MAPDT 01321

How Long Should Dog Training Take Part 2 - Generalisation


Think of training your dog as a bit like bringing up a child. It is a progressive experience that spans the entire early, adolescent periods and into adulthood. Unlike our children who move out and look after themselves, our dogs are our children for their entire life and can learn bad habits at any time.

To think of it another way, learning to train your dog is a bit like learning to play the Piano. You could aim to play a few favourite songs to your friends when they come around for dinner. You could learn to play at a local concert. Or you could become good enough to play at the Royal Albert Hall. So, the answer to how long will it take to train my dog depends on how far you want to take it. Most owners are happy with a dog that knows when to rest and when to play, doesn’t bark too much and has a good recall in the park. Whilst the first 2 happen naturally as the dog matures, the recall in the park can be an advanced discipline that takes lots of work.

My dog knows it at home, but ignores me in the park

It isn’t that your dog is ignoring you (although it seems like it). It is simply that you have not practiced it in the park. So, your dog only associates the task with doing it at home. Your dog needs to practice a given task in a minimum of ten different situations to realise it is the same thing. We call this process generalisation. Here is an example of a generalisation schedule for a recall.

Practice recall in:

  1. Lounge

  2. Kitchen

  3. Kitchen to lounge

  4. Garden

  5. Garden into kitchen

  6. Garden into lounge

  7. House with human hiding in different room

  8. Garden with human hiding in different room

  9. Lounge with distractions

  10. Kitchen with distractions

  11. Kitchen to lounge with distractions

  12. Garden with distractions

  13. Garden into kitchen with distractions

  14. Garden into lounge with distractions

  15. House with human hiding in different room with distractions

  16. Garden with human hiding in different room with distractions

  17. Park when quiet on a long line

  18. Park when slightly busy on a long line

  19. Park when busy on a long line

  20. Park with long line dropped when quiet

  21. Park with long line dropped when slightly busy

  22. Park with long line dropped when busy

  23. Park when quiet no long line

  24. Park when slightly busy no long line

  25. Park when busy no long line

Imagine how many generalisations Ashleigh and Pudsey had to go through before being able to perform on a stage in a strange studio with 1000 people watching. The above schedule would take place over a period of months and years, just the same as if you were learning to play the piano. And there is always the chance you will find a really difficult song that you just cannot master.

In dog training terms (just like the piano) you will need to practice daily, in between the sessions with me. I can provide pointers and methods but we need the dog to work for you on a day to day basis. Behavioural modification has a similar time frame.

Just like with children, along the way you will be at the mercy of developmental stages, hormones, day to day fears and stressors, day to day excitors, medical issues, pain, the weather and just about anything else that affects us mammals ability to concentrate and learn. So, if you have a bad days training just chalk it down to a bad day and try again tomorrow. After all, this is a life time relationship between you and your dog.

The first step is a mental step

Taking all the above into account, the first step on this journey with me, is to take on the mindset that dog training is going to be your little hobby for the rest of your dog’s life. Your dog is always learning when he is with you so every moment you are with them is an opportunity to train. There is no “fixed point” in the future where the dog is “trained now”, it is an ongoing process.

Fill up your treat bag in the morning and have it on you so you can reward your dog immediately when they do something you like. Or have your dog’s favourite toy in your pocket, if we are using a toy. Training sessions need not be long separate experiences for you and your dog. With my guidance you can train as you go about your day. Do 5 minutes when the adverts are on, or when the kettle is boiling or when you are at the park and it is quiet. To get the most out of the sessions with me, do some practice in between so you have questions to ask me and things to progress on the next sessions. Send questions via text or WhatsApp and I will always respond within a day or two maximum.