Mand or Manding with Daz.  he is a Brown newfoundland who has a number of different mands to communicate what he wants.  here he looks at the food and then looks at me to tell me he wants the food.
Mand or Manding with Daz. he looks at what he wants and then looks at you.

Every now and then in the dog training world a ‘new thing’, it might be a training aid such as a clicker or a method of training such as Positive Training, but this new ‘thing’ is suddenly everywhere and trainers all start talking about it.

Currently, there are two new terms (which have been around for years but are really just becoming popular)– Mand (manding) and Start Button Behaviour (although this concept has been around for a while.  See ‘the bucket game’ by Chirag Patel)

This article will focus on Mand.

So what is Mand or Manding and where has it come from?

Mand is a term first used in Psychology by BF Skinner.  See Wikipedia:

“Mand is a term that B.F. Skinner used to describe a verbal operant in which the response is reinforced by a characteristic consequence and is therefore under the functional control of relevant conditions of deprivation or aversive stimulation.”

Skinner introduced the mand as one of six primary verbal operants in his 1957 work, Verbal Behavior.

The most important part of it is that they primarily benefit the speaker.

Where has Mand and Manding been used?

More recently manding has been used as a communication method for people with Autism.  The idea is that the person (child) has to be sufficiently motivated by something and is encouraged to say a word, a sound or use some kind of body language movement to make the request (this bit is called a ‘tact’) and hopefully at a later date the person will use that word, sound or body movement in the future to ask for what they want.


So to Mand is to ask for something and is in control of the person asking.

If a parent asks a child it they want a drink and the child responds ‘drink’ they are not manding.

However, if a child suddenly says ‘drink’ without any prompt or encouragement, they are manding.

So how does Manding apply to animals – specifically dogs?

If you watch your dogs (other animals too) you will find that they have learnt to do a behaviour when they want something.  Some dogs sit by the door when they want to go out.  Some bark to go out or for their dinner.  Some will paw you when they want attention.  There are many things they do, including jumping up. 

However the behaviour will only continue if it is reinforced in some way.  For instance, if they ask to go out and you let them out.  If they ask for their dinner, you feed them.  If they paw you or jump up and you give them the attention they want.

That is a mand.

You asking them if they want to go out and they look at the door, that is not a mand, they are responding to you.

Remember a mand is initiated by them, they are asking for something and it is what they want.

Important: With puppies, what they want is not restricted to when they mand.  A mand may give them what they want, but you wouldn’t not fuss them because they haven’t asked for it.

How will Mands and Manding benefit our training?

I think it will make quite a bit of difference.

We know that like humans, dogs get less stressed if they have some control over their lives and this gives them the control. 

Puppies pick up on it very quickly but adult dogs do too and it is really easy to do.

It turns out that I have been recommending that owners teach their dog to mand in much of my training, around food and when out on walks. Plus, we all frequently teach manding without knowing it. I also teach settle by manding.
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Mands can be used for many things such as not jumping up, sitting nicely to greet people, sitting nicely at the vets and many others.

How do you teach a “manding” behaviour?

So how do you teach a manding behaviour if you can’t ask for it?

This is very simple.  You reinforce the behaviour that you want when the puppy or adult dog spontaneously provides it.

How about teaching a sit for attention, from you or others?

When the dog is around you, frequently reward a sit when the puppy does it on its own accord. Remember you mustn’t ask for it and you are not withholding something because it isn’t sitting.

The more you reward, the more often the dog will provide the behaviour.

Reward can be a fuss, a game, food or going outside. Use whatever is more appropriate at the time.

So why don’t you just start watching your dogs and begin rewarding a behaviour that you want more repeated.

Most of all – have fun.