to “Learn to Earn Program – Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Oops–the test isn’t working for me–no question appears, just “Question 1 of” and the Next button. (I’m using Firefox 10.0.2, Windows 7 Pro.)

    I’ve read the Perfect Puppy book and going through Learn to Behave book in anticipation of bringing home a standard poodle puppy in early April. My rat terrier, the subject of much trial and error in my own learning, just earned his first Open leg in the CDSP obedience venue.

  2. I would first of all like to say that the Perfect Puppy book is amazing and I am recommending it and your website to all new dog owners. I have never seen such a comprehensive and easy to follow guide to training and socializing. I have a four month old neutered golden retriever and I would like to ask about mouthing and nipping. The problem is that when my puppy is getting over excited or has to go to the bathroom he is mouthing and nipping quite a bit. He is not responding to the loud “ouch” or food as he normally does, and he does not appear fearful or aggressive rather he seems to be over aroused. He is doing very well with house training and we are trying to be consistent with having him sit at the door to be let out however, this recent behaviour has become more troublesome because of how sharp his teeth are. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

  3. Love your Perfect Puppy book!! It was recommended to me by the trainer that I am working with. We will be bringing home our new puppy in a week. Do you have any recommendations on crate training?? I want to make it a positive experience for the puppy. He will be only 8 weeks old. Also, the drive home from him will be 4 hours. Any suggestions as to how to make the drive easier for him?? I have three boys ages 6, 8, and 10 that will be in the car with me.

    Thank you!!!


  4. Hi!

    Loving your “How to behave so your dog behaves” book. At the moment im trying to teach my jack russel how to walk while being leashed. Been trying to do this outside by doing the 180 degree turn whenever her paws get ahead of me. It’s awesome cause it works. My biggest concern is that whenever we stand still she starts screaming (if you can call it that cause she doesnt bark. She just makes weird noices) really loud trying to get my attention. It’s like she’s being tortured, and when she finally sits besides me she keeps shaking and making noises like she’s extremely frustrated. What should i do? Keep standing still until she stop making noises and stop shaking?

    Thank you. Again, best book!

  5. I have worked with my dog to take treats gently but when I come across another dog while walking and I’m giving him treats so he will be focused on me he gets excited and and ends up grabbing the treat and hurting my hand. I don’t want to deny him the treat because he is good by focusing on me but it also hurts my hand.

    Any advice?



  6. Do you have any suggestions for dog owners who don’t feed kibble? My dog eats Honest Kitchen dehydrated foods, which reconstitute into a stew-like meal, and aren’t exactly something I can carry around in my pocket. ::smile:: Fantastic food, and he’s in great health, so I don’t want to change his diet, yet would love to implement the Learn to Earn program with him. Thank you for your time!

    1. Although we’ve not tested it, they do make a dog show “bait” that is dried liver and comes in kibble sized chunks. You might try that. If not, look for a training treat that fits your nutritional beliefs. Fromm Family Pet Foods is one example that makes some that might work for you.

      1. Since the program recommends feeding “all” of their food as training treats, I guess I will just have to modify. These are good suggestions, thank you!

        I’ve also discovered that Merrick now makes a raw-infused kibble that I might try as training treats, replacing part of his meal with that (he’s an “easy keeper,” as horse people politely call animals that tend toward chubby, LOL).

        We really have had great success with the Honest Kitchen, so I’ll keep looking for the balance. So far, my boy’s having fun on the program, and learning is becoming an all-day game that we’re both benefiting from.

        Thanks again, Randy!

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