The Three D’s of Dog Training are as follows: Distance, Distractions and Duration. But what does that does this mean?
It’s simple really. When shaping new behaviors in dogs, we want to start slowly and add Distance, Distractions and Duration, making sure that your dog is 90% successful at each step of the process before moving forward. Let’s break it down…
Distance: I can best explain this with an example of teaching your dog to “Stay”. As much as we’d all love this to be an easy task, it usually isn’t. A common mistake is telling your dog to stay and immediately trying to walk across the room. Most dogs will fail immediately. You try again and again with the same result. What is going wrong here?? Well, you’re adding too much distance, too quickly. You need to start with very little distance, making sure your dog is successful before increasing gradually. In some cases, this may start by simply asking the dog to stay, rocking back slightly and immediately returning to mark proper behavior and reward.
Distractions: Now this one may seem a little more straight forward and it really is. If you immediately take your dog to a busy park to train, he/she will most likely be too distracted to learn anything at all. I like to start in a quiet room, with no distractions at all. Let’s start by making sure that the dog is learning and then slowly add distractions.
One of the best examples of this is teaching a dog to walk, calmly on a loose leash. It may seem weird to walk your dog in your house, but again, by removing distractions, the dog will pay more attention and will learn more quickly. Once your dog is walking on a loose leash in your home, at least 90% of the time, you may want to work in a familiar area in the yard, before every entering the real world.
Duration (aka Time): To give you a clear example of Duration, I’m going to go back to teaching your dog to “Stay”. Say your dog now lets you walk all the way across the room without failing and jumping up. You turn and face your dog and decide your going to count to 30 before returning to the dog to mark the behavior and reward. He/she may nail it the first time, but that’s not usually the case. You need to add time slowly. Start off returning immediately. Then, add a couple of seconds at a time, making sure that your dog has the ability to be successful at least 90% of the time.
Follow these rules and you and your dog will be more successful and training will be fun! There’s nothing like that moment when you and your dog start understanding each other.