Animal Training 101: Ask, Tell, Take Action!

1, 2, 3, ask, tell, take action!Animal training is something that many people think is easy but that most people simply don’t understand.

When observing the average person’s daily mistakes when it comes to animal training, it becomes clear that the absence of good behavior from the animals usually stems from owner behavior.

Now it would be easy to say that they are too lazy to take action, simply ignorant of what to do, but in reality, a lot of it has to do with not being motivated enough to change how they live life–or to face discomfort by changing their human habits so that the animals benefit.

Most people don’t see through the lens that I see animals through because if they did, they would stop the insanity that reinforces the very crap they complain about.

My students understand the 1, 2, 3 principle. It is very simple–because it is clear and it helps with consistency over the long term.

Now you might not know what 1, 2, 3 principle is, so let me clarify.

If you have kids, or have ever been around someone who has kids, there is a counting process that communicates that the parent is setting a limit and, if that limit is ignored, there will be a consequence.

This often progresses into counting…


“But mom…”


“Okay, okay…”

This works because, “THREE!” usually indicates some sort of action or consequence that is not desirable or pleasant.

It could  be a time-out or something else.

In my animal training, I change the 1, 2, 3 principle to Ask, Tell, Take Action!

Ask, Tell, Take Action!

Recently, a former client was lamenting over the fact that her animals respond to my requests almost immediately. She was shaking her head over the fact that they never do so for her.

In this case, two of her dogs would not recall from the yard into the home.

You see, the front yard is a novel experience for them and much more interesting than coming to her.

Plus, her request was lame. LOL

Seriously, she tends to wait for the dogs to give her permission on things and complies to every behavior request they make of her!

So, like many owners, she tends to let the dogs dictate the when and where of things.

For instance, she might think SHE is walking the dogs but it is the other way around since they decide when they start and stop on the walks. She will stand their for ages while they sniff rather than take the lead and move forward on the amble.

Anyway, the dogs would not come in and she professed to not know why.

So I refreshed her memory over the 1, 2, 3 rule which is this:

1. Ask
When you ask an animal in a normal tone, he or she should give eye contact or some sort of acknowledgement and begin to respond.

2. Tell
If not, the tone of voice changes to a stern, firm request. Which requires response.

3. Take Action!
If the animal does not comply with the request, an action is taken due to non-compliance. This is a consequence of some sort.

Are you average?
Now the average person will chat, chat, chat and never take action. This actually trains the animal to ignore any requests and so, they misbehave.

But the reality is that the pet owner is training the animal to misbehave!

I call it training by accident.

The dog paws at the door and gets let in.

Next, the dog is scratching up the door (and damaging it) because the response is inconsistent. It happens because the threshold of how long the dog needs to keep at it before being let in has risen–and the owner accidentally trains a longer duration of that destructive behavior.

Clarity, Consistency & Consequences
The three C’s of my animal training world are Clarity, Consistency & Consequences. I’ve written about training consistency before but that is the difference between what I do as an animal training professional and what others do.

My life is about managing and training behavior. So, when I ask for something, the animal learns that I require a response–and also that a voluntary one is better than non-compliance.

This is not because I do something terrible to the animal, quite the contrary, but they prefer to comply versus having me take action.

For example, if I ask an animal to come, my view is that it is not optional to refuse. Not to come could be life threatening at some point and I believe that a solid recall is critical.

This week, one of the dogs I know did not want to come when called. I asked, she ignored me.

I said her name, and said, “Have you lost your mind?” In THAT tone.

She looked at me, came a few steps and I praised her.

But she stopped…she clearly did not want to come in. Partial compliance?

Next, she put herself onto the ground in a “down” position.

She was communicating that she did not want to come in BUT was also showing me, through moving forward toward me and then lowering herself into a more submissive posture, that she did not want to refuse me–although she was.

The problem stems from the fact that this dog does not comply with the owners and so refusal has been heavily reinforced.

In this case, I had a number of options because I also like to give the animal the chance to comply voluntarily.

As I moved toward her, she decided it was in her best interest to come on her own–and so, she did.

What would have happened to her as a consequence?

I would have leashed her up and brought her inside.

However, I reinforce compliance and it is much nicer to get praise and rewards than it is to be marched into the house.

In the past, I’ve “walked her down” meaning, she would not come and I simply walked until she decided to come to me voluntarily.

Since she lives on a couple of acres, normally the owners give up and she gets to stay out like she desires. What she learned with me was that I will not give up like the owners and I will consistently continue until there is compliance.

It isn’t fun like with the owners who leave her to hunt or to do what she wants and she learned that it is more rewarding to comply than to refuse.

So, if you have a problem with non-compliance, try the Ask, Tell, Take Action!

In fact, make it a way of life and everyone will be much happier–and probably much safer.

About Ark Lady

+ArkLady Enhances the Lives of Animals & Empowers the People Who Love Them! Join the armchair safari or connect via ARKlady website.