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Humans and Dogs in Partnership - Part I

Generalization and Specificity in Dog Training

Tara’s School for Dogs says, “Humans and Dogs in Partnership. Let us show you how!” Let’s look beyond the cuteness of the words and go to a deeper understanding of what this means.

A partnership with your pet dog may be thought of in terms of the human-animal bond.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says, “The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors essential to the health and wellbeing of both. This includes, among other things, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.”

Both dog and puppy training has elements of all the items mentioned above, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment. Today’s blog discusses generalization and specificity as it pertains to physical interactions using positive reinforcement training methods.

Dogs do not generalize very well. This means that all the details surrounding something that your dog learns matters. For example, when teaching your dog “Down” if you are sitting on the floor or standing it’s a different thing in the dog’s way of thinking.

This is important to remember because when we are teaching something new to a dog, the training exercise must be done exactly the same way until they learn the behavior. If the specific details of how we do the training exercise changes it will be confusing and slow learning down or make it less precise.

There are many ways at Tara’s School for Dogs that we accommodate a dog’s need for specificity when they are first learning. For example, when teaching the positions Down and Stand, we always start from the Sit position with the handler standing. Once the dog really knows their positions, we can start to generalize the behaviors.

To learn more about Generalization and Specificity

follow the link to an article in the Whole Dog Journal click here.

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