How many times have we looked at our dogs in frustration when we’ve asked for, what we consider, a task the dog knows quite well and yet there is a total failure? What the heck is going on?
It could be that the training has not actually hit the ‘critical mass’ mark because the issue of generalization has raised its ugly head. The fact of the matter is that dogs don’t generalize very well. They can’t easily take a new piece of information or skill and apply it to a new set of circumstances.
I can easily teach a young puppy to sit in the kitchen in a few minutes. But, even though I say and do exactly the same thing for the pup, a move to the dining room presents confusion on behalf of the pup. This confusion results in either frustration or disengagement by the puppy if I don’t quickly step in to help by starting over.
Here’s a great little list of the factors involved in generalization to emphasize all the different elements one must train before the behaviour/skill is learned. Each element is introduced at the lowest level of difficulty and gradually increased to the highest level.