Dogs Don’t Generalize

I’d heard this many times, and I understood it – dogs can’t generalize their training from one location to another, hence the reason you must start back at square one when you change locations.  Fair enough, I understand.  Holy criminey though, Inara REALLY doesn’t generalize.

I’m using the clicker to teach her to go to her mat on command.  I shaped the behavior with the clicker until she was going there reliably, then I added the cue, “mat.”  So I would then say “mat” as she was getting ready to step onto the mat.  When she laid down, I clicked/treated.  Awesome, I’m feeling like a genius trainer at this point.

So now I think, “gee, I need to shake things up a bit so I know she really knows it.” Yeah, she didn’t.  I stood up and moved about 2 feet away, she followed me.  I gave the cue “mat,” and she did everything but.  She sat, downed, tried to shake, played dead.  Rinse, repeat.  I ignored her and finally she went over to the mat – major click and treat.  So we do that a few times until I think she has it again.

I moved, she got confused.  I stood still but moved the mat, she got confused.  Both me and the mat stayed in the living room, but every time I moved or I moved the mat, confusion.  I was feeling less and less like a dog training genius by this point.  So we ended on a really good note and called it a night.

This clicker training stuff is hard.

Inara chewing on Mr. Piggy, a gift from her Secret Santa for Christmas in July.  Sadly, Mr. Piggy is already a dismembered, empty carcass.  But she's happy!
Inara chewing on Mr. Piggy, a gift from her Secret Santa for Christmas in July. Sadly, Mr. Piggy is already a dismembered, empty carcass. But she's happy!

4 thoughts on “Dogs Don’t Generalize

  1. LOL…we have all been there.

    I had a client (training her own hearing dog) come in this past week…all excited because the dog learned a new skill (at home). The dog completely wouldn’t do it at the training center. I had to muffle a laugh…because the owner was SO sure the dog KNEW the skill. 😉 She’s new to clicker training…and is having trouble with taking baby steps at times! I keep telling her that this is one of the hard parts about training Assistance dogs…they have to perform the behavior in many different locations, in different environments, etc. 🙂

    Glad Inara loved her piggy…that was just a last minute addition…I figured she’d have fun killing him. *grin*

  2. I was there just last week when I was teaching teaching Renee to stand in a hoola hoop on the floor (just for kicks, we clicker trainers make our dogs do strange things just for fun). Thought she had it, so I moved farther away – nope, she followed and looked at me, then tried her default down…back to square one and clicking for looking at the hoop. She’s getting better at it now, after a couple more sessions. At least they typically pick it up more quickly the second time around.

  3. LOL! I have never tried clicker training. partly becuase Daisy doesn’t work for treats. She is not interested in them while training. I did the same type of thing though. She has her “spot” instead of mat, and she is pretty good at going to it where ever it is as long as its in the house. Have not tried taking her anywhere and making her go to her spot, which is either a bed or blanket.

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