Taking it on the road
Once your dog is proficient in the desired behavior you are working on in a lower distraction setting (in your house or in class), you are ready to take your training on the road. You want to make sure to take small steps in this as well - start with practicing in your yard or in your driveway. Then move to short walks around the block. Then try an outing to a park. And so forth.
|Monday practicing a sit-stay|
on a bench at a local park.
Its important to proof your dog's skills everywhere, which also exposes them to learning with new and different distractions each time. By increase the stimuli in your dog's learning environment and remaining consistent, your dog will continue to adapt his learning and think 'Hey, those rules apply everywhere!' :)
Here is a list of some of our favorite places to practice:
*All rooms of the house (including the bathroom!)
*My neighborhood block (my neighbors enjoy the show!)
*The local parks
*The local pet stores and other stores that allow dogs
*The Farmer's markets
*Friends and relatives' houses
If it all falls apart
If your dog's behavior falls apart in a new environment - go back to basics. Help your dog perform the behavior you are cueing with a treat or toy as a lure. You may even need to back up from whatever is distracting them to get more focus on you. Try to get five to 10 successful repetitions while gradually weaning them off the extra help. Standing there and repeating the cue when your dog is too distracted to hear what you are saying is not teaching the dog anything but how to ignore you.
Increasing your rate of reinforcement to keep them attentive and working is also a good idea when you start out at a new place. As they become more consistent, you can lower your reward rate and rely more on secondary reinforcers or verbal encouragement. With a little patience and practice, it won't be long before your dog realizes that their training working everywhere, regardless of the distraction.
Bring on the public
Overall, learning this way is more like real life for the dog, and the learning tends to become more permanent because the dog begins to realize that the cues work everywhere. The more distractions you practice around, the quicker your dog will learn to generalize their response to your cues :). So be creative and get out there!!