There are two phrases dog trainers hear all the time.
First, “My dog does it so well at home; I don’t know why he won’t do it now.”
Second, “He does so well here; I don’t understand why he won’t do it at home or when we’re out.”
These two phrases may seem like they’re total opposites, but really they’re just opposite sides of the same coin. That’s because our dogs are contextual learners. That is, when they learn that learning is very specific to where they learn it.
Of course, that doesn’t mean our dogs can’t learn to do those behaviors everywhere; just that we have to train them to do so.
The Secret To Getting Great Behavior Everywhere
Teaching our dogs how to perform a behavior on command is actually only the very first part of dog training. Once a dog can reliably perform a behavior in one environment, it’s time to teach them how to perform it no matter what is going on.
The secret to teaching them that is to practice with each of the 3 Ds:
These three things can be applied to almost any behavior and should each be taught separately before bringing them together. But let’s look at some examples.
Examples of the 3 D’s of Dog Training
New places are very distracting for some dogs; so many new things to smell! So many things to see! So much P-Mail to check out! Like a kid at an amusement park, our dogs want to be everywhere at once and are ready to charge off and leave you behind.
For other dogs maybe a high distraction is another dog, a squirrel running by, or goose poop on the sidewalk.
Generally, the further away we are from our dogs the harder it is for them to “remember” they are supposed to do as we asked. This is true whether we put our dogs in a “stay” and then walk away, try to call our dogs to come from down the street or if we ask for a “sit” from across the room.
Usually the first of these that we teach, duration is about how long a dog can continue to do a behavior—so once we ask for a sit, does he pop right back up? If we ask him to stay, how long will he do it?
How to Use This When Training Your Dog
Each of the 3 Ds needs to be taught separately for each command your dog knows. When increasing any one of the 3 Ds you should try to make the other 2 easier.
So if you’re asking for a “stay” for a longer time than usual, you should stay close to your dog while asking for it. Or if working on distance, try to keep the stay short.
If you’re in a distracting environment, you could ask for a shorter stay and stay close.
By training each of these you can teach your dog to follow commands not just in any place, but also in any conditions.
We want to know — what does YOUR dog find distracting? Is it squirrels? Other dogs? A tennis ball? Leave us a comment and share!