Location, Distance, and Time will directly influence every thing you do with your dog. In this blog post I will attempt to help you understand each of these and what they mean when training. Every single thing you teach your dog will be tested by these three factors.
Location: When you increase (CHANGE) the location, the dog will regress in training.
Distance: When you increase the distance, the dog will regress in training.
Time: When you increase the time, the dog will regress in training.
So, how do you juggle the training of a young dog with these three factors? The best way is to only increase one and at the same time decrease the other two.
Let’s say you are working on a sit stay. You will first teach this concept in your home. The location is familiar and thus less of a distraction. A nice quiet room, some treats, some toys, and your dog. Training can now begin. In this location you can teach sit stay, but you would do it up close, with no real distance from the dog or puppy. What you will be working on is time. At first you will reward the sit every few seconds. Then increase the time between treats. If you decided to step away from the puppy, thus increasing distance, you will now decrease time (step away, step back, treat for staying). You will slowly add time to your distance (step a way, two breathes, step back, treat), in the familiar location.
In this example you: DECREASE LOCATION, DECREASE DISTANCE, INCREASE TIME , then DECREASE LOCATION, DECREASE TIME, INCREASE DISTANCE
Now your puppy has had a few training sessions of 10 minutes each. His ability to hold his sit stay with you up close is incredible. With you across the room, he seems calm and comfortable for a minute or two. Move the location. You can go outside, either back or front yard, but when you do you will need to decrease both distance and time. It might only take a few moments for the puppy to grasp he needs to hold that stay outside, but there will probably be a moment where you have to remind him what he is doing. This is good! Without a mistake, the puppy cannot learn. Remember increase time first, then increase distance.
In this example you: INCREASED LOCATION, DECREASED TIME AND DISTANCE.
The training needed to proof these concepts becomes less as you go. What took you 2-3 training rounds in your home when learning a new concept, might take one or two outside, then only one at the park around a bunch of kids. The dog will start understanding “Oh, I have to do this everywhere we go”. There might be a place that causes your dog to go into complete spasms of delight. For Jazz it is watching other dogs run in Agility or Lure Coursing. If that is the case, you will have to decrease location (get farther from the fun) until you have the dogs mind back on you, then you can work on training. Always keep these concepts in your mind and if your dog is having trouble, you will need to decrease one or two until full understanding is achieved.
A word about distractions. This is a 4th factor in your training, yet it is often linked to location. You can control the amount of distraction’s a location has by time of day. The park at 5AM or 8PM is less crowded than at 8AM and 5PM, as an example. Train during a less busy time, then go back and train when the distraction level has increased and see how your pup does. The same holds true for walks around the neighborhood. Remember you will need to decrease time and distance, when increasing to a distracting location.
If you cannot go outside without your puppy thinking everything is more fun than working, you need to do a few things.
1. Make sure the puppy has acquitted exercise. Go for walks, make sure you play some ball and burn off a little bit of energy.
2. Give the puppy a clue you are about to work by saying “Ready to work?” and show them the treats and leash. Get them focused on what you are doing. If they do not want to work, back inside and to the crate for a short nap, then try again.
3. If they are not highly food motivated, make them work for a meal. Switch one meal to something suitable for training like boiled/grilled Chicken, Bil Jac frozen food, Fresh Pet, freeze dried raw food, etc. Something you feel comfortable giving them as a meal, but also something supper yummy and easy to eat as a training treat (not to squishy!!) Break the meal up into 2 trainings in the evening will work well, with a ‘jackpot’ at the end for doing such a super job (meaning you do not have to train until the food is gone, just give it to them in one big lump). If they blow you off when you go outside, back in the crate, no meal. Try again in 15 minutes. Repeat as needed.
When I post a training video or blog, understand each time I do something with my dogs, these concepts are inherent in my work. I will jump back and forth, decreasing my time, increasing my distance, switching them up so the dog doesn’t get bored, pushing the dog’s limits yet always keeping these in my mind and how the dog might react in each situation. I will test, see if a dog can handle the stay, like I did on the video with Sonata. I watch my environment. A car drives by, I will decrease my distance from the dog. A bunch of kids run up, I decrease my distance and maybe even release the dog depending on where we are in training. This is why an experienced trainer makes training a dog (horse, cat, bird, dolphin) look easy. They unconsciously live these concepts without thought. It is like driving a car. We have been doing it for years, with many different animals. We makes fewer mistakes, and because of this the dog has a clear understanding of what is wanted. With time it will become easier, just as driving a car and knowing the rules of the road. However, these first few months will be hard. You will feel overwhelmed and it will seem like you are constantly messing up. Do not feel bad. We have all been there. Enjoy the experience and relish in the fact you are learning! The quickest way to stay young is to constantly challenge the mind.
Maybe that should be my new mantra… Youth through dog training!!!
PS. Camping this weekend was so much fun. The kids and dogs had a blast and it was a much needed break. Here is a photo just because.
SIT! STAY!! SMILE!!! GOOD JOB!!!!