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The Three D's of Dog Training

What do I mean by the three D's? Read on to find out what they are and why they play a crucial role in shaping your dog’s behaviour and how it helps you with training your dog (or in any other species you may want to train)!

The first D is for Duration: This refers to the length of time your dog maintains a behaviour. For instance, if you’re teaching your dog to “sit” or “lie down”, the longer they have to hold that position, the more challenging it becomes. Start with very short durations (e.g., one second) and gradually increase the time you ask your dog to hold this position. If your dog makes a mistake, go back to a shorter interval and build up again. Set your dog up for success! Keep the duration short in the beginning to make it easier for them to perform the behaviour you are asking for.

The second D is for Distance: Distance relates to how far away you are from your dog when they perform a behaviour. As you move farther away, your dog’s reliability decreases. When training for distance, start small and gradually increase the gap. Ensure your dog can handle a relatively large distance with you in front of them before moving to their side or behind them. Leaving the room should be the last step.

The third D is the hardest one of all - Distraction: Distractions are what compete for your dog’s attention. For every dog, the distraction may be different. Some may be distracted by rubbish on the footpath, another might tend to find birds too hard to resist, or it could be a cat or another dog! As distractions increase, it becomes harder for your dog to focus on the desired behavior. Gradually expose your dog to distractions, starting with mild ones. A mild distraction might be a leaf blowing slowly across the lawn, or a stationary distraction like a pen on the ground. Once you are able to get your dog to focus on you with a mild distraction, then it is time to progress to more challenging scenarios. Reinforce the behaviour throughout the distraction phase to help them stay focused. This may mean that you create more distance between the distraction and you and your dog, and your rate of reinforcement is faster - a treat every few seconds.

It is really important that you only change one of these 3 D's at a time. For example, don't ask your dog to sit five metres away from you the first time, while a child creates a distraction by riding their scooter past. Instead, you should work on each element individually. Start with duration, ask your dog to sit and gradually increase the time, until your dog can sit for a few minutes in one place. Then add in your distance - start with your dog sitting for a few minutes a metre away from you, then gradually work on lengthening the distance you are from your dog. Do this until you have got your dog sitting for a few minutes at 5 metres away from you. Then when you want to add distraction to this scenario, you would shorten the duration you are asking your dog to sit for, and also shorten the distance you are from your dog, with a mild, seemingly uninteresting distraction, and work up from there.

But why does it matter? And how would it help? The Three Ds of dog training—Duration, Distance, and Distraction—are crucial for effective dog training. Let’s delve into why each of these factors matters:


Why it matters: Teaching your dog to maintain a behavior for an extended period is essential. Whether it’s sitting, staying, or lying down, duration helps your dog understand that they need to hold a position until you release them.

How it helps: Longer durations improve your dog’s patience, impulse control, and focus. It’s especially useful for cues like “stay” or “wait.”


Why it matters: Dogs should respond to cues regardless of your proximity. Imagine calling your dog from across the park — and they come to you without hesitation! Wouldn't that be amazing! This is definitely a reason to practice with distance.

How it helps: Gradually increasing distance reinforces reliability. It ensures your dog doesn’t rely solely on visual cues from you being nearby.


Why it matters: Real-life situations are full of distractions — other dogs, people, noises, and smells. Your dog needs to stay focused despite these temptations.

How it helps: Training with distractions builds resilience. Your dog learns to prioritize your cues over external stimuli.

In summary, mastering the Three D's ensures your dog’s obedience and adaptability in various contexts. They play a crucial role in shaping your dog’s behaviour and it is very much worth spending the time on incorporating these elements into your training regime.

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