I wrote a post last summer about Luke learning to put his toys away. In it I stated that Luke was good at generalization. I’m pretty new to training, and I felt silly afterwards when I kept reading that dogs are not good at generalizing. I wondered if I was wrong about Luke. The point of that idea is that if you train your dog to do something in a certain location, he may not repeat that behavior when you change the location or circumstances of training.
Since the week before we moved and we put Luke’s crate away to get ready to go, we haven’t done any real training. I planned to get back to it once we get a bit more settled in our new home and I feel like Luke is totally comfortable and relaxed here.
I now stand by my statement that Luke is good at generalization. After all, if we say that “dogs aren’t good at generalization” we are generalizing ourselves aren’t we? Maybe in this case we shouldn’t always. There has to be exceptions to every rule and I think Luke is often an exception to this rule. Here’s why:
Our beagle Kobi used to be constantly underfoot in our kitchen, and since Luke seemed to want to pick up right where he left off (oddly, most of the time the girls are very good about staying out of the kitchen when I’m cooking), I vowed to train him to stay out of my way when I was working in there. I don’t want to trip over a dog while cooking, and with sharp knives and hot dishes around, it’s for all of our safety. Plus dogs just have a way of lying right in front of the next cabinet you need to get into!
The other night I was preparing supper in our new kitchen and noticed Luke right next to me. I had trained him to go to his bed in our other house, which was right outside of the kitchen. He could still see me but would be out of the way. In the new house, he wouldn’t be able to see me quite as well from the closest bed. So I just raised my arm and gestured kind of vaguely as I said “go lie down”. He took himself and lay down right outside the kitchen – within my sight and close to me, but out of my work area.
He knew exactly where to go. (I quickly praised him and brought him a piece of cucumber. Yup, he loves it).
That inspired me to start training back up just to see if he would perform many of his old tricks in our new home, and he has done very well. These cabinets close a little differently so he has a bit of trouble with closing them but he’s getting there. I put a handful of treats in my pocket when we went outside to play, and I had him spinning, twirling, backing up, and even picking up toys and bringing them to me outdoors! That’s all while I’m also throwing the ball for his sisters.
I’ll say it again, and proudly: “Luke is good at generalizing”. No, he’s not perfect – he is sometimes still distracted and not cooperative. We haven’t decided yet what our next trick will be, or when we’ll get the crate out to start training with that again. I’m working with him to leave our cat Samantha alone so we can feel safe letting her have the run of the house (I don’t think he would hurt her, intentionally, but he can get too rambunctious with her). Frankly, I hadn’t even planned to write a post for this month’s hop, but Luke must have decided he needed to inspire me and make it easy, as well as letting me know he is ready!
On another note: Have you read our review and entered our giveaway for the Solvit Pet Safety Seat? If not, click here to go to that post and enter!
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
I’m super impressed with anyone who can train their pet to pick up after themselves. I am not consistent when it comes to training – my downfall. And I would love to have some assistance with picking up dog toys at the end of the day. You’ve inspired me to try again.
Let me know how you make out, Cathy! I’m not actually always consistent either. I haven’t had Luke pick up his toys in a while, and I need to start doing it again!
Diane @ To Dog With Love says
I think Luke looks like he’s great at generalization! I’ve always learned to train behaviors in lots of different places so that helps a lot with helping dogs generalize.
I sometimes wonder about that “dogs are bad at generalization” thing. I think it’s probably true that *some* dogs are bad at it, and if it’s not true for every dog, it is at least a useful lie that can save a dog and her owner some grief. If people really only train with their dog in one place in their house, they really shouldn’t expect their dog to follow any of those cues anywhere else. If we set people up to think that dogs are bad at generalizing and they should train in every room, then move outside, then slowly increase distractions, then their dogs will learn that those words mean the same thing everywhere–and then, as Lauren said up there, they’ll get better at generalizing! So Luke is a smarty pants because you’ve done a good job working with him in lots of different places, so the new house just isn’t a big deal. 🙂
As for Nala, provided that she’s comfortable and feels safe, she’s great at remembering what her cues mean and even trying brand new tricks out. But if she’s worried or scared, it’s a different situation entirely. In fact, if she can’t do what I ask, it usually means that she’s worried enough that we need to get out of there!
I agree, and I think it’s just a term they use so that we understand we need to train our dogs in more than one location! It almost seems like they should just say “dogs are easily distracted”! I remember one time trying to make video of Luke doing one of his tricks, and our cat kept strutting back and forth…so of course he was distracted!
It’s a different story when we are dealing with fearful dogs. They can be distracted by many things other dogs wouldn’t, and working through their fears is another step in the equation.
It depends on the skill for Barley. No matter where we are, she knows that if her mat is out, it’s her place to relax and I can say go to your mat and she’ll do it without question. But other things are harder for her. At home (or at least in our old home–we haven’t tried it here), she can do a sit-stay while I throw a toy for Soth and he zooms past her and in agility class she can do a sit-stay while I lead out to wherever I want to be if the room is completely quiet, but a small distraction like another dog parking or a car door slamming outside throws her off her game. When we started agility, she could do a sit-stay on her long line with me 20-feet away in the backyard for over 3 minutes, but she couldn’t sit in front of a jump for 3 seconds while I walked a foot away from her in class. Being left is something that she’s not good at, so we that’s something we have to start with scratch from in every environment, but things that are more in her comfort zone she can handle anywhere.
I think it makes sense that some situations can be more difficult, especially for a dog that might have some fears. It doesn’t mean they aren’t smart…they get it, they know, but it’s just too difficult to pay attention at that time. I know if I’m stressed, it’s hard for me to focus!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Y’know, all my dog obedience training course materials say that “dogs do not generalize well”, but I don’t agree with that either. I’m with Jan – people don’t give dogs enough credit. Or, maybe they just don’t pay close attention to the dogs they are training. I only recently started training Ducky with the “place” command, and she is getting really good at it – both in the house and out in the yard. Sure, there are times when she doesn’t want to go to the place I point to, but that’s just Ducky being Ducky; it has nothing to do with her ability to generalize. ????
It’s so true. Maybe it’s assumed that if they are distracted by something, they don’t understand the command. But it may be more that they’re just distracted….they know what to do, they just don’t always want to do it! I get that from Luke sometimes, and at those times if I can I just let it go until he’s paying better attention.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
I’ve heard that too.. but Mr. N IS good at generalizing lol. Maybe it’s because we’re always training in new places but he has no trouble adapting for the most part. Thanks for joining the hop!
Mr. N is a smart one too, so I’m not surprised he’s also good at it!
Very interesting. I never really thought about dogs generalizing before. Luke is so smart, even though it’s a new house and things are a little different, he seems to understand what you’re asking him to do. Dogs do like their routines, but they’re also so adaptable to new surroundings.
I think that’s true. I was very worried about moving them to a new home. Although there were some issues, overall I feel like they adapted very well and fairly quickly. At first routines were off, but once we got back into the normal routines, different location, I think it was then they settled in completely.
Lynn LaChance says
Love hearing more proof of how smart that Luke is! What a guy! 🙂
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Luke your such a good boy!
Lauren Miller says
That’s so awesome that Luke remembered his training! It’s true that some dogs don’t generalize well. I think that the more they are trained, the better they generalize. Both of my dogs can learn something in the living room and then go outside and remember it (Unless they get distracted by a tasty looking squirrel but that’s a different thing… haha), or go to training class and remember it.
I think distractions are a whole other ball of wax, so to speak. But I have found Luke to also do well when his sisters are playing around him. But if a stranger walked into the yard? All bets are off then!
Hailey and Zaphod says
Luke is brilliant:)
You’re so sweet to say that! 🙂
M. K. Clinton says
I am so happy that Luke is settling into his new home. I REALLY need to teach Pierre to put up his toys. We made the mistake of Bentley sitting on the “treat” mat in front of our kitchen sink. We pretty much now straddle the him all of the time. LOL!
Ha ha, I can definitely picture that! I think that’s why Kobi was always underfoot…he knew the treats were in the kitchen! When we moved them from a central cabinet to an outer one, it made it easier!
My four are good generalizers too. I think people don’t give dogs enough credit.
I agree…well said!
easy rider says
Bravo Luke… you are a super talented boy! … and I still love to see the fabulous food station … but I better don’t ask my staff, we know how their diy-projects end :o) hahahaha
2 Brown Dawgs says
Good job Luke. I have never heard the term generalization. That is a new one for me. I have heard dogs are situational so we proof their training in different places and under different circumstances. The goal is for it to be solid in any situation.
I think your term makes a lot more sense….it’s much clearer as to what the purpose is.
We definitely think dogs are good at generalization. We follow the same procedures wherever we travel, or where we do sports. Dogs are pretty smart 😉 Go Luke!