Episode 21 - The Three D's of Dog Training

Corey McCusker  00:03
Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach, and with me is my co-host, Diane Purser, Education Manager.

Diane Purser  00:26
Hi, everyone.

Corey McCusker  00:29
Let me tell you a bit about our podcast. Today we will talk about the Three D’s for Dog Training. This will help you be confident that your dog will be able to consistently perform behaviors taught.

Diane Purser  00:44
Wow, that sounds very interesting and positive, Corey. So what exactly are the three D’s?

Corey McCusker  00:50
The three D’s of dog training are, number one is duration. That’s the length of time your dog can maintain a behavior. Number two is the distance, the distance your dog is away from you or a reward, or away from a distraction. And the third is distraction. And this involves what is distracting your dog when they do the behavior. The three things affect almost any behavior. Dogs don’t generalize. So for example, if you have them in a sit in front of you, they don’t know sit in front of you is the same as when you’re farther away from them and asking for a sit. When we increase each of the D’s, it becomes more of a challenge for your dog to understand how to perform the behavior successfully. If you increase all three without having trained your dog, the chance of them getting it right is probably not possible.

Diane Purser  01:48
Okay, well, that makes a lot of sense. But let’s break it down and discuss each one with examples. So where do we start?

Corey McCusker  01:57
Let’s start with number one – duration. When we want to increase the amount of time they’re able to hold a certain behavior, such as a sit, or maybe a down, not all the behaviors have a duration factor. When I look at Skye, when I have taught Skye many things, I’ve taught her to spin or twist or do a jump. And for those I don’t ask her to hold the spin or the jump, how could she, she’s in the air? But when I ask her to sit, I do ask her to hold it for a certain amount of time, which is a little bit harder. When you start to train something like holding a position longer, you would start with your dog close to you, probably right in front of you. And you would keep the duration really short and sweet, like maybe a second, then build it one second at a time as they start getting comfortable holding that position. I also make sure there’s no distractions or definitely just minimal ones, when I’m starting to increase the time because I don’t want them to break that position. So I always say start in a quiet room, maybe at home, maybe you’ve got a bedroom or living room where there’s not a lot of distractions, so they can focus on that task. If you’re getting success, and then your dog gets it wrong, so they break the sit, go back to shorter timeframes, then start again.

Diane Purser  03:18
Okay, so Corey, you didn’t mention it, but all through this, are you using rewards?

Corey McCusker  03:23
Absolutely. When I’m teaching new things, I always use rewards, such as food. So when we are increasing that duration, you want the timing of the rewards accurately as it’s important as it rewards a dog when they’re doing it right. If I ask a dog for a sit, and they’re successful holding it, when we start for one second, I’m going to give them a treat. If I was working on a down, and maybe my dog popped up out of the down, I wouldn’t treat there. So if you were working on a down, and the dog understands the position, and they’re lying down, we’re just aiming to increase that time that they stay down. So I would make sure that while they’re in that down position and maintaining it that I am rewarding them with a treat. One second, then I get them two seconds, and I always would reward that. So does that make sense?

Diane Purser  04:16
Yeah, I guess that makes a lot of sense. So basically, we want to go slowly and not rush it. We want to make sure they’re successful at every level.

Corey McCusker  04:26
Definitely and thanks for saying, not rush it. I have so many people that when they’re starting to get the sits and they’re getting their dogs staying, you know, maybe for let’s say 5 seconds, then all of a sudden they think, oh, I can get 10 seconds and the dogs not ready for that yet. So definitely do it at the pace of the dog’s.

Diane Purser  04:46
Okay, so what’s the next D to discuss?

Corey McCusker  04:50
So, we are having success with the duration. Our dog is able to sit or do it down and maintain that. Now what we’re going to start working on is increasing number two, the distance, which is the next D. This is how far we are away from our dog while they hold that position. By increasing the distance, we’re adding movement as you’re moving away from your dog, so therefore, too much too soon, your dog may break the position. So when you are starting to train the distance, start small and build it slowly. Begin by moving away slowly from them, when they’re in front of you, before you are moving beside them or behind them. One thing we are working on in class is we have the dog sit while we move just one step, then we increase it to two, until we are getting the success that we want. Then we will move to the end of the leash. And a leash is usually six-foot long. So when we have success with that, then we might start moving to one side of the dog, then the other. And eventually we would work up to walking around them while they maintain that sit. A bigger goal would be that you could actually leave the room and they remain in a sit. That’s really challenging as they can’t see us and they love being with us. Again, start in a familiar quiet room at home at first, get success with them being in your sight. And then you can increase as you have that success.

Corey McCusker  06:27
When training the sit, I always return to the dog before I release them or give them a treat. I want to avoid them rushing to me to get the reward as this breaks the position and I want to reward them for making a good choice and staying in that position. If you were practicing with them lying down on a mat or a bed, and you’re having really good success, instead of returning to them, you could just walk by them and toss a treat on to the bed, which is a good way for them to maintain it because they know they’re going to get rewarded while they’re maintaining that position on the mat or the bed.

Diane Purser  07:02
Okay, that’s really interesting. And really, it makes an awful lot of sense. So that’s duration and distance we’ve covered, now what about the final D?

Corey McCusker  07:14
The final D is distraction, which can be one of the hardest. And that’s whatever is going around in the room while your dog’s doing the positions, that might distract them. So when I’m working with dogs in the class, other dogs are a distraction. People talking are a distraction. So when we’re at home, it might be a TV, a knock at the door or a doorbell or a person in another room. If you think about outside, the distractions become much greater because there could be cars, squirrels or birds. So with distractions, make sure your dog is able to maintain the position and you’re able to do some distance work. You start off with small distractions and build slowly. One of the things that I can say is a small distraction, it could just be the movement. It could be you clapping your hands or moving your hands up and down. I have taught Skye, my dog, to wait at the sliding glass door before, when I open it that she doesn’t run out until she’s given permission, which is a really tough thing because there’s squirrels in the backyard. So how I started is I just used a bedroom door and I made her wait. I also make sure I increase the value of the rewards when we are increasing the distractions. So I’ll use low value rewards when we’re working in the house or at the facility, such as her kibble. When we’re working with greater distractions, like when we go outdoors, I will increase that value of the treat and I’ll maybe use a liver treat or she loves salmon treats. So she is really highly motivated and she wants to please me to get them versus go chasing that squirrel.

Diane Purser  08:57
Good point. All of them are such a good point. And it also helps build safety for your dog, too, right? If those distractions could get them in a position where they could hurt themselves or be hurt. I know when I’ve worked with my dogs, I usually make sure that the distance of the distraction is farther away. So for example, I may have them sit on a sidewalk as we’re going past a playground that’s full of kids and a really good distance away and have them concentrate on me and not be distracted or want to go down running down to greet the kids. Eventually I may try and get closer to the kids, but not until I know my dog can handle it, like not jump up on them or be too zestful. So and also changing our location is good. I’ll often start with pet stores. That’s very distracting because of the smells, the people, the other dogs, all those kinds of things. So it’s all very useful, and it just helps build their confidence.

Corey McCusker  10:05
So true. I mean, I even think you’ve got one place, you always have to take your dog and there could be other dogs around too, is the vet.

Diane Purser  10:12

Corey McCusker  10:12
So I really want, when I take my dog, or even if my clients are taking the dogs there, I would say, make sure that your dog can sit and maintain it if there’s other dogs going by. Because one, if you’re at the vets, those dogs might not be feeling well. So it’s really important that they learn to sit and maintain that sit quietly. And again, I always say if you’re going to places where you want to work on this, have those rewards available with you so that you have, if you have opportunities that you can work on maintaining it, or you know, the distractions are going to be higher. Very good. And you said about with the park, I mean, I know that my dog just loves greeting people. And we are really working on her sit before anybody pets her because she just loves to be, let’s say, jump on people. So we’re really just wanting her to maintain that position. And she gets rewarded for doing that.

Corey McCusker  11:07
All right, so let’s put this all together and wrap it up. When we are working on the three D’s, the duration, the distance, the distractions, we want to work on them one at a time, leaving the distractions for last, because those can be sometimes the most difficult to deal with. You can combine the three when your dog’s doing well, but really nailing down each of those at a time. When you’re adding the distance, remember to keep the duration shorter, and the distractions to a minimum. And the goal is that you’re going to set your dog up for success in any environment. And remember, sometimes they may not get it all the time. So if they’re struggling to perform a behavior, maybe we’ve gone too far too fast. Maybe the distractions are too high. Maybe we’re going too far with the distance. And maybe we’re expecting them to stay too long. So look at your three D’s, the duration that you’re expecting them, the distance that you’re going, and the distractions that you’re adding. Break it down, maybe you have to go back and reinforce one of them and break it down and work on just that duration again. I mean, I know with my dog, we do competitive agility, and if we’ve taken a break, maybe we’ve gone on a vacation or maybe we’ve had holidays or something – or like a holiday season or a long weekend and I haven’t worked on it sometimes she reverts back. So I’ve got to go back and reinforce it. So do it at a pace your dog can handle, reinforce it, reward them. And when you do it consistently, you’ll be surprised that the results that you can get wherever you are.

Diane Purser  12:49
That’s so true, Corey, and so important, but really, like you said, baby steps and build on that slowly.

Corey McCusker  13:00
Exactly, Diane. So that ends our podcast for today. If you would like to learn more, or try out some of our fun classes, or listen to our other podcasts or read some of our blogs, please visit our website at, www.muttzwithmannerz.com. If you have a question or a topic you’d like to hear about on a future podcast, please email us at, info@muttzwithmannerz.com Thanks, everyone for joining us. Have a great day, and bye for now.

Diane Purser  13:29
Thanks all.

Return to the podcast episode

Subscribe to the Podcast