by Taylor Snead, DANW Trainer and ADT

So you’ve taught your dog to lie down on their bed on cue — great job! That’s a complex skill to train and it’s worth applauding your work so far. 

But what’s that? Your pup goes to the bed and lays down, but pops right back up a second later? It sounds like you need some help building duration for the cue.

Or maybe they go to their bed, but get up if you take even a half step away from them, which means adding distance is your struggle. 

Or maybe you and your pup have a good grasp on duration and distance, but if the doorbell rings while you’re practicing, all bets are off. In other words, distractions are not your friend.

These “3 D’s” can seem daunting when training your dog. But if you follow a few basic guidelines as you practice, you and your pup can conquer them together.

Guideline #1: Focus on just one of the 3 D’s at a time. 

It’s so tempting to try to do it all at once. I get it! But for most dogs you’ll need to start off by breaking the behavior down into baby steps. If you’re trying to add duration, for example, don’t try to simultaneously walk further away while you’re doing it. If you’re adding distance, don’t do it while your cat runs through the room (because that’s a pretty big distraction for most dogs). For a down-stay on a bed, I usually tackle the 3 D’s in this order: duration, distance, distraction.

Guideline #2: Get specific with your criteria.

If we don’t know exactly what we’re asking our dog to do… how are they supposed to figure it out? If you’re focused on duration, for example, think about building up the number of seconds that your dog is able to do the behavior. For distance, incrementally increase the steps you take away from the dog as they successfully do the behavior. For distraction, gradually add in tricky elements, like a doorbell ringing, or the presence of an enticing toy.

Guideline #3: Keep it short & sweet.

Remember to keep your training sessions short, and always end on a high note. Leave them wanting more! For some dogs, a training session may only be a couple of minutes and for other dogs it may longer. I often ask my clients to break their training down into 2-3 sessions of 3-5 minutes each day.

The 3 D’s apply to all sorts of skills. They can be incorporated into everything from staying put on a mat to loose leash walking to wearing a muzzle. Keep these tips in mind… and see just how far you and your pup can go!