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Level 2

Training the Family Dog


FCC2 - Focus, Confidence, and Impulse Control Part 2

Topics, Games, and Cues



Reward Experience

Your key to manipulating arousal levels

Noise Box

Confidence, Optimism, Calmness, Focus, Arousal Down, Engagement, Tolerance of Frustration, Flexibility, Independence (Socialization)s


Occupied vs Unoccupied

Confidence, Optimism, Calmness, Focus

(Relationship, Socialization)


Premack 2: Duration and Conceptual Understanding

Confidence, Focus, Arousal Up, Engagement, Impulse Control, Tolerance of Frustration, Flexibility, Thinking in Arousal (Recal, Walking with Manners, Relationship)

Wait with Thresholds

Focus, Disengagement, Impulse Control, Thinking in Arousal

Leave It

Focus, Disengagement, Impulse Control, Thinking in Arousal

Middle Positions

Confidence, Focus, Engagement,  Proximity, Tolerance of Frustration,Flexibility,   Thinking in Arousal (Recall, Relationship)


Paws On Game

Confidence, Optimism, Focus, Arousal Up/Down, Engagement, Proximity, Impulse Control (Socialization, Relationship)

Paws On Next Steps

Confidence, Optimism, Focus, Arousal Up/Down, Engagement, Proximity, Impulse Control, Flexibility (Socialization, Relationship)

Wait For It Game

Confidence, Focus, Arousal Up, Disengagement, Engagement, Impulse Control, Tolerance of Frustration, Thinking in Arousal


Feel free to begin playing boundary games if you have not already. They are perfect to pair with Premack and with DMT - Occupied vs Unoccupied.

See Boundary Training page for these games.

Calmness and the value of calmness needs to contnue to be grown. Boundary games are a great way to give you options on this vital concept while still utilizing structure which is just what a puppy, young dog, or dog new to calmness needs.

Focus, Confidence, Impulse Control Part 2 Topics

The Reward Experience

AROUSAL UP or DOWN (What is your goal?)

For dogs, rewards can come in many different forms, in many different ways.

  • We Reward - food, toys, praise, affection, attention, play, freedom, walks, going outside....
  • Dog Self-Rewards - dog chooses behavior that makes him/her feel good (dig, run, chase, chew...)
  • Environment Rewards the Dog - food from counter or trash can, wildlife, wondrous smells...

It's not just about getting something, for reinforcement is also an emotional experience.

  • Anticipation of a reward, or the possibility of one happening
  • Delivery of the reward and the behaviors involved to get it
  • The reward itself and how much it is valued by the individual

These are factors that need to be considered when you are working with your dog.

Have flexibility with rewards. Variety is the spice of life, and somust your rewards.

  • Build food drive and continue to use your dog's regular food as much as possible, saving treats for tougher circumstances.
  • Build play drive with toys and with you, for play and toys brings a different element to your rewards, because it can be more exciting; higher in arousal. And this can be very helpful in busier, higher distracting, higher arousal type of situations. You can out-do fun and excitement with some fun and excitement of your own.
  • Use the environment as a reward. Freedom, to choose an activity your dog loves, is a great reward. There are things in the environment that are fun and rewarding to your dog, you just need to figure out what. Sniffing, running, swimming... can be rewards for dogs that can be provided by the environment. Your gateway for environmental rewards is Premack. Environmental rewards need to be put on permission so your dog doesn't just help himself. The environment can also be very tricky. It can reward your dogs when you don't want it too, because just seeing something can be reinforcement enough for your dog, even though interaction never occurs. This is why working outside and in public places is a challenge and needs a lot of practice.

How you deliver the reward matters, too.

  • Tossing the food or toy for your dog to chase after it. For dogs that loveto chase and run, this can be a better or higher value reward experience than just taking food from the hand.
  • Catching the food or toy for dogs that love catching things, will be higher value.
  • Delivering the food slowly, calmly, you can influence your dog and help to keep him/her calmer. Placing food on the ground is calmer than taking food from the hand or tossing. And slowing your dog down in getting the food, calms your dog down more as well.

So, when you are working with your dog, consider your goal: drive, excitement, momentum? Or lowering arousal, promoting calmness, or working impulse-control. It all matters. More on the reward experience on the L2 Topic Page.

DMT Levels 1 and 2, Occupied and Unoccupied


This is a reminder that DMT still applies evey time you take your puppy out. It can also apply when people come to visit. It is your go-to game for socialization.

LEVEL 1: When you notice something but your puppy has not. Begin DMT right away and get your puppy focused on you. Promote calmness with your Calming Reward Marker, and posivie associations by pairing thedistraction with yummy food.

LEVEL 2: When your puppy notices thedistraction, you immediately begin DMT before your puppy has a chance to decide how to respond. You make the decision for your puppy. Keep your puppy focused on you. Put value in calmness.

When guests come over to visit, a common problem is a jumpy puppy. Use your management and DMT strategies to prevent jumping, grow calmness and consequently teach good manners for the future.

OCCUPIED: You put your puppy in an ex-pen, crate, behind a gate or on leash (later that could also include a boundary like a dog bed). You will give your dog somethingtasty to chew on. That could be a bullystick, porky puff, buffalo lung, stufffed Kong or Toppl toy, or treat toy. You wil also add in DMT for any change in the environment. This could be guests moving around the room, louder talking or laughing, etc.

UNOCCUPIED: This is when your puppy goes to the crate, ex-pen, on leash, or on a boundary. You will then DMT for changes in the environment that can cause a change in behavior with your puppy. This is a harder situation than the occupied option. I recommend using the occupied technique first. Once your puppy handles the situation better, then you can transition to the unoccupied technique.

SOCIALIZATION (Throughout Training)

Noise Box


This game also teaches a pup to use his nose, sniff out the good stuff, ignore the rest. Scent games are great for teaching a dog to pay attention to not just what they see, but also what they smell so they can get good, accurate information about their surroundings. It can also be a good intervention game and help a dog transition form a higher state of arousal to a lower one.

Adjust the game to fit your pup. Begin with just afew items. They may have to be "softer" so they don't make as much noise. Over time, and within your individual pup's comfort level, include other items - things that make more noise, or more items in the box so your pup has to rummage around more to find the kibble at the bottom. Change items each time you play. Have the “box” be different - a large plastic bin, kiddie pool, etc. - so your dog is working through getting in and out of different things. by doing this you are working on the concept of flexibility as well as confidence.

This game is not just about dogs with sound sensitivity. It builds focus and tolerance of frustration depending on how much stuff you put in the box! It's also a fun and easy "rainy day" activity.


Premack 2 Duration and Conceptual Understanding


It is important, before applying Premack in higher distracting/real life situations, that your dog fully understands the cue and will respond to it correctly in a number of different scenarios. This video takes the basics a step further, and shows you just how to do this. It is important to make sure that your dog meets the criteria of this step before moving on to the next level. This means that your dog holds until you say your release, not matter if the food is tossed or droppedbefore or after you say the release. No mistakes! You should see how your pup is holding throughthe anticipation and waiting foryour cue.

When you are ready to begin Boundary Training, you will be using the Premack games to teach the release off the boundary. It is recommended you teach both at the same time, for Premack is a big part of the reliability of boundaries.

Leave It


This cue is different than trade in that you are teaching your puppy not to pick something up in her mouth in the first place, or to leave something alone and ignore it. This cue is applicable when you drop something on the floor, come across something when walking, or for objects and things like other dogs, marking, etc.

When you practice, be sure to ALWAYS pick up the leave it item. Never have your puppy leave it, to then pick it up. This can create a lot of anticipation and lead to breaking the cue. You can always have your puppyearn the item to your puppy from your hand at the end of the exercise with a different cue or game.

This is also why I do not use this cue with something that is appropriate with my dog - I never use it with toys. I don't want to suck any fun out of their toys! Premack or a wait cue are meant for this. Don't use this with your dog's food either - from the bowl or a treat toy - but you can use it with a plate of your food, when you dog is ready for that challenge, of course.

There are many stages to teaching this cue. Remember that dogs think in pictures, so working on the floor is different than when you are sitting in a chair or standing up. An object placed on the floor is different than an object dropping or in your hand.How your dog values the item you are asking him to leave can be a game changer. A piece of hard dog treat will be much easier than a plate with people food on it.

Take your time through each stage and make sure to capture the right behavior and reinforce it, allowing your puppy to master the "decision" before moving on to the next stage.

Wait with Thresholds


Teaching a Wait cue, which is different than the Stay cue, comes in very handy when controlling thresholds. Thresholds can be doorways, or borders/transitions like steps, carpet to tile, your yard, or even a certain distance away from you. It controls forward progression, crossing a line, or going through a doorway.

It comes in handy for a variety of situations and gives you ample opportunity to work impulse control in a variety of situations- inside the house, in the yard, in the car... I use Wait far more than I use Stay (which is a very controlled cue).

You can work a number of scenarios: your dog going through the threshold or not, you going or not,as well as the level of temptation and desire of what is on the other side of the threshold should be run through, just be sure to keep it within your puppy's ability to be successful so she rehearses the correct behavior.

Middle Positions


Behavior chains in Middle! Oh, the fun continues…. Variety is the spice of life and dogs love variety!

Boost your relationship, too with this fun version of Puppy Push Ups.

This is a great variation on behaviors chains to work through flexibility, focus, reliability, impulsecontrol, and value in the Middle position. This game gives new challenges with positioning and body awareness, too!!


Paws On Game


This is a confidence, but also so much more!

This is useful for a number of reasons:

  • Value of proximity
  • Optimism with the environment
  • Content with novelty and new things

This game is also the foundation for critical concept building extension games for this late in this level and Level 3. It can be a great converstation starter game fo dogs that are nervous or unfocused in new environemtns. It is also a game that we will ust to teach necessary skills for complex cues in the future. This game is also great for practicing your Premack cue.

Paws On Next Step


This is the next step in the game. You will put the behavior on cue, and then fine tune visual cues as well.

Continue to build more confidence with different objects and focus as well.

You will also generalize the behavior so that your dog will put his paws on a variety ofobjects, building further optimism and confidence, as well as flexibility.

Wait For It


Here is a cool game (many consider it a trick) for teaching impulse control with food that is appropriate for your dog to have, utilizing the power of Premack, and possibly using the Wait cue. You can also do this with the food in a bowl or Kong... Make your dog earn his meal!!

You can also modify this game and use the same technique for treats on the nose. The release could be teaching your dog to catch the treat. Do not expect your dog to be able to catch treats before the age of around 5 months or more. For some dogs, this can be tough and a long learning curve.

For real-life applications, like food on a plate on the coffee table or in your hand, etc. that you don’t want your dog to get, or not anticipate getting it, use your Room Service Game or Leave It. The reward would be something else that is appropriate for your dog to have.