Controlling Variables....getting your dog to perform in any environment.
Dogs and people learn in the same manner, yet too often as dog trainers we expect our animals to understand what we've asked of them with very little teaching. If I taught you how to ski by taking you on the bunny run and by the end of two hours you were making it up and down without a problem, it doesn't mean you know how to ski. What it does mean is that in the span of two hours you have begun to practice the skills necessary to get up and down the slope. If I expect you to be successful I better observe the conditions, for instance how cold it is outside, how many other skiers there are, how icy the slope, how steep the hill, your ski equipment and the way it fits, etc. I would want to control these variables as best I could at first so that you would have a good chance at succeeding and accomplishing the lesson. After just one or two lessons, with little or no practice in between, I would not expect you to be able to "ski" on the expert slopes where the variables are different (steeper, icier, colder, more people, different terrain , trees, mogels.....you get the picture!!!)
The same is true of your dog. Just because you've taught him how to sit/stay in the kitchen does not mean he knows how to sit/stay downtown or on the sidewalk or even in the backyard. The variables, the number of people, noise, smells, cars, kids , other animals, etc. are entirely different. If I want to get from the kitchen to the street and have my dog behave consistently, I have to practice. By gradually introducing distractions over a span of time, eventually my dog will learn to ignore the distractions and stay regardless of the circumstances. This is the benefit of good strong leadership and solid training practices. Here is a training outline to follow for acccomplishing consistent behavior....
Use food to get behavior started.
Phase food out as dog becomes more consistent. Use praise and real life rewards instead.
Change variables slowly adding in very mild distractions or training in a new location.
As variables change and distractions become more intense expect the dog to become confused and to make mistakes. Be patient, show what you want and go slowly.
If dog can not perform behavior and requires too many reminders, lower the intensity of the distractions and go slower until ready.
Help the confused dog by showing him what you want but not before you let him try to work it out on his own. As long as the dog hasn't walked away, give him a good 20-30 seconds to work things out.
Don't always just make it harder, every once in a while do some easy stuff with slight distractions to help build confidence.
If you want your dog to heel, stay, lie down, and sit in public you ave to practice there, but not all at once.
Remember going from the bunny run to the expert slope is a big hop, don't ask for more than your student can handle at this point in his