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Training Basics: Dogs Do Not Generalize

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Do dogs generalize?

Dogs do not generalize. Just because they know how to sit on command in the house does not always mean that they will sit on command in the yard. Dogs take into account how similar or different the current situation is in comparison to what their store of past experience contains. By expanding their store of experience, you can increase their responses elsewhere.


How does generalization affect dog training?

Before you start training, you have to keep in mind that dogs do not generalize, this means that just because your dog knew his commands in puppy class does not mean he will perform at home the same way. Some dogs are better than others with generalizing, but most dogs see the new environment as a completely different set of rules. It is your job to make sure that your dog knows that “Sit” means put your butt down everywhere; in the house, on walks, in puppy class, at the dog park, and off or on the leash.

You can practice generalizing during walks and in any new situations that your dog can encounter. Such as evening, day, rain, sunny, at the beach, and at the park.

When your dog is not listening, he is not being stubborn or spiteful, he might not understand that the rules or commands he learned earlier apply to the environment he is in right now.