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feeding toy such as a stuffed Kong. Once your dog is consistently sitting on cue, you can begin to add duration. The goal of duration is to teach your dog to hold the position you have cued until released. To build duration into your daily routine, you simply add time to the behavior before the marker and reinforcer. To help your dog be successful, cut your goal behavior into small slices, making it very easy for him to achieve the behavior.

Duration at Feeding Time

Here is an example of how to work the sit with duration into your dog’s feeding time (I recommend you do not free feed your dog during training): At feeding time you: • Prepare the dog’s food. • Cue: Sit (silently count to one while dog sits). • Marker: Click, or use voice marker, as dog’s rear hits the floor. • Reinforcer: Feed the dog. (A whole bowl of food is very reinforcing.) To increase duration: • When the dog sits consistently, gradually increase the silent count. • Once the dog responds quickly and consistently, add the release cue, “okay.” • Click and feed after releasing. • When the dog quickly gets up at the release cue “okay,” you no longer need to click. Each time you practice a sit with duration, gradually increase the time your dog sits before clicking. If, at any time, the dog cannot remain sitting through your count, take a step back and spend more time at the previous level. To keep things fresh for him, I also vary the silent count.You can practice a duration sit with everyday activities you do with your dog like attaching the leash, or going outside for a walk or to play.

Adding Distance

Once your dog is holding a sit consistently, you can begin to add distance to the duration. It would look something like this: At feeding time you: • Prepare the dog’s food. • Cue: Sit (silently count to one while dog sits). • Take one small step away from the dog. Since you are adding a new element to the behavior, cut down the duration of the sit to a very short time.You can build it back up later. • Marker: Click or use a verbal marker. • Give release cue: “Okay.” • Reinforcer: Feed the dog. To increase distance: • When the dog sits consistently, gradually increase the distance. As you go about your daily routine, your body movements, the varied reinforcers you use, and practicing in different environments, all work together to help your dog understand that wherever you cue a behavior, no matter what you are doing, if you have a treat bag or not, indoors or out, “the game” is played the same way. As a dog owner, fitting my dogs’ training into my


daily routine has greatly benefited all of us. It makes training fun and spontaneous, saves me time in my day, and helps me develop consistency in working with my dogs. Humans are not the only ones who benefit from working dog training into their daily routine. Dogs benefit too. Unfortunately, dogs do not generalize well. Generalization is the ability to apply a concept to a different situation than which it was initially learned. Humans can do this quite easily. When you learn to ride a bike in your driveway at home, you can take that ability and use it in a different environment, say at the park, or on a riding trail. You do not have to relearn the behavior in that new environment. Dogs have a greater challenge in this respect, and I have to teach my clients that the behavior their dog has just learned needs to be practiced in many environments. By adding training here and there in your daily routine, you give your dog plenty of opportunities to generalize a behavior by practicing in different locations like the kitchen, the garage, at the front door, or on the back patio. Every new location is a learning opportunity for both the dog and the parent. I love seeing my clients with smiles on their faces and pride in their hearts, feeling successful that they were able to practice their homework. After all, success is its own reinforcer. For my puppy parents, this sense of accomplishment means they are more likely to practice again in the future. This, in turn, develops life-long habits that produce a well-mannered family companion. The dog then becomes a vital part of the family, participating in the family’s activities and living an enriched life in his forever home. Is that not what training is all about? n Sharon Empson is based in Lake Elsinore, California operates her own training business, Hot Digity Dog Training,, where she serves her clients through private in-home training sessions. She is also a Puppy Start Right instructor and a Canine Good Citizen evaluator.

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BARKS from the Guild March 2017  
BARKS from the Guild March 2017  

The bi-monthly trade publication from the Pet Professional Guild covering all things animal behavior and training, canine, feline, equine, p...