Generalize the Spot Behavior

“Dog’s don’t generalize well,” is a phrase that many dog trainers know and understand.

While it is true that dogs do not generalize as well as humans, generalization may be enhanced through training. And the dog surely won’t be able to generalize unless they practice.

Generalizing the spotSpot is a “go to a place”, or “go to a mat” behavior. This means that the dog seeks out and performs a duration behavior on a spot of the handler’s choosing. A Pedestal is a raised spot. Anything a dog can leap onto and perch upon. Spots and Pedestals are important dog training tools.... behavior is critical to being able to use the skill successfully in our daily interactions. We need to be able to put our dogs in many different spots, as it is not practical to always have ‘your’ Spot with us. Having a well generalized Spot will enable us to place our dogs on any kind of rug, on tables, chairs, stools and other pedastals, it also can be generalized out to include thresholds and doorframes.

Dogs surely don’t generalize well if they are not asked to…

Handler Position

Generalizing the handler’s Position is extremely important.

The dog should not be basing the performance of the spot behavior upon the position of the handler. The handler’s position, movement, location etc should have no bearing on the Dog’s performance of the spot behavior. Early and subtle generalization of behavior will enable the dog to focus in on the Spot behavior and to understand the Root Concepts on which it is based.

We absolutely must remember that maintaining the Duration BehaviorAny behavior performed until the handler wants it to stop is a Duration Behavior. Duration Behaviors have 3 parts. There is an action,”Yes!”. Then there is the duration part filled with Classical Conditioning goodness...while... Duration ends with the action of the Release Cue. Duration, by definition has a beginning and an end. If there is no end, there was no... is the Handler’s Responsibility. Any of these generalization techniques should be performed with the intent to keep the dog on the Spot. We are not testing the dog. We are teaching the dog to stay regardless of our position or movement. Because we are teaching them to stay, we are not going to push too hard and make them break their stay.

  • Rock It
    Rock back, Rock Forward, and pay.
  • Side to Side
    Slide from side to side similar to Rock It.
  • Step OverAn Over is any leaping catch that happens over top of the handler’s body. Overs are usually named by the part of the body over which the dog flies, i.e - Leg Over, or the position you are in while doing the Over - Seated Over, Spinning Over, etc. Overs should be taught before Vaults....
  • Stepping Over the dog requires a huge leap of faith. It is often better if we simply give the dog a cookie as a distraction as we step over.
    We can just mark the moment we’re about to step and put the cookie in the dog’s mouth as we’re over top of them. A few reps of this and the dog will happily stay in position as we step over them.
  • Random Movements
    Flailing arms, jumping up and down, spinning around, dropping to the floor – random, fast moving, surprising movements can really help seal the deal on the understanding that,”I stay here, regardless of what’s going on.”
  • Walk AroundAn Around, or a Go Around is the traditional disc dog set up move. The dog goes around the handler’s body in a clockwise or counter clockwise fashion allowing dog and handler to develop a sense of timing and team movement. Arounds usually start in front of the handler and have the dog circling close to the handler’s heels....
    This should be considered a proofing exercise, and should only be worked if the handler is willing to bet $100 that the dog will perform the skill perfectly. That’s a lot of cheddar… better be sure it will work before you take the chance.

Generalizing the Spot

We need to move the Spot around in our training areas. We’ll work the spot in the kitchen, the back yard, the park, our in-laws house, the ballgame, etc. The more places the better.

We’ll also need to work on some other Spots, a towel, a table, a dropped leash, the corner of the carpet. The sky’s the limit. By this time your dog has the concpetual understanding of the spot behavior and will be able to leverage the understanding of the root concepts towards many Spot-like situations.