What’s “Real Life?”
Here’s how I taught a service dog to lay quietly while incorporating distractions, duration, and distance.
There are several steps involved when creating a training plan.
Step One: Define precisely what the finished behavior look like.
What does the finished behavior look like? The dog is able to lie quietly (preferably sleep) on his mat for 45 minutes in a crowded room regardless of the noise level (or the lack of noise), foot traffic, or other distractions.
Step Two: Determine the skills your dog needs to be able to accomplish the behavior.
What does the dog need to learn? He already knows to go to his mat and lie down on cue: when I say “mat” he goes to his mat and lays down. So the skill is there, but we need to improve two things: this behavior in public settings and we also need to improve duration (how long can he do this behavior).
Step Three: Teach your dog the skills (the components of the behavior) he needs to accomplish the behavior.
What skills does the dog already have? He doesn’t need to learn any additional skills – he can already go to his mat and lay down. We need to work on two variables: distractions and duration.
Step Four: Create a training plan.
A good training plan breaks the behavior(s) into very small, easily accomplished steps, and should include distractions, duration, and distance. The settle training plan for the dog looks like this:
I want the dog to stay on the mat longer before he gets his click and treat. Without changing Distance or Distractions, I will simply delay my click for two seconds. It looks like this: I say “mat.” The dog goes to his mat and lies down. I wait two seconds. I click and treat (throwing the treat off the mat so he gets off the mat). I want at least ten successes at the two-second level before I ask for more time. My end goal would be fifteen seconds. Now that you’ve accomplished this goal, you’ll drop duration out of the picture while you go onto the next step
In the beginning, to add a distraction I might tap my toes while I say “mat.” The instant the dog lies on the mat, I click and toss the treat off the mat. (Remember, we’re relaxing the requirement of Duration while we introduce Distractions.). Again, I’ll repeat this Distraction ten times to be sure the dog really has the concept before I increase the distraction.
This also includes changing locations. I would start inside the house, then move outside (at my house), then to a public indoor location, then a public outdoor location. My goal is that the dog can go to his mat in a crowded public location both outdoors and indoors.
Once I have all three pieces of the puzzle (Distraction, Duration, and Distance), I can begin putting them together.
I’ll choose two to work with first and I’ll keep both of them at their simplest levels. For instance, if I work on Distance and Duration, I’ll be one step away from the mat when I cue “mat” and I will click him after he’s been on the mat for one second.
Let me know —
What behavior do you think you’ll work on with your dog? Have you already gotten some success with “real-lifing” anything your dog already does?Leave a comment and let me know!