Does your dog tend to forget their training? Your pet may respond well to the cue once, and then blow you off another time.
For example, you told your dog to sit, but they gave you no reaction. They know the cue, but now they don’t. It’s like the command fell on deaf ears or didn’t seem familiar at all. It’s frustrating.
You’ve done an excellent job training your pet at home. But, for some reason, it’s not giving you the results you wanted. You can’t even tell if it would make a difference in doing it all over again. Believe it or not, this can happen. However, it may not be because your dog is willfully ignoring you.
Why Your Dog Sometimes Forgets Their Training?
Baffling as this may seem, your dog “forgetting” their commands may be your fault. You may be setting your pet up for failure. Your dog not taking your cue is not them being disobedient. Oftentimes, you’re missing something in your training.
If your pet has a so-so recall at home, taking them to the park and expecting them to come when called is just ambitious—and demanding. And even if your pet has mastered the cue in your backyard, this doesn’t necessarily make them responsive when in other places. Hate to break it to you, but you’re asking for too much.
The problem here is that going out in the real world may be a lot to take in for your dog. There are a lot of distractions—people, other animals, strange things, and new sights. The whole experience can overwhelm them, so you can lose their attention and focus.
How to Make Your Dog Remember Their Commands?
Your dog forgetting their training is telling you they need more training.
Here are two things on how to deal with it:
1. Proof the Behavior
Proofing means training your dog to perform the cue across all settings, introducing different distractions. Before proofing, you must ensure that your dog has mastered the command.
Here’s a checklist to know if they’ve mastered the cue:
- Your dog performs the behavior instantly upon getting the cue.
- Your dog is not doing the behavior without getting cued.
- Your dog does not execute the behavior for a different cue.
- Your dog is not doing any other behavior in response to the cue.
Tips in Behavior Proofing Your Dog
One variable at a time.
Like your basic training sessions, proofing a behavior must not be complicated. Hence, only change one variable at a time. If you want to proof a stay command by using distance as a variable, adjust only the distance between you and your dog during the training. Don’t change the environment or the handler. Mixing up variables in one session is just too much for your dog. Your pet will learn eventually, but they need you to be patient.
Reward as needed.
Keep the training fun and rewarding. Pay your dog for a job well done with treats and praise. This will make them interested and focused. Reinforcing with treats and rewards is a great motivator in dog training.
Change settings from less distracting to highly distracting.
Don’t set up your dog for failure. Be practical. If your dog can’t do the cue at home, don’t expect they’ll do better elsewhere. Proof commands from less distracting situations to highly distracting ones. Always start where your dog is familiar, such as your home, backyard, and front yard. After that, you can advance to the neighborhood area, empty park, slightly busy park, and finally, the park during peak hours.
Use high-value dog treats when introducing distractions.
Distractions, well, can get your dog distracted. A new environment with many people moving around can pique your dog’s interest and drive to explore. Once their attention is diverted from you, getting a response might be a losing effort.
So, you need to be more interesting than the distractions present. Bringing special goodies with you is one way of getting your dog’s attention fixed on you or, at least, on the high-value treat you’re holding. Luncheon meat, cheese, and peanut butter (xylitol-free) are good options. To know what treat could make your pet crazy, try experimenting with what they like best before trying out distractions.
Proof the handler, too.
Will your dog still respond to the cue with a different handler? What if the handler is sitting and not standing like they always do? Will your dog perform the same? Training your dog to respond to someone other than you is part of behavior proofing.
2. Engage in a Playful Activity
Some studies have found that humans can recall in great detail any emotionally arousing experience in the past. This is because when humans are emotionally worked up, the body releases hormones that can enhance their memory.
Now, new data suggests dogs may undergo the same process. It is believed that stimulating emotional arousal during or immediately after training can influence how much a dog remembers. One way of doing this is engaging dogs with positive playtime activities after training. For example, playing fetch and chase or any game your dog enjoys doing is a good start. This experience can also instill in them that playtime always follows the training. This way, they get a positive association with training, motivating them to keep doing it again.
Your dog isn’t blowing you off for no reason. There may be factors that might have caused them to ignore your signal. It’s not them being willfully disobedient or disrespectful. There may be underlying reasons why they tend to ignore your signals. These could be due to as distractions, fear, anxiety, or even health issues. Proofing is an integral part of achieving dog training success. This step ensures that your pet can reliably respond to your signals, regardless of the circumstances.
Many pet owners supplement their training by using remote training e-collars. They are useful tools in helping your dog understand what behaviors are unacceptable. However, using these devices correctly is essential to achieve the desired results.
Only when your dog generalizes the desired behaviors can you most certainly say they’re ready to take a step outside in the real world.