No matter where you go, to the grocery store, downtown Dallas, or out to dinner with friends, you know that two plus two equals four (unless you’ve had several glasses of wine, then I just can’t help you). As humans we generalize.
My kids generalized when they were babies, too. For them, all roundish looking fruit or vegetable was an “apple.” It didn’t matter the exact shape, what color, or how large or small, it was an “apple.”
Unlike humans, dogs don’t generalize easily. They can, but it takes several repetitions to get there.
Because of this, it’s important when training desired behaviors you practice in all the locations that he would typically be: through heavy traffic doorways, the car, rooms in the house, front/back yard, or the vet office. So for example, with the behavior “come” I will immediately teach this behavior in the most used doorway to prevent bolting and then encourage the pet owner to work in the front yard.
In addition to different locations, you also need to vary your position when you cue a behavior like standing, sitting in a chair, and sitting on the floor.
Have you ever noticed that when training a behavior, like “sit,” for example, you were standing while training and your dog was rocking the cue and then you sat on the floor, cued “sit” and he just stood there looking at you while wagging his tail completely clueless? This happened because you didn’t train him to “sit” while you were sitting.
So when you teach a new behavior, work in different locations, but also vary your own position while training: standing, sitting on chair, and sitting on the floor.
Remember that you are starting from scratch when training a new behavior in every location and position, so adjust your expectation and training regimen accordingly.
And now you know and hopefully soon your dog will too.
Written by Michelle Huntting.
Building the bridge of communication between dogs and pet guardians.