Every task we teach our dogs, will have several different levels of complexity.
From very simple, to very difficult.
One of the most common mistakes made by dog owners, is to try and climb those levels too quickly.
Often taking huge leaps from the very simple, to the most difficult scenarios in which the dog is expected to obey.
Don’t Complicate Your Dog Training
You know how hard it can be to take in instructions when your teacher is rushing ahead and not giving you time to absorb the information or practice what you know.
Well, dogs suffer the same fate at our hands.
To make matters worse, and to make things even more difficult for the dog, we often increase the level of difficulty in several different ways at once.
Here’s an example of how this can happen:
Let’s say you are working on ‘the stay’ .
You ask your dog to sit for thirty seconds, when he has only sat for ten seconds successfully before. It’s a bit of a leap, but Buster’s a smart lad. He can probably pull this off.
But at the same time, suppose you ask him to sit for those thirty seconds whilst your Auntie is visiting.
And to add insult to injury, maybe, just maybe, you are also asking him to sit for those thirty seconds, with your Auntie in the room, whilst you get a jug of milk from the fridge.
If you were to do this, you would have just added increasing complexity in not one, but all three of the three D’s of Dog Training.
Let’s have a closer look:
What are the three Ds of dog training?
The Three Ds of dog training are Distance, Duration, and Distraction.
These are all factors which increase the challenge or complexity of a task, and which when increased individually may reduce the dog’s ability to perform a known skill.
When increased in combination, they make it highly likely that your dog will fail.
A recipe for failure
So, if your dog can sit next to you for ten seconds, and you then ask him to remain sitting for ten seconds whilst you are on the other side of the room, you have increased the distance between you and the dog.
If you add increased duration to the sit, you are adding two factors at once. Distance and duration together.
If you then also add a visitor into the equation, you have added a distraction to the task too. Distance, duration, and distraction, all increased at once is a recipe for disaster.
If you do this on a regular basis, the chances are you are struggling with your training.
Distance is our first D.
Generally speaking, your influence over your dog diminishes as the distance between the two of you increases.
Dogs don’t automatically assume that a cue given when your are next to them, also applies when you are on the other side of a field. This is something we need to teach.
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In the past this was though to be simply a case of disobedience. Or the dog ‘choosing’ to be naughty.
We now know this is not true, as dogs can easily be taught to perform at increasing distances from their handler, provided that these distances are increased in sufficiently small steps.
Some behaviours have no duration. A jump, or a turn are actions that run through from start to finish.
We cannot extend the amount of time a dog remains in mid-air whilst jumping over a fence, we cannot take the ‘turn’ and extend a part of it, nor can we easily make the turn take any longer. The dog is fully focused on the whole behaviour and on completing it is none smooth flowing action
I think of these as actions rather than positions.
Some behaviours do have duration. These are usually positions that the dog takes up and does not have to focus all his attention on, once he has achieved that position. So sit, down, stand and heel, are all positions.
Once your dog has ‘sat’ his mind is then free to think of other things. With training, and sometimes with increasing muscle strength and co-ordination, he should be able to hold that position through all kinds of interruptions and distractions. Once you have built up duration it is time to add some distractions
There are many things that might distract your dog. People passing by, dogs running around, loud noises, vehicles, children playing ball games etc.
Most dogs will break a stay or be unable to respond to your cues, when first exposed to these distractions. The reason is that dogs are poor at generalising cues, and that most people introduce distractions at far too high a level of difficulty.
So how do we make distractions, well, less distracting?
The answer is often to move the distraction further away, or to move the dog further away from the distraction
Dog simply find it easier to perform a task when a potential distraction is far away, than they do when the distraction is close by.
So your dog might be able to sit or lie down on cue when he is fifty yards away from another dog, but fail at this task when another dog is two feet away.
The three Ds of dog training
Many people wonder how super-effective dog trainers get such amazing results. The truth is, they follow a set of rules that you can follow just as easily. And one of them is the golden rule of 3 Ds
The golden rule of three Ds is to only increase ONE of the three Ds at any one time.
Remember that dogs need a lot of help to understand that a cue such as come or sit, given in one situation, has the same meaning in another.
As soon as you change the factors influencing the task, factors we call the 3 Ds, you diminish the dog’s chances of success.
Set Your Dog Up To Win
Do your dog a favour and set him up to WIN not LOSE.
You can give your dog the help he needs by adding different criteria to your training exercises, individually, in simple stages.
Make a commitment to only raise one set of criteria at a time. If you increase duration, don’t increase distance, in fact, your best bet is to reduce the other two Ds whenever you are working hard on the third.
So if you are increasing the duration of your dog’s sit, reduce the distance between you for a while.
It seems like such a small detail, but you’ll find it helps you to be a better trainer and turns your dog into a winner.