Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My dog knows sit, but only when at home!

He knows “sit” he is just stubborn!

We have all probably used that once or twice before. It maybe our belief that the dog is acting stubborn, or choosing to ignore us; some may even describe it as defiance, dominance, spiteful actions, or the dog is just dumb.

Once we understand the real reason, we will be better able to communicate with our dogs, increasing your dog’s reliability and performance scale tremendously.

Take for example a show dog. To teach a dog to stack is just part of the lesson… the bigger component of this lesson is applying it to an environment similar in nature to the one the dog will be when showing. To stack in a show ring is a whole other game compared to stacking at home in front of a TV.

Take for example, teaching a dog to sit. A dog may know how to sit, and will offer a sit reliably when you have a treat in your hand. When you remove the treat from the picture, your dog may present some “unwillingness” to sit. In actuality and from the dog’s perspective, the cue to sit is when you have the treat in your hand. That is what the dog was taught, and that is what he has learned. The dog did not learn the treat is followed by a correct response to the palm up hand signal.

Better yet, a dog who will lay down on carpet, but not on tile (put aside preference).

One last example: This happens to me all the time. I am very good at recognizing faces and horrible with remembering names. I will often see someone I thought that looked familiar, but would not be able to think of where I knew them from and I certainly would not be able to recall their name.

The learning concept here has to do with two things:

1. Repetition (the more obvious)
2. Generalization

Generalization can be defined by the ability to use learned skills or recognize familiarities in various different settings/environments. To apply “in general.” In order for a dog to generalize a particular behavior, it must have been asked for that behavior over and over again, and as many settings as possible. This is applied learning to its best, when it comes to training companion dogs for obedience.

For example, when we teach a dog to sit. We will also teach it a release. That combination/sequence of a sit and release is initially taught without distractions. With most dogs, they become familiar with this, to the point of understanding within 10 repetitions of the exercise.

From that point on, the dog is taught to generalize it via situational training. This means the dog is taught applications, and it learns to generalize the sit and release to a variety of scenarios.

One application we teach is for the dog to sit at every door. Say we take a dog and it has only been taught to sit at every door in our building. That is about 12 doors. Then this dog is worked in its home environment including any other door it may encounter while at home. That may be an additional 10 or so.

Say we never have practiced asking the dog to sit before entering the car. The dog is able to generalize the “sit” behavior to a car door… and will offer it even without a cue from the handler if given enough time to respond. This is called generalizing. Dog and humans, and other animals, have the ability to automatically apply learned knowledge or skills to situations in general once the behavior has been understood properly and application is taught.

So if you have a dog that only sits when at home, your dog is not fully trained!

Dog Well Trained.... University of Doglando

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