Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you ask your dog to do something they can do it no problem, but other times it’s like they have no idea what you’re asking? Have you ever noticed that your dog acts one way at home and another way when out and about?
It’s very likely that the reason is because when the environment changes, so does behavior. Changes in the environment could mean location or something new appearing. Maybe you’re out and about and your dog is feeling good and able to respond when you’re asking for behaviors. But then all of the sudden, a person starts to approach and your dog is non responsive. Maybe your dog is elated to see people. Or maybe your dog is fearful. Regardless, the behavior changes. When this happens, it’s common for people to become frustrated because their dog is no longer responsive and are often labeling their dog as “stubborn” in these moments.
To help our dogs, the best thing we can do is practice the skills we’d like them to be able to do with as many environmental variations that we can think of. Here is an example: 1. In home with no distractions.
2. In home with distractions. (Family members, visitors, during meals etc.) 3. In the most boring part of your yard. 4. In your yard with some distractions. 5. In your yard with maximum distractions. 6. At a quiet park.
7. At a moderately busy park. 8. At a town center during “off hours.” 9. At a town center during normal hours.
This may not be the perfect order for all dogs, but it gives you an idea. When you don’t practice the skills in a similar way as mentioned, it’s likely that your dog is not going to be able to respond the way you’re hoping. Remember, our dogs are doing the best that they can living in our human world. Teaching a dog to do skills like this can be easier said than done, especially if fear is involved. This is where working with a qualified trainer comes into play.