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Gate Training With Adolescent Dogs

Updated: Jun 6, 2023



This video shows the very beginning of gate training for Yukon, the orange pup, and Phoebe, the red pup. They have only been with me for a few days. Ayu has been with me a week longer.


As you watch these pups, notice how "tall" Yukon is, in that he is up, or his feet are up, a lot. He is a busy, fast pup. He doesn't yet know what Ayu does. Ayu is the pup in the video who is always calm; serene even. Phoebe is a mindful pup. She often will mand to ask for my attention, but sometimes the situation is just too exciting, and she shows her puppy brain.


As you watch the video, please notice that I never, not once, use my voice to tell the pups what I want from them. I use my body position as well as my hands as targets.


Targeting is one of the most under-used training tools I can think of. For me, it may be the single tool I use the most. I teach pups to watch my hands right from the beginning. They quickly learn that where my hands go may mean something to them, that it may be an opportunity for reinforcement. Phoebe and Yukon have only been with me a few days and yet notice how easily I can move the trio away from the gate, just by showing them my fingers, long enough for me to open the gate and come in. The pups are focused on my hand, so they don't rush the gate. I quickly close the gate and snuggle the heck out of them.


Notice that Yukon and Phoebe often have their feet all over me. I am accosted! They don't yet understand what Ayu knows, which is that calm, four-on-the-floor behavior, or manding, works every time. The two new pups will figure this out very soon. In this circumstance, I set them up to fail a bit, because for the new pups having me stand still, rather than walking with them, is harder for them. But, I needed to stay in front of the camera!


I moved around a little, which helped them, but asking for calm behavior from the three of them was unrealistic. As the pups try to figure out how to conduct themselves while near me, I touch pups who are physically behaving in a way that I like and ignore the behaviors I don't like. Part of the reason the new pups are having such a hard time keeping their feet on the ground is that they feel insecure in this new life.


When I go back out of the gate, I show them my stop sign hand. This is my cue for dogs not to follow me through a gate. My experienced dogs know that unless I position them a certain way and ask them to come through a gate, they are not to follow me out the gate. Watch Ayu. He understands this already. My dogs learn to look forward to a gate being closed with a person on either side of it. They learn that when a gate is open, there is no opportunity for reinforcement; they learn to wait for the gate to close before they come for the snuggle they have learned will always follow a gate being closed.


Training like this makes sense to dogs. They love it, and it builds their confidence in themselves and in me. Just look at Ayu! He behaved a lot like Yukon is now less than two weeks ago. These pups are only five months old. Look at all the things they have learned!

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2 Comments


Trish Short Lewis
Trish Short Lewis
May 28, 2023

How do you stop a jumper from jumping on you or another dog?

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Cindy Benson
Cindy Benson
Jun 07, 2023
Replying to

Redirect the behavior (before it happens), use targeting, create an incompatible behavior to jumping and pay for that. You will find all of this in blog posts on my site. You may also hire me to teach this to you for use for your specific situation. Good luck!

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