The Power of All or None Reward Training

This is technique was pioneered by Dr Ian and Kelly Dunbar of Sirius Dog training in San Francisco. I’m visiting California later in the year and am hoping to visit the school while I am there and learn more. Dr Ian talked about this technique in seminar I attended last year and I’m also attending his “Science Based Dog training with Feeling” seminar in Edinburgh in July. The technique is also available on his DVD Sirius Adult Dog Training which is available in the UK from or from http://www.dogstardaily,com in the US. I also think you can download it directly from

So what is the technique? You have a portion of your dog’s daily allowance of food in your hand or pocket. Your dog is on her lead. Every time pup does something you like, you give a piece of food. At the beginning, we reward for what the dog is not doing. If the dog is not straining or pulling on the lead, kibble. Not barking, kibble. Not staring at another dog in the class or park, kibble. At the beginning, we set the bar low, so that the dog can’t help but succeed. What I’ve found when doing this with clients and any dog I’m working with on my own is that because we are rewarding more and more civil/appropriate behaviours, the dog calms down, and starts paying us more attention. Because pup is on the lead, the only opportunity for any kind of fun is us, so she will pay us more attention.

As your dog gets better at this, we start only reinforcing better behaviours. Dog sits, kibble. Dog lies down, kibble. Dog looks at us, kibble. When your dog is reliably doing this, probably after a while/few sessions, she sits, kibble, we turn our back on her and what we usually find is that she will walk round to the front of us and sit down. Again, she receives a food reward and we repeat the process.

If you do this at the start of the walk, you will find that your dog is less likely to go away from you which means you can then reward her for being close to you. Do this technique often and you will find a marked improvement in your dog’s focus and attention on you.

The video included is from my first session with an unruly Great Dane. All John  did with Zane for two weeks was All or None Reward training in all different environments and in that time he was like a different dog.

Please let me know what you think of if you have had any success using this technique

Rosie – the hyper working Cocker

Last week I received a phone call from Hugh. He is in his 70s and lives with his wife and today celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary. They bought a working cocker from a good breeder 5 months ago and she is now 7 months old. Being their first dog, their choice could have been a little better, maybe one of the toy breeds would have been slightly more suited to their lifestyle, but they have Rosie and have also stepped up to the mark regarding her training.

Sunday afternoons are busy at Hugh and Irene’s, with around 15 family members coming routinely for lunch, including several grandchildren from 9 to 19 years. Rosie has been inadvertently reinforced for inappropriate behaviours such as jumping and mouthing and a couple of the younger grandchildren are now wary of her.

I arranged to see them this morning. Hugh had put Rosie in the kitchen prior to my arrival. I decided that we would try only putting her out of the room or ignoring her when she did something rude and rewarding her with petting and kind words and allowing her to remain in the room when she was sweeter.


We let her into the room on a leash (it was trailing, just so we could get a hold of her if needed). She immediately ran up to me and jumped on me and we put her straight out of the room by the leash with no words other than “oops” as an indicator (no reward marker) that she had messed up. She was given a 5 second time out and we let her back in again. She repeated this 4 or 5 times before she was no longer jumping on us initially, and as soon as she did some thing nice we told her “good dog” and petted her for a couple of seconds. She then took this petting as an invitation to jump all over us, so she was put out straight away, again for 5 seconds. We only needed to do this 4 more times before she was lying calmly next to us.

The rules I gave to Hugh and Irene were as follows

1. Pet her briefly for something you like

2. Ignore stuff you don’t like

3. Give her a 5 second timeout for things you really don’t like (teeth on clothing or skin and feet on you)

By the end of the session Rosie was being a star and was sitting in her bed as Hugh and Irene were eating a sandwich. Good result!

There had been no shouting, hitting, water pistols or rattle cans in sight. We had one full body shake indicating she was getting a bit stressed and we gave her a break after this before continuing.

I explained to Hugh that when the family came round there would be a higher level of distraction and to explain to house guests that the must completely ignore inappropriate behaviour.

Teaching appropriate behaviour when leaving the house

Some of you may be aware of the “rules” which rank reduction (RR) programmes advise in order to prevent your dog from achieving a higher status in the household than he has. For those of you who are not familiar with rank reduction programmes, it is based on the flawed theory that dogs, like wolves, are pack animals and that they are constantly vying for a great rank than the one they already have and if we are not being “alpha” enough they will step up and take this role from us. I’ll post more on this later but for now, we’ll discuss one of the rules RR says we should follow.

The rule states that alpha dogs go through passageways and doorways first as they always lead the way. It says we must do this every time we go out a door. So, according to this rule, we should go through the door first, and never let your dog go out the door in front of you because then they think they are leading the walk. If you haven’t trained your dog to wait politely at the door, then we have to use physical strength to hold the dog back, and if you own large breed like I used to, then all you will achieve is aching back muscles and a strained rotator cuff as you try to forcibly hold your dog back before going out the door. It also doesn’t address this issue of you carrying a bag in one hand, keys and dog leash in the other etc.

An alternative, and probably a more acceptable way is to train your dog to sit before you open the door, then open the door, ask your dog to go out first and sit at the other side. You then step out after him/her, keys in hand, lock the door behind you and then proceed on your walk. Pack leadership proponents will raise their hands in horror at this suggestion, but this method means no pulling, no strained muscles or trips to the chiropractor and a dog who has been taught to wait politely while you do the necessary as you leave the house.

Which option would you rather have?