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The Listen Dog Blog

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I'll be keeping it up-to-date with regular catch-ups on what I've been up to, plenty of original articles on obedience training and behavioural best practice, plus top tips and ideas you can work on at home with your own four-legged friend!


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Generalisation: The Three 'D's of Dog Training

By listendogtraining, May 6 2016 11:37AM

Most dog owners have been there – you teach your dog to sit perfectly with a 100% success rate in your living room at home, you take him to the park to show off your new trick and… he ignores you, stares at you blankly, or runs off after a squirrel.

So many people are perplexed as to why their dog won’t perform the command they KNOW their dog understands, and end up labelling their dog as defiant, disobedient, or madly rebellious.

The truth is – dogs’ minds just aren’t wired in the way that ours are, and they simply don’t generalise rules the way we do. So when your dog learns that ‘Sit’ means park your rear end, on the rug, when the TV’s on (because this happens to be where and when you trained the behaviour), he can’t then generalise that rule to other locations and situations, like the park, a friend’s house, when some children run past, the vet’s office, etc.

In order to help him generalise the command, you need to do what’s known in the dog-training world as ‘proofing’. This means exploring the three Ds of dog-training, one at a time, in order to increase your dog’s reliability so that eventually, your dog will responder to you wherever you are, whenever you ask, and under whatever circumstances you find yourselves.

What Are The Three Ds of Dog Training?

Duration – How long your dog will remain in the requested position.

Distance – How far away from your dog you are able to walk, without them breaking the command, or how far away from them you can be when you give the command, and still receive a successful response.

Distractions – The dog’s ability to listen to instruction and fulfil your command, amidst various levels of distraction (traffic noise, children nearby, cyclists passing, etc.)

After only a couple of days of training, you can’t expect your dog to remain in a sit position for 6 minutes, after you walk away, whilst 3 other dogs stroll by… that’s D-overload!

Instead you need to focus on working with only one ‘D’ at any given time. So once your dog has learnt the ‘Sit’ command, try giving the command, and taking a couple of steps backward, then immediately return and praise. Gradually increase the distance whilst there are no distractions present, and only for a short duration. Similarly, if you want to work on proofing the command against distractions, then remain close to your dog, and release him quickly. Ask for a ‘Sit’ whilst a child walks past, maintain his attention, then release and reward him.

Never overwhelm your dog during training, and don’t punish him if he fails – instead take it a step back; his failure is a sign that you have pushed him too far, too fast, not that he is a bad dog. If your dog breaks command after 10 seconds, take it back to 5 seconds, and release and praise him.

Always set your dog up to succeed, keep training sessions short and regular, and always end each session on a high note – leave him wanting more and you’ll always have a dog who is eager to learn, and will work his hardest to please you!

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