Take The Ten Treat Test! Does Your Dog Really "Know" an Exercise?
It's common for trainers to hear that a "problem" dog "knows" commands such as sit. But do they really?
It is also common for owners to complain that a dog sits for a treat, but still jumps up on visitors. Why exactly would a trained dog disobey?
Typical obedience classes start with beginner level exercises. They are like kindergarten. Real life distractions are more difficult skills. Those are like university.
Owners often try to take their dog straight from kindergarten through to university - without stopping at grade school or high school. If you understand how to test your own dog, you can move seamlessly from one level to the next. You can customize any exercise to meet your dog's current obedience level.
Start by creating a plan. Let's look at sit as an example.
Create a list of situations where you want your dog to sit politely.
Rank those situations from easiest to hardest.
For example, most dogs will sit when at home and there are no visitors. That would be an easy exercise. Can that same dog obey when owners are trying to put a leash on it? Will it sit patiently and wait while the owner reaches for the door knob? Will it sit when it hears a knock at the door? Does the dog obey when owners are not looking at the dog? What if owners are not holding a treat or standing in "dog training position"?
These are all medium level exercises. All dogs need to work through these steps. If owners take their dogs through these exercises one step at a time, the dog will eventually have an incredibly reliable sit command. With practice, they can learn to sit while visitors come to the door or stop to chat on the street.
Avoid charging through exercises haphazardly. If you want to know if your dog is ready for a more challenging version of an exercise - do the sit test.
By testing and re-testing you can customize any basic obedience skill to suit your lifestyle. Gradually work through distractions and you'll have a dog that reaches university level skills.