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Out of the Box Dog Training Game: All About Skill Level

July 27, 2009

The following is a most excellent question from one of my wonderful inquisitive canine students – thought I’d share it with everyone, just in case you have the same question.

Hi Joan – I have a question regarding your new Out of the Box Dog Training Game
When practicing with my dogs Ady & Ashley, I’ll want to take them from beginner to intermediate (and eventually to advanced) for certain behaviors, BUT I can’t remember what differentiated one level to the next, like the descriptions on the canine circuit training class posters. Are the cards detailed like the circuit posters? Thanks – Ady and Ashley’s mom
This is a great question, as I’m sure there are other inquisitive canine folks out there wondering the same thing. I’d be more than happy to answer this, and describe how I teach my inquisitive canine students in the various dog training classes I offer, as well as private dog training clients to make the behaviors easier or more difficult for his or her dog(s). 
The concept I teach and often refer to is “3-D Training” – Distance, Duration and Distractions. Adjusting each element on it’s own will make a behavior easier or more difficult for your dog to perform. 
When teaching your dog a new behavior, you’ll want to make it easier and increase only one “D” at a time. You’ll then either lower the other two ”D’s” or keep them the same level. To make it more difficult, or to advance your dogs skills, increase one “D” at a time. For those truly advanced dogs out there you can increase two “D’s” at a time while lowering or keeping the third one the same.  
I describe each “D” in the following way:
  • Distance: the distance between you and your dog, or your dog and the object/person you want them to go to or target. 
  • Duration: the amount of time you want your dog to hold a position. 
  • Distractions: anything, and I mean ANYTHING in the environment that your dog can be triggered or motivated by – this includes anything that can stimulate at least one of his or her senses in some way. 
A few examples related to skill level would include:
  • Distance using Recall (coming when called): Beginner level: Inside your home, no distractions, no other behaviors like sit-stay, from 5 feet away. Advanced level: 30 yards away outside at off leash dog park with a mid-way “stop and stay”. 
  • Duration using Waiting At Doors: Beginner level: Have your dog sit before being let outside, give release cue then immediately open door to let him or her outside. Advanced level, ask for sit-stay at door, open door, dog has to wait 5-10 seconds before release cue is given, allowing them to go outside. 
  • Distractions using walking on Loose Leash: Beginner level: inside home. Advanced level is walking outside with every distraction in the world. 
As a gentle reminder, remember to reward everything you want, and to increase the value of the motivator when you’re advancing those skill levels. (Motivation is another topic I bring up in the Guide Booklet” and throughout my dog training classes and private dog training sessions). 
This information can be found in the Guide Booklet of my newly developed Out of the Box Dog Training Game. It’s also part of my various dog training class welcome packets and workbooks. The great thing about understanding this concept is it makes it easy for anyone to play the game, plus you’ll be able to play it over and over, all you have to do is to adjust the skill level as you go. 
Happy training to you and your dogs, and thanks again for the question! I love when people are as inquisitive as their canines. 

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