When it comes to dog training it is important to understand your individual dogs learning abilities, some learn quicker than others, but in the end, they all learn the same. What can be the difference between one dog fully learning a behaviour and another one mostly learning it, is the method.
Lumping and splitting are two terms that can be used when describing how dogs are thought. Fairly self explanatory, lumping is when lots of new behaviours are thought at once and splitting is when different stages are used.
Take the behaviour stay, this can be thought both ways but really only learnt one. A dog can be thought to stay in one place by practicing in your back yard. You tell your dog to stay and back away, perhaps even turning your back or going around a tree. Your dog stays therefore they have learnt to cue.
Now you take this same behaviour into the big bad world. All of a sudden you introduce distractions. This is where all the progress you thought you were making goes awry. You thought your dog to stay, so why doesn’t he do it at the park, the answer, because you lumped loads of distractions into the training session and you’ve walked away without consulting him. You suddenly realise that your dog actually doesn’t know the cue as well as you thought, back to the drawing board.
This is why splitting is a better form of training. Take everything in stages, sure it takes a little bit longer, but in the end you have a bullet proof behaviour. Splitting a stay cue involves building up the three D’s slowly, Distraction, Duration, Distance. Firstly build up the duration of the stay, then the distance and finally add distractions. Doing all these separately will better able your dog to learn properly. Although you may think you are moving very slowly it is actually doing your dog better. Much like studying for an exam, if you cram the night before, you will remember some of the material for the exam but will quickly forget it over a short time. If you study a little bit everyday for a week you are more likely to remember it for longer and remember it better.
So next time your teaching your dog something new, remember lumping and splitting. Don’t lump too many behaviours on your dog, split it up over a little more time. your dog will thank you for it.