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The Comprehensive Glossary of Dog Training Terms

The Comprehensive Glossary of Dog Training Terms by Dog Guru Joe

Welcome to The Dog Guru Joe Comprehensive Dog Training Glossary – a valuable resource for every dog owner, enthusiast, and professional. Whether you’re a seasoned trainer, a new puppy parent, or somewhere in between, understanding the language of dog training is crucial. Just as every cue has its significance in training our furry companions, each term and concept plays an essential role in our understanding of their world.

This glossary is designed not only to clarify terminology but also to serve as a bridge between theory and practice. As you navigate through your dog training journey, you’ll encounter myriad methods, philosophies, and tools. My goal is to demystify this jargon, offering you an instructive guide to each term’s essence.

With a deeper understanding of these terms, I hope to empower you in making informed decisions about your dog’s training and well-being. Dive in, explore, and equip yourself with the knowledge to nurture a positive, rewarding, and lasting bond with your canine companion.

Glossary of Dog Training Terms

Dog Training Terms Beginning With A


Agility is a competitive dog sport that focuses on speed, precision, and teamwork. In agility training, dogs learn to navigate through a timed obstacle course that includes jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and other challenges. The goal is not just to complete the course swiftly but also accurately, following the handler’s cues. It’s an engaging way to mentally and physically stimulate your dog while strengthening the bond between the handler and the pet.


The term “alpha” originates from the early studies of wolf pack dynamics, suggesting that one dominant individual leads the pack. Applied to dogs, it’s the idea that there’s a hierarchy in which one dog (or human) is dominant or the “pack leader.” However, it’s essential to understand that many modern animal behaviorists and dog trainers believe the dominance theory to be outdated. Instead, they emphasize understanding a dog’s needs, communication, and positive reinforcement techniques to shape behavior.


An aversive is anything that a dog finds unpleasant or discomforting. In training, aversives might be used to discourage unwanted behaviors. This can include things like loud noises, citronella sprays, or certain collar corrections. It’s crucial to approach the use of aversives with caution and knowledge. Overuse or misuse can lead to fear, anxiety, and potentially worsen behavioral issues. Many trainers nowadays lean towards positive reinforcement methods, which focus on rewarding desired behaviors rather than punishing undesired ones.


In the context of dog training, attention refers to the dog’s focus on their handler or trainer. Training a dog to give attention on command is foundational, as it ensures the dog is receptive to subsequent cues or instructions. When a dog offers undivided attention, it simplifies the training process, making it more effective and strengthening the bond between the dog and the handler.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With B


Bait refers to a treat or toy used to lure or entice a dog during training. It can be especially useful for capturing desired behaviors or motivating a dog to perform a particular action. While baiting can be effective, it’s essential to transition from using bait to relying on cues and reinforcement over time.

Bark Control

Bark control refers to methods and tools used to reduce or manage excessive barking in dogs. This can include training techniques, devices like anti-bark collars, or environmental modifications. The objective is to address the underlying cause of the barking, whether it’s attention-seeking, boredom, fear, or territoriality, and provide the dog with alternative ways to communicate or cope.

Basic Obedience

Basic obedience encompasses the foundational commands and behaviors that every dog should know for a harmonious living with humans. This typically includes commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “down,” and “heel.” Teaching basic obedience not only ensures well-mannered pets but also strengthens the bond between the dog and the handler, ensuring safety and mutual respect.

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is the systematic approach to changing a dog’s reactions, behaviors, or habits. This can involve techniques like counterconditioning, desensitization, or positive reinforcement. It’s commonly used to address and reshape behaviors rooted in fear, anxiety, or past trauma, ensuring the dog’s well-being and a positive environment.


A behaviorist is a professional trained in understanding, analyzing, and modifying animal behaviors. In the realm of dogs, a canine behaviorist often holds advanced degrees or certifications and uses scientific principles to address behavioral issues, providing solutions based on thorough assessments and understanding of individual dog’s needs.

Bite Inhibition

Bite inhibition refers to a dog’s ability to control the force of its bite. Puppies naturally learn bite inhibition through play with their littermates. If a puppy bites too hard, the other puppies will typically react negatively, teaching the biter to be gentler. It’s crucial for humans to continue teaching bite inhibition to ensure that if a dog ever does bite, it does so without causing injury.

Boundary Training

Boundary training teaches a dog to stay within a specific area, like a yard or room, without the use of physical barriers. This training involves consistent cues and reinforcement, allowing the dog to understand and respect the designated limits set by the handler.


A bridge is a signal that connects the desired behavior of a dog to the upcoming reward. The most common form of a bridge in dog training is a “click” from a clicker, signaling the dog that they’ve performed the correct action, and a reward is imminent. The term can also be used more broadly to mean any marker that indicates the correct behavior, such as a word like “yes.”

Dog Training Terms Beginning With C

Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a certification program offered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) for dogs of all breeds and mixes. The program is designed to reward dogs who display well-mannered behaviors in both familiar and unfamiliar settings. Dogs who successfully complete the CGC test demonstrate their ability to respond to basic commands and exhibit courteous behavior around both people and other dogs. AKC CGC Website (opens in new tab)

Clicker Training

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement-based method of training, using a small device called a clicker. The clicker produces a distinct “click” sound, which acts as a marker to signal the exact moment the dog performs a desired behavior. After the “click,” the dog is immediately rewarded, usually with a treat. Over time, dogs learn to associate the click with having done something correct, making it a powerful tool in shaping and marking behaviors.


A command is an outdated term for a verbal or physical cue given by the handler, instructing the dog to perform a specific behavior. Common commands include “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “down.” Consistency in giving commands is key to avoiding confusion and ensuring effective communication with the dog.


Counter-conditioning is a behavior modification technique used to change a dog’s emotional response to a stimulus. By pairing a previously feared or disliked stimulus with positive rewards, the goal is to replace the dog’s negative feelings with positive ones. For example, if a dog fears the sound of thunder, counterconditioning might involve playing a recording of thunder at a low volume while giving the dog treats, gradually increasing the volume as the dog becomes more comfortable.

Crate training

Crate training involves teaching a dog to view a crate or kennel as a safe, comfortable space. When done correctly, dogs will willingly enter their crates for rest or relaxation. Besides providing a haven for the dog, crate training can be beneficial for housebreaking, as most dogs naturally avoid soiling their sleeping areas. It’s crucial to ensure the crate remains a positive, stress-free environment and is never used as punishment.


Cues are signals given by the handler to indicate what behavior is desired from the dog. Cues can be verbal, like “sit” or “stay,” or non-verbal, such as hand gestures or body language. Consistency in presenting cues is vital, ensuring the dog understands and responds appropriately.

Choke chain

A choke chain, also known as a slip collar, is a type of collar made of metal links. When pulled, it tightens around the dog’s neck. It’s intended to provide a quick correction to unwanted behaviors by giving a brief, sharp tug. While some trainers use choke chains for specific training situations, it’s essential to use them with caution to avoid injury or unintended negative associations. Many modern trainers prefer alternative methods and tools that focus on positive reinforcement.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With D


Desensitization is a behavioral training technique used to reduce or eliminate a dog’s negative reaction to a specific stimulus. The process involves gradually exposing the dog to the stimulus in controlled, low-intensity situations until the dog becomes accustomed to it. For instance, if a dog is fearful of loud noises, desensitization might involve playing a recording of the noise at a very low volume and slowly increasing the volume over time, allowing the dog to become more comfortable with the sound.


Distraction, in the context of dog training, refers to anything that diverts the dog’s attention away from the task or behavior at hand. This can be an external factor, like another animal, person, or noise, or it can be an intentional technique employed by the trainer. Using distractions can be beneficial when trying to test a dog’s focus or reliability in obeying commands in various environments. However, it’s also essential to be aware of them during training to ensure effective learning.


Dominance is a concept that stems from early interpretations of pack behavior, suggesting that there is a hierarchical structure with one dog (or person) acting as the dominant or “alpha” individual. In training, it’s the idea that the handler must establish themselves as the “pack leader” for the dog to obey. However, many modern behaviorists and trainers consider this perspective oversimplified and possibly misleading. Instead, they emphasize mutual respect, clear communication, and positive reinforcement techniques for effective training and relationship building.

Drop it

“Drop it” is a command used to instruct a dog to release whatever they have in their mouth immediately. It’s an essential command for safety reasons, especially if a dog picks up something potentially harmful. Training a dog to respond reliably to the “drop it” command usually involves positive reinforcement, rewarding the dog when they let go of the item they’ve picked up.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With E


Enrichment refers to activities, objects, or scenarios that stimulate a dog’s mind and senses, contributing to their overall well-being. These activities can help alleviate boredom, reduce destructive behaviors, and improve mental health. Examples of enrichment include puzzle toys, scent games, interactive play, new training exercises, and social interactions with other animals or people. The goal of enrichment is to provide dogs with engaging and meaningful experiences that challenge their minds and satisfy their natural instincts.

E-collar (Electronic collar)

An E-collar, commonly known as an electronic collar, is a type of training collar that delivers a controlled electric stimulus to the dog, usually via remote control. The intent is to correct or deter unwanted behaviors by providing a slight shock or vibration. E-collars have varying levels of intensity, and some models also feature tones or beeps. While some trainers find them useful for specific training challenges, especially at a distance, their use is controversial. Critics argue they can cause pain, fear, and stress in dogs, potentially leading to aggression or other behavioral issues. If considering the use of an E-collar, it’s crucial to be fully informed and, if possible, seek guidance from a professional to ensure its humane and effective application.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With F


Fading, in dog training, refers to the gradual reduction or removal of a lure, prompt, or aid used to guide a dog into performing a particular behavior. The goal is for the dog to respond to the cue or command alone without needing the initial lure or guide. For example, if using a treat to teach a dog to sit, over time, the handler would decrease the visibility and use of the treat until the dog sits in response to the command alone.


Fetch is a game and training exercise where the dog is taught to retrieve an object, such as a ball or toy, and bring it back to the handler. The basic commands involved in fetch are “fetch” (or “get it”), “come,” and “drop it.” Fetch not only provides physical exercise but also stimulates the dog’s mind, reinforcing obedience and enhancing the bond between the dog and the handler.

Flat collar

A flat collar is a standard type of dog collar made of leather, nylon, or other materials. It lies flat against the dog’s neck and typically has a buckle or snap closure. Flat collars are commonly used for attaching identification tags and for general walking purposes. It’s essential to ensure the collar fits properly, neither too tight nor too loose, to ensure the dog’s safety and comfort.


Flooding, also known as “forced exposure,” is a controversial behavior modification technique where the dog is exposed to a stimulus that causes fear or anxiety in a continuous or overwhelming manner, with no option to escape. The intention is for the dog to realize that the feared stimulus won’t harm them, eventually reducing or eliminating their fear. However, this technique can be traumatic and can often exacerbate the dog’s anxiety or fear. Most modern trainers advocate for gentler, more positive methods, like desensitization and counterconditioning.

Free shaping

Free shaping, often just referred to as “shaping,” is a training technique where desired behaviors are developed and refined incrementally. Instead of guiding the dog into a behavior, the trainer rewards any small actions or movements that resemble the final desired behavior. Over time, the criteria for the reward become stricter, “shaping” the behavior step by step. For instance, if shaping a dog to touch a bell with their paw, the trainer might first reward any interest the dog shows in the bell, then only when they move closer, and eventually only when they touch it.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With G


Generalization in dog training refers to a dog’s ability to apply learned behaviors in different situations or environments. For example, a dog might learn the “sit” command in the living room but might initially struggle to follow the same command in a park. Through training, the behavior is generalized when the dog can perform it consistently regardless of different locations, distractions, or variations in the command’s presentation.


A growl is a vocalization made by dogs as a warning or expression of discomfort, fear, or aggression. It can indicate various emotions, from playful excitement to a warning to back off. In training and behavior management, it’s essential to recognize and respect a growl as a form of communication. Addressing the underlying cause or emotion rather than punishing the growl itself is crucial for the dog’s well-being and safety.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With H


“Heel” is a command instructing the dog to walk closely beside the handler, typically on the left side, with their head or shoulder aligned with the handler’s leg. The dog should maintain this position regardless of the handler’s speed or direction. “Heeling” is especially valuable in situations where the dog needs to be under close control, such as in crowded areas or during formal obedience exercises.


Housebreaking, also known as potty training or toilet training, involves teaching a dog to eliminate outside or in a designated indoor area. The process usually involves establishing a routine, consistently rewarding the dog for eliminating in the correct spot, and preventing accidents by supervising the dog and recognizing their signs of needing to go. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, most dogs can be successfully housebroken.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With I

Impulse Control

Impulse control refers to a dog’s ability to resist immediate temptations or urges and instead respond to a cue or command from the handler. Training in impulse control can include exercises like “leave it,” where a dog is taught to avoid grabbing food or an object even when it’s within reach. Good impulse control is crucial for a dog’s safety and manners, ensuring they can behave appropriately in various situations.

Intermittent Reinforcement

Intermittent reinforcement means that a behavior is not rewarded every single time it’s performed but rather on an inconsistent or variable schedule. This can make the behavior more resistant to extinction (or stopping). In dog training, moving from continuous reinforcement (rewarding every correct behavior) to intermittent reinforcement can help solidify the behavior and make it more reliable in different situations.


An interrupter is a sound, action, or word used to momentarily halt a dog’s current behavior or distract them from an undesirable action. Examples of interrupters include clapping hands, using a quick vocal sound, or employing a device like a pet-corrector. Interrupters are often used to break a dog’s focus on something, allowing the handler to redirect the dog’s attention to a more appropriate behavior.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With J

Jackpot Reward

A jackpot reward refers to giving a larger-than-usual or extra-special treat or praise when a dog performs exceptionally well or achieves a significant training milestone. Think of it as a “bonus” for outstanding performance. It’s a way to acknowledge and reinforce particularly good behavior or breakthrough moments in training.

Jumping Up

Jumping up is a common behavior where a dog leaps up onto a person, often placing their front paws on the person’s torso. While it’s often an expression of excitement or greeting, many people find it undesirable, especially in larger dogs or when wearing nice clothes. Training a dog not to jump up typically involves teaching them an alternative behavior, like sitting, when greeting people and reinforcing that positive behavior.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With K

Kennel Training

Kennel training, often synonymous with crate training, is the process of teaching a dog to see a kennel or crate as a safe and comfortable space. When done correctly, dogs will willingly enter their kennels for rest, relaxation, or a sense of security. It can be beneficial for housebreaking, travel, or providing a dog with its own sanctuary within the home.


K9, a phonetic abbreviation for “canine,” is commonly used to refer to police or military dogs. These dogs undergo specialized training based on their roles, which can range from narcotics detection, bomb sniffing, search and rescue, to protection and patrol. K9 units play a crucial role in many law enforcement and military operations due to their keen senses and capabilities.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With L


In dog training, a lure is something (often a treat or toy) used to guide a dog into performing a specific behavior. For example, a treat might be used as a lure to guide a dog into a sitting position. Over time, the physical lure is typically faded, and the dog responds to a hand signal or verbal cue alone.

Leash Reactivity

Leash reactivity refers to aggressive or overly excited behaviors exhibited by a dog when they are on a leash, especially in the presence of specific triggers like other dogs, people, or moving vehicles. Signs of leash reactivity include barking, lunging, or growling. This behavior often stems from fear, frustration, or overexcitement, and various training methods can be employed to manage or reduce it.

Leash Training

Leash training involves teaching a dog to walk politely on a leash without pulling, straining, or becoming distracted. It’s a fundamental aspect of dog training, ensuring safe and controlled walks. Techniques often involve rewarding the dog for walking with a slack leash and providing consistent feedback for undesirable behaviors.

Leave It

“Leave it” is a command used in dog training to instruct a dog to ignore or move away from a particular item, distraction, or situation. It’s a vital command for safety, ensuring dogs avoid potentially harmful items like trash, harmful foods, or dangerous situations. When a dog understands and reliably responds to the “leave it” cue, it can prevent ingestion of harmful substances or deter unwanted interactions.

Limited Hold

Limited hold is a concept in dog training where a behavior must be performed within a specific time frame after the cue is given to earn a reward. It’s often used in competitive obedience or other dog sports where precision and speed are crucial. For example, if a dog is given the command to “sit,” they might be expected to do so within two seconds to receive a reward.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With M


A marker is a sound or signal used in training to indicate the precise moment a dog performs a desired behavior. The marker is followed by a reward, letting the dog know they did something right. Clicker training utilizes a clicker as a marker, but verbal markers like “yes” can also be used.

Mat Training

Mat training, sometimes called “place” or “settle” training, involves teaching a dog to stay calmly on a designated mat, bed, or platform for a set period. It’s useful for creating boundaries in the home, especially when visitors arrive, or during mealtimes. The mat becomes a safe and familiar spot for the dog.


A muzzle is a device placed over a dog’s snout to prevent biting or eating unwanted items. It’s essential that muzzles are used humanely, allowing the dog to breathe, pant, and drink water comfortably. Muzzle training can be beneficial for dogs that display aggressive tendencies or for specific situations like vet visits, but it’s crucial to ensure the dog has positive associations with the muzzle.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With N

Negative Punishment

Negative punishment is a concept in operant conditioning where something desirable is removed to decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring again. For example, if a dog jumps on a person for attention and the person turns away (removing attention), that is negative punishment.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement involves strengthening a behavior by removing an unpleasant or aversive stimulus when the behavior is performed. For example, if a dog sits (behavior) to avoid a continuous loud noise (aversive stimulus) that stops when they sit, the behavior of sitting is reinforced by the cessation of the noise.

NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free)

NILIF is a training philosophy suggesting that a dog must earn all valued resources, such as food, toys, or attention, by displaying appropriate behaviors. For instance, asking a dog to sit before getting a meal or playtime. It’s a strategy to establish clear boundaries and reinforce good behaviors without using force or intimidation.

No-reward Marker

A no-reward marker is a consistent signal or word used to inform the dog that they did not perform the desired behavior correctly, and therefore won’t receive a reward. It’s not a punishment or reprimand but a way to provide feedback. Common no-reward markers include words like “wrong” or “oops.”

Dog Training Terms Beginning With O


Obedience refers to a dog’s willingness and ability to follow commands or cues given by a handler. In a broader sense, obedience training encompasses teaching dogs foundational commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel.” Proper obedience training fosters a harmonious relationship between the dog and handler, ensuring safety, mutual respect, and effective communication.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a fundamental concept in behavioral psychology, which focuses on how behaviors are shaped and modified by their consequences. In this type of learning, behaviors are strengthened or weakened based on reinforcements (positive or negative) or punishments (positive or negative). For example, rewarding a dog with a treat for sitting (positive reinforcement) increases the likelihood of the dog sitting again in the future.


Overtraining occurs when a dog is pushed too hard in training sessions, leading to fatigue, stress, or diminished enthusiasm for learning. Just like humans, dogs have limits to their attention spans and physical capabilities. Overtraining can lead to slower progress, increased errors, and potential behavioral issues. It’s essential for trainers and handlers to recognize signs of overtraining and ensure that training sessions are balanced with adequate rest and relaxation.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With P

Positive Punishment

Positive punishment involves adding an aversive or unpleasant stimulus immediately after a behavior to decrease the likelihood of that behavior occurring again in the future. For instance, if a dog barks and then receives a spray of water, the addition of the water spray serves as positive punishment with the aim of reducing barking.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves adding a desirable stimulus immediately after a behavior to increase the likelihood of that behavior being repeated. A common example in dog training is giving a dog a treat after they sit on command. The treat serves as a positive reinforcement, encouraging the dog to sit again in the future when given the same command.


Proofing refers to the process of ensuring a dog’s behavior or command response is reliable under various conditions and distractions. After a dog has learned a command in a quiet environment, proofing might involve practicing the command in different locations, with different distractions, or under different conditions to ensure the dog consistently responds.

Prong Collar

A prong collar, sometimes called a pinch collar, is a metal collar made up of interlocking links, each with several prongs that sit against a dog’s neck. When the collar is tightened, the prongs pinch the neck. It’s designed to provide a correction and discourage unwanted behaviors. It’s essential to use prong collars correctly and humanely, ensuring they fit properly and are not causing harm or excessive discomfort. Many modern trainers prefer alternative methods and tools that focus on positive reinforcement.

Puppy Socialization

Puppy socialization is the process of exposing young dogs to various people, animals, environments, sounds, and experiences during their formative weeks and months. Proper socialization helps puppies grow into well-adjusted, confident adult dogs. It’s a critical phase in a dog’s life, usually between 3 to 14 weeks of age, where positive encounters can shape a dog’s behavior and outlook for the rest of their life.


In the context of dog training, punishment refers to any consequence that decreases the likelihood of a behavior being repeated in the future. It can be in the form of positive punishment (adding an aversive stimulus) or negative punishment (removing a desired stimulus). It’s vital to use punishment judiciously and ensure that it’s appropriate, timely, and not excessive, as incorrect or overuse can lead to fear, anxiety, and other behavioral issues.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With Q

Quadrants of Operant Conditioning

The Quadrants of Operant Conditioning are four fundamental methods used to increase or decrease a specific behavior, based on the principles of behavioral psychology:

  1. Positive Reinforcement (+R): Adding something desirable (like a treat) to increase the likelihood of a behavior being repeated.
  2. Negative Reinforcement (-R): Removing something unpleasant to increase the likelihood of a behavior being repeated.
  3. Positive Punishment (+P): Adding something aversive (like a spray of water) to decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring.
  4. Negative Punishment (-P): Removing something desirable (like attention) to decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring.


The quick refers to the sensitive part of a dog’s nail, containing blood vessels and nerves. It’s crucial to be careful when trimming a dog’s nails not to cut into the quick, as it can cause pain and bleeding.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With R


Recall is a command used to call a dog back to the handler. Often simply “come,” it’s one of the most essential commands for a dog to learn for safety reasons. A reliable recall ensures that, regardless of distractions, a dog will return to their handler when called.


In the context of dog training, reinforcement is any consequence that increases the likelihood of a behavior being repeated in the future. It can be positive (adding something desirable) or negative (removing something unpleasant). Examples include treats, praise, or the removal of a negative stimulus.

Release Cue

A release cue is a word or signal used to let the dog know they are free to break from their current position or command. Common release cues include “okay,” “free,” or “release.” It signals the end of a specific behavior or exercise, like a “stay” or “down.”

Resource Guarding

Resource guarding occurs when a dog displays aggressive or defensive behaviors, like growling, snapping, or biting, to protect a valued resource. This resource can be food, toys, territory, or even a specific person. It’s a natural behavior but can become problematic, especially in multi-pet households or when interacting with people.


Retrieval involves a dog fetching and returning an object to a handler upon command. It’s the basis of games like “fetch” but is also a foundational skill for working dogs, such as service dogs or hunting dogs. Training a dog in retrieval often involves teaching them to hold, carry, and release objects gently and on cue.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With S

Scent Work

Scent work refers to training activities that utilize and hone a dog’s natural olfactory abilities. Dogs are taught to identify and indicate specific scents, which can range from the scents of particular objects to drugs or explosives. Scent work can be for fun, sport (like nosework competitions), or professional purposes (like search and rescue or police work).


“Settle” is a command asking the dog to calm down and relax. It’s particularly useful for dogs that get overly excited or anxious. In training, “settle” might be paired with specific behaviors like lying down on a mat or simply ceasing excessive movement or agitation.


Shaping, also known as “successive approximation,” is a training method where desired behaviors are developed incrementally. Instead of expecting the full behavior immediately, trainers reward small steps towards the final behavior, refining over time. For instance, if shaping a dog to ring a bell, the dog might first be rewarded for looking at the bell, then touching it, and eventually for ringing it.


“Sit” is a basic obedience command instructing the dog to lower its hindquarters to the ground while keeping its front legs straight. It’s one of the first commands many dogs learn and serves as a foundation for many other training exercises.


Socialization involves exposing a dog, particularly puppies, to various people, animals, environments, sounds, and experiences to help them become well-adjusted and confident. Proper socialization helps prevent fear, aggression, or anxiety in unfamiliar situations. It’s a critical process, especially during a dog’s early developmental stages.


“Stay” is a command instructing the dog to remain in its current position, whether that’s sitting, lying down, or standing, until given a release cue. It’s a vital command for ensuring a dog’s safety and manners in various situations.

Stimulus Control

Stimulus control in dog training refers to a behavior being reliably elicited by a specific cue or command and not by other cues. For instance, a dog that sits reliably whenever given the “sit” command, but doesn’t sit for other words or commands, is said to have the “sit” behavior under stimulus control.

Submissive Urination

Submissive urination occurs when a dog, often a puppy, involuntarily urinates as a gesture of submission or appeasement in certain social situations. It can happen when they’re being greeted, when they’re anxious, or when they perceive another animal or human as dominant. It’s not a housebreaking issue but rather a behavioral one rooted in the dog’s emotions and social responses.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With T


Targeting is a training technique where a dog is taught to touch, focus on, or move towards a specific object, location, or body part (either theirs or someone else’s) using their nose, paw, or other body parts. For instance, “nose targeting” might involve a dog touching their nose to a trainer’s hand or a specific tool. Targeting can be used to teach a variety of behaviors or tricks.


In dog training, a threshold refers to the point at which a stimulus becomes strong enough to elicit a reaction from the dog. For dogs with reactivity issues, it’s the distance or intensity at which they begin to react to a specific trigger. Recognizing and working within a dog’s threshold is crucial for behavior modification, ensuring training occurs without pushing the dog into a heightened state of arousal or stress.


Time-out is a negative punishment technique where a dog is temporarily removed from a rewarding situation to reduce or eliminate an undesirable behavior. If a dog is playing too roughly, for instance, they might be given a brief time-out by being calmly and briefly isolated from play. The removal of playtime serves to communicate that the rough behavior is undesirable.


Tug refers to a game where a dog and human (or occasionally another dog) pull on opposite ends of a toy. It’s a natural behavior for many dogs and can be a rewarding play and training activity when done with rules to ensure safety and control. Contrary to some beliefs, playing tug with rules in place does not necessarily encourage aggression or dominance.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With U


In the context of dog training, undershoot typically refers to a dog not fully completing a behavior or not reaching the intended target. For example, if teaching a dog to jump over an obstacle and they only jump partway or don’t clear the obstacle, they might be said to “undershoot” the jump.

Unconditioned Response

An unconditioned response is a natural, innate reaction to a stimulus without prior learning or conditioning. For example, a dog salivating in response to the smell of food is an unconditioned response; it’s a reaction that hasn’t been specifically taught.

Unconditioned Stimulus

An unconditioned stimulus is something that naturally and automatically triggers an unconditioned response. Using the previous example, the smell of food would be the unconditioned stimulus causing the dog’s natural reaction of salivation.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With V

Variable Ratio

Variable ratio refers to a reinforcement schedule in which a behavior is rewarded after an unpredictable number of responses. This kind of schedule creates a high and steady rate of response, as the dog doesn’t know exactly when the next reward is coming but understands that it will come with persistence. For example, if a dog is rewarded for sitting every once in a while, (and not every single time), the dog is being reinforced on a variable ratio schedule. This type of reinforcement is often used to maintain and strengthen already learned behaviors.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With W


“Wait” is a command used in dog training to instruct the dog to pause or hold off momentarily but not necessarily stay in one place for an extended period. For example, a dog might be told to “wait” before going out an open door or before jumping out of a vehicle, ensuring they don’t rush out prematurely or unsafely.

Whistle Training

Whistle training involves using a whistle as a cue or command in place of or alongside voice commands. Whistles can carry over longer distances and may be heard better in certain environments, making them useful for activities like herding or hunting. Dogs can be trained to respond to different whistle patterns in the same way they’d respond to verbal cues.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With X

Xenophobia (in context of unfamiliar objects or situations)

In the context of dogs, xenophobia refers to an intense fear or wariness of unfamiliar objects, situations, or beings. It’s not just a fear of strangers (which can be termed “stranger anxiety” or “stranger phobia”) but can extend to any new or unfamiliar stimuli. Dogs exhibiting xenophobia may show signs of anxiety, stress, or aggression when confronted with new experiences, environments, or objects.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With Y


In dog training, to “yield” often refers to a dog giving space, backing up, or submitting to a handler’s spatial pressure or body language. It can also mean a dog stopping and waiting when encountering resistance, such as leash tension. Teaching a dog to yield can be useful in managing their movement in various contexts, ensuring safety and promoting respect.

Dog Training Terms Beginning With Z

Zen Bowl Training (Leave it)

Zen Bowl Training is a specific approach to teaching the “leave it” command. It involves teaching a dog to resist the urge to take food or a toy directly from a bowl or hand until given permission. The “Zen” part signifies the patience and self-control the dog must exhibit. Over time, the dog learns that by waiting patiently and avoiding the immediate grab, they eventually get the reward.

About Dog Guru Joe

About Dog Guru Joe

Dog Guru Joe Bodick began professionally training dogs in 2009 at a retail pet store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. By 2014, he was managing a large dog daycare and boarding facility, which included dog training and grooming services, in addition to all-day play. In 2017, Joe moved to Denver, Colorado where he started his in-home private dog training company, A Happier Home Dog Pros, which focused on providing pet owners and handlers with effective training solutions. Recently, Joe relocated to Southern California, where he now devotes his time to doggurujoe.com.