Methods of “Getting Behavior”: Luring

So far, we've discussed capturing, targeting, and shaping as techniques for getting behaviors. Today we'll talk about a method many of you are probably already...


So far, we’ve discussed capturing, targeting, and shaping as techniques for getting behaviors. Today we’ll talk about a method many of you are probably already familiar with, luring.

Luring is using a food reward or other reward to physically guide/manipulate your dog into the desired position. Many dog owners intuitively use a food lure to teach a dog to sit or lie down – we place a treat between our dog’s eyes directly above the nose and guide the dog back into a sitting position by slowly lifting the treat past our dogs’ ears – as the head goes up, the rump comes down. Voila, sit!

Luring is a fast and effective method to teach a variety of behaviors, including heeling, eye contact, interaction with agility obstacles, sit, down, enter a crate, even go settle on a mat.

Undoubtedly, Dr. Ian Dunbar is the “Godfather of Lure/Reward Training” and can almost single-handedly be credited with bringing positive reinforcement to the dog training world. If you are looking for great learning materials for “how to’s” on lure-reward training, be sure to visit Ian’s website at

Here is a great video from Dr. Dunbar on Basic Manners & Obedience that you may find helpful:


  • Along with capturing, luring is probably one of the fastest techniques for manufacturing behaviors.
  • The mechanical skills of luring and rewarding are fairly easy to learn for handlers of all skill levels.
  • Luring is very effective for “shut down” dogs who are traumatized to the point of being afraid to offer new behaviors for capturing and shaping.
  • Luring can be used to teach complex behaviors quickly.
  • Luring leads naturally into salient body cues and hand signals.


  • “Show me the money dogs.” In order to use a lure most effectively, the lure should only be used to “jump start” the behavior. Ideally, you want to get the lure “out of the picture” (out of your hand, specifically) as quickly as possible. My rule is “5 repetitions or less.”
  • Novice handlers have a tendency to “fall back on the lure” when they are training in situations which surpass their current level of training. For instance, a handler uses a lure to teach “sit” in the living room, transitions effectively to a body signal and/or verbal cue, and then, upon entering a highly distracting environment, gives the new body signal or verbal cue. If the dog does not respond, the handler often pulls the lure back out to manufacture behavior again. In this instance, the lure can actually reinforce not responding to the cue – “Why bother responding if there’s no food in my face? I know if I just ignore her long enough, she’ll pull it out again eventually!” To avoid this common problem, check out Emily Larlham’s great video on Fading a Lure.

Stay tuned until tomorrow for our final installment in the “Getting Behaviors” series – modeling/molding.

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