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Yellow Lead Skills

Here I will go through each yellow lead skill and explain what it is and what the test looks like.


Ethology is the study of an animal's behavior in its natural environment. You will learn how to understand your dog's behavior and we will even debunk some myths.

Test: You will create two "ethograms" and you will have a short guided conversation with your instructor demonstrating that you understand the material. 


Now your dog is really getting the concept. Or is he? The trap many dog owners make is that, because your dog does it well in one way in one environment, that your dog understands it. This is just a “trick”, or something the dog performs in only under very specific conditions, it isn’t a life skill yet. Experienced trainers know that you now have to generalize the concept. 

TestDog is thrown a piece of food to eat. Then is thrown another piece of food but instructed “no”. Dog must not attempt to eat the food, after 3 seconds the dog is invited to take the food with “yes”.


Even though we want the dog to enjoy strangers presence, we still want them to be polite. So, ideally the dog would wait to be invited to interact with a stranger. You should also be able to instruct the dog to stop interacting if necessary. They should already see strangers approaching as a signal to "stay". Now the stranger is going to invite the dog to interact with them, perhaps by giving a treat, perhaps by petting them. You should be able to say "no" and have your dog disengage at any time. Your dog now learns that in order to get attention, they should wait patiently to ask for it. If all dogs learned polite greeting behavior, our dogs would be allowed to accompany us almost anywhere in public. 

Manners Test: Dog sitting, stranger approaches, dog must remain in a sit while owners talk and shake hands. He offers the dog a treat but the owner instructs the dog not to accept it.

Friendliness Test:  you change your mind and give dog permission to take the treat


Now let's add some more information to this signal. Stay now will mean, if you remain where I leave you I will return to you. This is a serious promise you make with your dog. Dogs are very social animals and don’t want to be abandoned by their social group. Teaching your dog that you won’t abandon them will increase your dog's confidence and trust in you.

Test: Dog is tied to post, put into a position and left. Handler must walk at least 30 ft away and return to the dog without the dog moving.


Make your dog very interested in your movements and following them. Randomly stop moving and expect your dog to match your speed, and energy level. 

This skill is all about captivating your dog's attention and maintaining contact. The better you get at this, the better all of your other skills will be.

Test: A champagne flute of water is to be held in the hand of the handler that is handling the leash. The handler then leads the dog through the designated course which will include changes of pace. if water drops below a certain level the test is considered failed.


One of the best ways invigorate your recall is to play hide and seek

TestDog is handed to an assistant. The handler goes and hides out of sight. The dog is then signaled to come, sit in front, handler reaches out and takes the dog's collar, unclips the Lead and clips a second Lead.


One of the differences between the working dog world and the pet dog world, as I see it, is that in the working world we control dog's by sending them away, while in the pet dog world we control them by bringing the dog to us. This distinction holds some important truths for dog training. The first truth is that dogs came to us. They domesticated themselves because we offered them easier food sources and more comfort in general. From that you can see that sending your dog away from you shows true control. The dogs natural instinct is to stay close to members of their social group. The fact that many pet dogs run from their owners every chance they get shows the perversion of a dog's nature. The recall should be the easiest things for your dog, the stay and the “send out” should be the hardest. 

TestSend your dog to a platform, target or mat 15ft away and have your dog take up the position the judge asks for (sit, stand or down).


Shaping is a more advanced training technique and many of the best trainers rely on this as their primary technique. Shaping, or “differential reinforcement of successive approximations”, is reinforcing the dog for progressively closer behaviors to our target behavior. For example, let’s say we can to train a guinea pig to put its paw on a cube (this is the first step of training a guinea pig to detect gunpowder). First we would reinforce for just looking at the cube. Then, when we have done that a few times, we will up the criteria to moving towards the cube. Then investigating the cube. Then pawing at the cube. Then stepping on the cube. And lastly holding its paw on the cube for 3 seconds (we also get up to 3 seconds slowly by using shaping). This may seem like a long winded process, but the advantage to shaping is that the animal has to own the training process and generate it all on its own with minimal prompting from the trainer. Behaviors that are shaped become much stronger than lured behaviors.

Test: Demonstrate shaping


The second tier of tasks for you to play with are all about your dog trusting you. Going through a curved tunnel is a metaphor for crawling under anything that your dog can’t see the exit to. Riding in a wheelbarrow and holding position on an unstable object (an exercise ball or wobble board) is about your dog trusting what you say will be worth it. 

Test: Go through a curved tunnel, ride in a wheelbarrow, jump from one object to another


By now you’ve gone and watched a couple of different classes and sports. You may have even done a little introductory work with your dog. It’s time to teach your dog that their instinct aren’t just for fun, they’re a job. They mustn’t use their instincts when it could be dangerous, so, we put them under “stimulus control.” 

Test: Take a working dog sport class.

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