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What is Training Regression?

A dog who once listened to your cues is suddenly no longer paying attention to you. What has caused your dog to change their behavior? Why is your dog no longer listening to you? This is called training regression and are a frequent occurrence. This behavior is always changing, and can be influenced by the environment as well as your dog's own feelings and mood of the day. When behavioral issues you thought were corrected reappear, it can usually be for the following reasons:

  1. Generalization: The training falls apart because the dog has not been trained in that location. Dogs do not generalize, so you must re-train them in even basic behaviors with each new environment.

  2. Undertraining: The behavior you're asking your dog to do was not trained as strongly as you might have thought. You should return back to basics and make sure you have a good base behavior before moving onward.

  3. Lack of Consistency: The behavior is no longer happening because it was not trained consistently by each person in the household, or ever evolving rules.

Our actions effect the actions of our dogs. By having a set routine and set rules in the house, we can avoid the third issue, a lack of consistency. Once you set the rules, you should not change them, or else risk your dog's regression in training due to confusion.

A perfect example of this is potty training:

You have trained your dog to go potty on the grass in the back yard, and not in your home. Suddenly, you may realize that the grass is yellowing due to the dog's urine. Instead, you decide to change the dog's potty rules to only go in a corner of your hard. You take the dog on the leash to that corner multiple times, but when the dog isn't on a leash, they go potty wherever they like, as they used to. If you punish your dog for going to the bathroom in the wrong spot, your dog will see that as punishment for going potty at all. If this continues, your dog will be afraid to go potty inside the house and in the yard, which can cause a dog who holds it in as long as possible with a full bladder, and will suddenly have accidents in the house because it does not understand our changes. Our new contingencies that we have set up are confusing the dog, and caused the dog to regress in their training.

Dogs do not understand such changes, they need to know the rules and know that they will not change.

(Keep an eye out for next month's blog entry which will help clarify the first two items on this list)

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