This is the third post in our series giving ideas for helping your dog learn and practice behaviors in all sorts of circumstances and environments. This is a crucial aspect of making sure your dog’s learned behaviors are fluent no matter what, no matter when. Click Part 1 and Part 2 to read the previous entries in this series.
Variation 3: Location
In her excellent book, The Thinking Dog, Gail Tamases Fisher suggests, “Change the location where the behavior is performed, moving around in the same room, moving to different rooms, then different places, both inside and outside. Begin with small changes as simple as moving to new spots in the room.” (p. 142) After your dog has practiced in or near the home environment, you can practice in your neighborhood, in parks, near stores, in stores, on a sidewalk, and so forth. Make sure your dog is ready for these challenges: check with your instructor if you have any questions about practicing in various locations.
For example, let’s say you’re working on the Settle behavior. We want the Settle exercise to mean “Go find that specific mat and lie down on it.” After you’ve trained the behavior in one (nondistracting) place, move the mat around in one room, to other rooms, on the back porch, in a closet, in the yard, in the bathroom, at the park, in a store, in a different store… You get the idea! Lower your expectations as you begin to train in a new location, always being ready to back up to the very beginning of the training steps if necessary, and try to minimize distractions as much as possible in the new location. If you want to practice in a pet store, for example, make your first outings there be at a low traffic time.
As always, plan your sessions so that just one thing at a time is being changed. Happy training!