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

2 thoughts on “The Power of All or None Reward Training

  1. Hi! I like this a lot, will try it. Could you please clarify the importance of using the dogs daily allowance of food (kibble) and not treats as usual? Thank you very much!

  2. I think it s the ONLY sort of training I ever use now. People used to criticise me and tell me that I could not reward/reinforce doing nothing — so I changes the description. Reward you dog for hanging around doing nothing much – because that is basically what we want our dogs to do most of the time 🙂
    But you should have seen the expression on my Kelly (German Shepherd)’s face the first time I tossed a treat to her and told her she was good for simply lying on the veranda watching the world go by! “The woman has gone completely insane!”
    But that was the beginning of solving her aggression to other dogs problem 🙂

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