The more a skill is practiced the better we become at it, the same holds true for our dogs. Rehearsals not only help us develop our dog handling skills they also help our dogs become proficient at certain skills, you can then use these skills whenever necessary. Rehearsals should include working in different locations, with different distractions, at different distances and finally mock scenarios.
Location is usually a problem for many people trying to train their dogs. Dogs do not generalise their skills very well, when you teach your dog how to sit in the living room you will find that when you ask him to sit at the park he will look at you as if he has no idea what you are talking about. This means you will have to rehearse in the context you want your dog to ultimately perform the skill, usually the dog park and surrounding streets.
This also means rehearsing with distractions. Always begin with teaching your dog in an easy area, such as inside your home, then move on to adding distractions. The usual distraction progression for most dogs is, walking pedestrians, jogging pedestrians, bikes/scooters/skateboards and finally other dogs. Other dogs are usually the most difficult distraction for your dog to work through, make sure your dog is proficient with people passing by before you start to work with dogs. This needs to be done for every skill you want your dog to become proficient in.
Your rehearsals should also take in to account distance from the distraction. You will find your dog will be able to concentrate on the skill better the further away he is from the distraction. You may also find your dog works at different distances for different skills. For example, he may be able to sit with a distraction moving by at a few meters but heeling with a distraction present may require more distance.
Finally, rehearsals sometimes mean setting up mock scenarios for your dog. For example, if your dog jumps on visitors to the house you will need the help of friends and family to rehearse arrivals. To begin with you should make the arrivals as low-key as possible and slowly work your way up to arrivals as they really happen such as introducing the door bell and excited voices. You can have your dog on their mat or sitting in front of you on lead for these rehearsals, just keep things consistent from rehearsals to the real thing.
When you are introducing a new location, distraction or decreasing distance from a distraction remember to lower standards for a little while until your dog ‘finds their feet’ with the skill again.
Photo Washington Post