There is a very valid reason why dogs need to generalise an exercise - although they do not have a detailed and complex memory such as ours, nature has provided them with a very strong sense of location. This instinctive memory is triggered after the dog has had a good or bad experience and it needs to recall the environment and circumstances in order to survive.
For example, if a dog sees a rabbit (ie prey), when it next passes that particular spot (not only months but even years later) it will be driven to explore the area once again as its instinctive memory recalls that it was obviously a good "hunting spot". The location and environment trigger the automatic response. This is also true of threatening or fearful experiences - the dog instinctively feels the need to run away or fight, depending on its ability to escape.
With this in mind, the dog needs to learn that it can do these Dog Games in various locations, different directions and ignore distractions such as another dog doing the same game nearby in another lane.
The dog will then
Never have more than one dog out at a time in the training area when you are teaching them something new. Each dog needs to be able to focus its attention on the handler and trainer in order to store the lesson in its long-term memory (see Where and When).
As the training sessions progress and the dog will become more confident with each of the stages, it is then time to generalise the exercise by changing first the training environment, then the location and then adding distractions.
Once the dog is consistently doing the exercise correctly, before starting the next session change the direction of the equipment (eg in Bounce, the dog runs towards its handler from a different direction). In these early training sessions, never change the equipment around whilst the dog is in the training area.
Add very mild distractions that the dog can cope with (eg a calm dog on a lead as far away as possible from where the dog is training; people standing quietly the other side of the netting).
When the dog is confident of doing the exercise in a variety of directions and locations within the usual training venue, it is time to train in a different place altogether. Begin by doing the same processes you did when you first started training the exercises - let the dog explore the new surroundings, then train the very first part of the exercise, then build up from there. You will find that the dog will quickly progress through the stages of the Game that it has already learnt in the first training location.
Begin to add stronger distractions as the dog gains in confidence (eg bring other dogs closer to the netting; train one dog whilst another is waiting its turn; allow it to see other dogs being rewarded with their motivators).
Gradually add to the dog's repertoire of training venues, remembering not to over-face the dog by asking it to do the whole exercise, but breaking it down into the various links in the chain and then linking them all together. By now your dog will have gained real confidence in what it is supposed to do and will be able to perform the exercise consistently and accurately almost every time.
The Platinum stage of a Dog-Game is the ultimate test of whether the dog has had enough generalisation in its training that it can cope with all manner of distractions. The dog has then shown that it really understands what is expected of it when performing the exercise any place, any where, any time.
This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).
Dog-Games Copyright 2004 - 2015 All Rights Reserved