How to find your dog’s ‘on’ switch …




Yes, you did read that correctly. Every dog has an’on’switch, it’s just that finding it can sometimes be a problem! Once you have found it though, your dog will be completely different in his attitude to training, in line with the necessary changes in your methods.


If you have ever watched a routine that brought tears to your eyes, have you stopped to think exactly what it is that has provoked such a reaction? There’s every chance that it was because dog and handler truly worked as a TEAM, with the dog as hooked on the handler as the handler was on the dog. This type of relationship does not happen instantly (believe me I know!) it takes MOTIVATIONAL REWARD BASED TRAINING to achieve it.


“Hang on”, I hear you cry,”all the top teams in HTM/Freestyle are Border Collies or Working Sheepdogs”. In answer to that ,I should like to point out there is absolutely no reason why this new sport SHOULD be dominated by the collies as all the other popular sports are, since speed is not a prerequisite as it is in agility and flyball. Indeed my own mongrel, Pepper, has done pretty well for herself giving the collies a run for their money! The only thing needed to succeed is a highly motivated dog (and handler!). If during your routine your dog wears a bored expression or lags three paces behind you, then it is time for a change. If you get the dog working closely with you and wanting to work then the only thing limiting your success is your own lack of imagination in dreaming up new moves to teach your dog!


My advice would be to use a clicker or a key word that means the same as the’click’, get your dog “hooked” on a particular toy that you can use as a reward and then to work on what I call the foundation moves. By this I mean, before you start getting your dog to do tricks get him performing beautiful motivated heelwork as his party trick! Start by getting just a fraction of a second of full attention from your dog and gradually build up from there. Remember that a seconds’ worth of perfection at this early stage, beats 3 ½ minutes of your dog lagging behind or sniffing the floor!


Another important thing to remember is not to just always have your dog working on your left (this isn’t an obedience round) but also on your right, in front of you, able to turn left and right, circling etc. Once your dog can work every which way, you then have a superb foundation on which to build .Even if you have your heart set on freestyle, remember this – to produce a flowing routine you have to be able to get from one move to the next with style and ease, so if you have a whole panoply of movements at your fingertips, you will find it much easier. The beauty of HTM/Freestyle is that the dogs and handlers are free to use all their capabilities, and a whole range of wonderful flowing movements, rather than having the worry of a crooked sit hanging over them!


Just one more point for you to ponder – you can teach a dog many things, but you can’t teach it to look happy, to look happy it truly has to BE happy. Surely we owe it to our best friends to use the best and most rewarding methods of training?

11 Responses to How to find your dog’s ‘on’ switch …

  1. Sweetpea says:

    You and your wonderful dog brought me to tears. What exquisite team work. There is such obvious love between the two of you. I have watched your videos numerous times and each time I am in awe of the training you have done and of Chandi’s talent. The two of you are an inspiration to dog lovers everywhere! CONGRATULATIONS!! I will come back to your website over and over to watch the two of you perform!

  2. Katie Rosemary says:

    Hello there, my Mom sent me an e-mail telling me to watch you and your amazing dog dance. And asked if my puppy could learn this too. I have a mini austrailian shephard. She’s a red merle and my soul-pup. She’s so loving, and so smart for only being 9 months old. She knows how to jump and hop on command, and spin 180 degrees while jumping (we call this dance), she’s good at putting her paws up at the same time, and or different times when standing and sitting. I just cannot get her to do more than one trick in a row without her making one of her many noises telling me she won’t do more than one trick without treats. She WILL dance and howl to certian kinds of music but gets very distracted very easily. Any advice? Thank you so much for sharing your relationship and information, it’s inspiring and helpful. Your dogs are gorgeous and very special!!! I know what you mean when you said you knew she was your soulmate from the beginning, I love my Anabelle she’s the best! Best Regards-Katie

  3. Thank you so much for this blog. I am inspired and think that I am off to work with my dogs right now!

  4. Awesome training tips! I’ll make this brief, I don’t understand the “not always heeling on the left side” part. Won’t heeling in front and on the right confuse my dog? We compete in obedience as well as freestyle, and I’m afraid that when I say “heel” in the obedience ring, she won’t always heel on my left after that. Thanks for this manuel, I’m going to get working with my dog right now!

  5. Reed Katt says:

    Lots of Great information in your posting, I favorited your blog post so I can visit again in the near future, Cheers, Reed Katt

  6. Maria says:

    Hi there! I got a 6 year old miniature schnauzer that i’ve been working on alot of tricks with, but since she’s scared of the clicker we have to try and do our best without it. But i must admit, its almost “impossible” to get that attention with classic learning, especially if the dog is a dreamer. She doesnt get that will to work with most candy, and if i use a favorite toy she just locks herself onto the toy and nothing else.

    Got any tips for me?
    /Maria, sweden.

  7. Caroline Youmans says:

    That is what brought tears to my eyes indeed. Chandi looks totally engrossed in you and wants to please and looks very happy doing just that.

  8. Elizabeth A.J. Salzer says:

    Your relationship with Chandi is astounding and has inspired my work with my Shetland Sheepdog, Bart, whom we rescued a year and a half ago. Bart excels at agility and is a certified Therapy Dog. I have learned a huge amount from your videos and website. Your performances with Chandi at Crufts bring me to tears every time I watch them. Thanks for all you do with your dogs and to inspire the rest of us!

  9. Belinda Nicholas says:

    Just wanted to say you are so right it doesn’t have to be a collie. We recently took on our second rescue dog, a staffie and although I have trained all my GSD’s I’d had from pups before, I had no expectations of doing anything with her. As she pulled on the lead badly, I took her to learn some clicker training to see how she got on & what an eyeopener. She is so clever and loves learning. I have just bought your video so I can satisfy her thirst to learn with some dancing and she loves it. We got a round of applause at training when I showed them her weave and she is doing her breed proud!! Thank you…

  10. Amy says:

    Your story is inspirational and Chandi’s heart is pure love and deep attachment. My dog Wopple, was impossible for years until I took your heartfelt advice. She is now a top competitor in my county state tri-regional division 6 championship (what a mouthful!). Now I realise that a dog and owner can share a bond stronger than that of simply companionship but love as well. Thank you so much.

    P.S. Any tips for dogs playing instruments? I’m trying to get wopple to play the piano it’s quite a challenge!!!!

  11. megan frost says:

    you and chandi are a real team. you really have a unbreakable bond with her. ive got a 9 week old blue merle border collie she looks like chandi but her ears are floppy. her names pepper, i read your book before i got her and loved the name pepper. i hope she turns out like chandi.
    P.S. i know shes a pup and all pups nip but do you have any tips to help with it?

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