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Today’s episode includes creative ways to split steps in your training plans. A good dog trainer and behavior consultant knows that taking your time and moving at the pace of the animal is the best way to go! It ensures success in the learning process.
An example of splitting would include:
Let’s say you’re practicing your recall behavior in a field near your house without distractions on a long line and you just finished calling your dog to you 5x in a row from 5 feet away. You get excited by the success and allow your dog to use more of the long line. They are now 15 feet away from you. You try calling your dog and they ignore the first few times you call. This is the choice point – you could a) continue calling your dog and get more and more frustrated, possibly poisoning the cue as you call your dog over and over again. OR you could choose option b) and create a step between a 5 foot recall and a 15 foot recall. My vote is option b!! It sets everyone up for success.
When we jump from one grade level to another, we call that lumping. This can be very hard for our dogs. Remember, we know what is on the learning agenda, they do not. So it’s up to us to make that journey as errorless as possible so everyone has fun!
A real life example of lumping that many pet parents do include teaching your dog how to do a behavior in the house and then asking for that behavior in a high level distraction environment such as:
- The farmer market
- The brewery
- Off leash in the dog park
- On a brand new trail
Ways to support our dogs in their training process:
Warm them up during the learning process: Practice easy or fluent behaviors to see if the dog is interested in the learning process. This is great because the dog receives fast, easy reinforcement.
Work on one variable at a time! Choose from the variables below.
Location. A few examples may include:
- In your house
- In various rooms of the house
- In the garage
- In the garage with the door slightly cracked
- Going in and out of the house using the house as a spatial and visual relief
- Changing the location – using nosework outdoors
- Different neighborhood without negative associations
- Large field without distractions
Duration. A few examples may include:
- 2 seconds
- 4 Seconds
- Ping pong back and forth between longer and shorter time frames
- How long has the session been overall? (here’s the video where Kayla’s YouTube follower asks about a relaxation session)
Distraction Level. A few examples may include:
- Multiple people
- Are these people engaging with the dog? Not engaging?
- Another dog at 20 feet away
- Another dog at 10 feet away
- Another dog playing
- Toys appear
- Toys are making noise
- Toys are moving
- Wildlife / flirt pole, bikes, toys, food tossed
Distance. A few examples may include:
- Build duration first before adding in distractions and distance!
- 5 feet, 10 feet, away from the trainer
- Distance between your dog and the distraction. Are they dug into the awesome smell on the trail and you are 5 feet away vs. 35 feet away from them?
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.