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Common Dog Training Vocabulary

By Jason Wright

June 8, 2022

Understanding Important Words Involved with Training Your Dog

Dogs can typically learn and understand 160 – 200 words. When training your dog, you should first concentrate on essential commands such as sit, down, stay, come, etc. However, there is so much more that you need to understand to be able to provide the best support to your dog as they learn to become happy and obedient family companions. As such, we have compiled a list of common phrases and words you should understand to help you become the best owner you can be.

We suggest you bookmark this blog entry as this list will grow and it’s always a great idea to refresh your memory. Remember, training your dog is a lifelong commitment and your learning never ends.

Behavioural Training Terminology

Beyond all the commands you decide to train your dog are the mechanisms that shape the training experience and how your dog interacts with the world. Understanding these will help you get a better handle on when and how to properly interact with your dog.

Operant Conditioning:

a training methodology that takes a more balanced approach to dog training. It incorporates rewards and consequences and helps reinforce good behaviour. It involves changing voluntary behaviours and is made up of four quadrants: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment.

Positive Reinforcement:

Adding something positive after a behaviour has occurred to make that behaviour more likely in the future. An example is giving your dog a treat for sitting.

Negative Reinforcement:

Removing something undesirable when a behaviour has occurred. An example would be pushing your dogs butt down into a sit and then stopping that push as soon as your dog sits.

Positive Punishment:

Adding something undesirable after a behaviour has occurred to make that undesired behaviour less likely in the future. An example would be a leash correction.

Negative Punishment:

Removing something desirable after a behaviour has occurred to make the undesired behaviour less likely in the future. An example is walking away if your dog demand barks or jumps on you.


Socialization is when your dog can co-exist in any environment without the need to interact with another person or animal. It is when your dog is neutral.


In reference to dog training, stimulus can be defined as any external element, such as a sound, movement, reward, person, etc. which motivates a dog to react in any way.


An aversive is anything unpleasant to your dog. Aversives can be utilized in training to let your dog know that they should not do something. A common aversive would be firm pressure being applied on a dog’s leash to stop them from pulling.


A dog’s threshold is the point at which a dog can be close to a stimulus and not react in an undesired way. When a dog is over their threshold, they are often eliciting a behavioural reaction motivated by fear or anxiety and will tend to react negatively.


A trigger is the cause of a reaction from your dog. Often brining on emotions of fear, anxiety and/or arousal.

Trigger Stacking:

Trigger Stacking occurs when multiple stimuli or situations occur within a certain period (could be anywhere from minutes to days) that heighten a dog’s emotional state. In this heightened emotional state, a dog is much more likely to cross their threshold and react in a negative way.

Stress Signals:

Stress Signals are reactions your dog has to triggers. These can range from the hair on their necks standing up to your dog finding a place to hide. It is important to learn your dog’s stress signals and watch their body language.


Generally defined as power and influence over others. In terms of dog dominance, it is often in relation to having priority access to resources. Dominance is often asserted through negative physical interactions such as growling and/or biting.

Arousal Aggression:

Arousal Aggression or Aggressive Arousal is a negatively stimulated state your dog gets into based on triggers. Signals that your dog is entering an aroused aggressive state can be as small as panting or excessive sniffing to as threatening as biting.

Possessive Aggression or Resource Guarding:

Possessive aggression is a negative state where your dog is acting to defend a person, place, or thing (resource) in a hostile manor.

Leash Reactivity:

Leash Reactivity is when your dog reacts in a negative way while on leash. This can be anything from pulling, barking, whining, etc.


Herding in dogs is the behaviour to control the movement of a person or other animals. This is usually done through aggressive dominance such as biting and barking.

Dog's Behaviour Terminology

Whale Eye:

Whale eye often occurs in dogs who are very aroused through fear and/or anxiety. This is when the white (sclera) of a dog’s eyes are very visible.


Mouthing is when a dog puts its mouth around a person or other animal and closes it but does not use a lot of pressure. Very common although it can be a precursor to more serious behaviour such as biting.

Counter Surfing:

Counter Surfing is when a dog jumps up to the level of a table or on a table in order to access food or other resources he/she may find valuable.

General Training Terminology

Cue / Command:

A cue is something said or done to initiate a response.


Shaping is when you deconstruct a desired behaviour into smaller steps in order for a dog to easier complete it.


A Release is a command you can give your dog in order for them to relax, drop something or move after a stay command.


Recall is a command or cue you give to your dog to have them come to you.

High Value Reward:

A High Value Reward can be anything that your dog finds “very valuable”. This is most often a form of food. However, it can take on other forms such as praise and toys.


A Correction is a reaction done by you to inform your dog that they made a mistake and need to try again.


Redirection often involves diverting a dog’s attention away from a stimulus. For instance, if a dog is becoming aroused by another dog, a correction might be performed and then a high value reward presented to redirect the dog’s attention.


Punishment can take on many forms but can broadly be defined as introducing something a dog finds undesirable or removing something a dog finds desirable – see positive punishment and negative punishment above.


Desensitize is when an action or stimuli is repeated / continuously presented to a dog in order to reduce the dog’s reaction.


Bating is presenting a high value reward, often accidently, before a desired action occurs. An example of this would be holding a treat out and then giving the command. This can lead to a dog only obeying when they see a high value reward.


A Marker is something used to let your dog know they have done something positive. It is to be used exactly when the dog performs the positive action. This can be a word (yes), hand gesture or simply a noise.

The iTK9 Way

At iTK9 we use a predetermined set of commands and ensure to pass along this knowledge to all our customers. If you are considering dog training, please reach out to discuss your options.

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