I have discussed this a bit in the past, but I want to re-visit the topic of making a behaviour work in places where the dog is distracted and getting rid of the food rewards.
Distractions in daily life are everywhere, for us humans as well as our dogs. Just look at when we are on the computer trying to work. How often have you found yourself an hour and a half later surfing the internet or scrolling through a news feed?
Luckily, us humans are able to change our behaviour to work more efficiently and be more productive. It takes some work, of course, but it is mostly doable.
Dogs can’t do this for themselves. They need us to help them become “trained” or conditioned to do something different that is more acceptable.
Sometime us humans forget this and assume dogs have learned all they need to, to the level we need them to.
Whenever I take a dog into the rally-o ring I usually get reminded of this quite nicely. In the photo above, Tommy didn’t want to jump this low jump. I have no idea why other then we have never practiced doing this behaviour in the ring. Come to think of it, we probably did minimal practice in the first place at home as well. That would explain it.
So, the expectation of having your dog do a complicated behaviour in a very distracting environment with no food rewards anywhere and being nervous, compound to create a situation in which you dog does not know what to do.
When I was doing my video series on the behaviour “get ready” I finished it off without explaining or showing that you need to train your dog around increasing distractions and train without the food reward bag visible.
I know I have discussed this many times before, but I like to re-iterate it every time I do a demo video on a different behaviour. The repetition of it helps people to remember that a dog needs to learn in many different environments to do the SAME behaviour before you can consider the behaviour well learned. This is called generalization.
Humans don’t need to do this as often, if ever. We usually generalize behaviours quite quickly as children. But if a dog does not get a chance to practice a behaviour around increasing distractions, the behaviour cannot usually be considered learned.
So, when you want your dog to really be good at a behaviour, make sure to take the time to reinforce it in different locations without food rewards visible. This is just part of the training process that can be followed for almost any behaviour you need your dog to learn.
Do the work and you won’t be disappointed.