Generalizing for Dog Trainers

One of the most common mistakes people make when training their dogs is to assume that because the dog understands a command in their living room means the dog also understands the command in the local dog park. This is a very important concept that those who have become a professional dog trainer understand, but owners don’t – and it’s why the behavior of owners’ dogs tends to fall apart under stressful circumstances!

People generalize extremely well.  Generalizing means you can take a concept and apply it to different situations.  For instance once you’ve learned how to multiply 6×4=24 in the schoolroom, you can take that concept home to your kitchen table and understand it just as well.

Unfortunately, dogs do not generalize well.  Let’s say you’ve taught your dog, Spot, to roll over in your living room then you take him to your father-in-law’s house to show off the new trick.  You give Spot the “roll over” command and he looks at you like he’s never heard that word before, and your father-in-law looks at you like you’re an idiot!  Well, from Spot’s perspective he never has heard that command before.

You need to teach a dog a command in several different locations and under several different circumstances (such as the clothes you wear and the position you are in), before he really understands that the word, “roll over,” means he’s to perform that particular behavior.

Also be aware that the generalizing concept applies to housebreaking issues as well.  Just because your dog knows he’s not to relieve himself in your house, doesn’t mean he won’t relieve himself in your father-in-laws house!

So remember, train your dog where ever you take him.  Not only will you have a clever dog, but your bond will be much stronger.

Raising Canine has a school for dog trainers which focuses on operant training for dogs, dog behavior, working with clients and addressing client compliance, and the science behind behavior modification.