I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple photos of Ripley, one of our current dogs in training. We make it a practice to take the training dogs out and about in the community in order to help generalize the training concepts. Dog’s are quick learners but they don’t generalize well. They just don’t carry over training concepts easily from one location to another (or from one handler to another) They learn proprioceptively, meaning the behavior they learn is associated with surrounding stimuli.
Basically the dog takes a mental snapshot of what “SIT” (or whatever command your working on) is when he is first learning it and associates that behavior with the area/people immediately around him. If a dog is initially taught “SIT” while in front of their owner, in a quiet location, with the owner holding a treat… this is the mental “picture” the dog has when he hears the word “SIT”. If we try to elicit the same behavior, but we are outside, in the grass with the dog 15 feet away and the owner doesn’t have the treat…it is very likely the dog will not comply. It may be a case of disobedience, but more often than not it is simply because the dog does not understand what is expected. He needs the same (or very similar) criteria to be present in order to comprehend what is expected. (Translation: it takes lots of practice to have a well trained dog)
A friend of mine recently shared that she tells her clients to make 5 trips to 5 different locations in order to give the dog ample opportunity to generalize and learn concepts thoroughly. A good rule of thumb to follow before deciding if our dog is being “stubborn”. We have to ask ourselves; “have we really put in enough practice time teaching the dog?”
So Ripley made his field trip to the car wash the other day where he encountered these Halloween displays. He did pretty well learning to SIT in this new and visually distracting environment, but Kelly tells me he didn’t quite understand why these people didn’t have treats or try to pet him!