If you want your dog’s training to really improve, think about how you use “The 3Ds” – Distance, Duration, Distraction. The 3 D’s come into play in every dog or puppy training exercise and the better you manipulate them, the more effective your dog’s training will be. Here’s a quick guide to get you started …
- Distance: How far your dog can be from you without breaking the cue.
- Duration: How long your dog will remain in the cue.
- Distraction: How well your dog performs the cue with things going on around him.
Start Simple, Keep Them LOW!
When you start training a behaviour with your dog, keep all 3Ds low. So, if you’re teaching your pup to sit, have him close to you (low distance), for a short time (low duration) and practise somewhere quiet (low distraction). This way, you set up your pup for success, which means you can reward often and that the behaviour is likely to be repeated. Remember: “What Gets Rewarded, Gets Repeated”
Distance is interesting, it can help or hinder your dog’s training. With a ‘stay’ cue, increasing distance ie walking away from your dog, makes it harder for the dog to maintain the cue. So start with a short distance and reward your dog often! Similarly with recall – start with short distances and big rewards and gradually work at bigger distances. By contrast, in the case of a reactive dog, you want as much distance as possible from the ‘thing’ that is freaking out your dog.
Duration ‘shorter is sweeter’ when training a behaviour! Keep your dog under threshold ie keep the length of time you ask your dog to stay in a sit or down short (at first). Gradually – and I mean gradually – build up the time/duration so you keep reinforcement high and make it a rewarding game for your dog to play.
Distractions can be leaves blowing, squirrels, other dogs, other people, sounds, toys … or even us, as we fiddle with our training pouches! Be aware of the distractions in whatever environment your dog is in; and be realistic about what you can expect from your dog given those distractions. Remember if you haven’t trained for those specific distractions, don’t expect your dog to be able to respond amid those distractions.
One At A Time…
Only increase ONE of the 3D’s at a time. So, if you are increasing the duration of your dog’s sit, reduce the distance between you for a while. It seems like such a small detail, but you’ll find it expedites your training no end … and turns your dog into a winner! Karen Pryor gives an amusing example:
“Let’s say that you are learning to play the banjo, and you are also learning to speak Japanese. Each requires concentration and mental energy. Would you find it easier to practice the banjo today and concentrate on the Japanese lessons another time, or would you like to learn the Japanese alphabet and the banjo at the same time? Eventually, you’ll be able to sing a song in Japanese while playing the banjo. But, both require significant practice—separately—before it’s possible to both successfully at the same time.” http://www.clickertraining.com/node/2279
Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes!
If your dog is breaking stays, not coming when called or reacting to other dogs consider your use of the 3D’s. Channel your inner ‘Sherlock’ and analyse which of the 3Ds you can alter to help your dog succeed.
Tips For Success:
- Look for 80% reliability before increasing any of the 3Ds.
- Lower the distractions and you’ll find it easier it is to increase duration or distance.
- If you raise the distraction level – increase your rate of reward/reinforcement.
- Keep training sessions short & fun – 5 mins is plenty.
- Always end a session on a positive note.
This article was written by Joy Matthews, Dog Trainer at Joyful Dogs. If you’d like advice about training your dog or puppy go to: www.joyfuldogs.co.uk