First let’s dismiss that statement. We all know dogs are not dumb, they just think a bit differently than we do. While we know that dogs share many of our emotional feelings, how far does their understanding reach.
We do know that dogs live in the moment primarily because they don’t have the same worries that humans have. Their main concerns are “feed me” and “I want to play when I’m not sleeping.” And this is where training comes in.
When humans are told to do something such as sit, no matter where we are we follow the directions to sit. But most dogs associate a command such as sit with the area in which they are trained and we usually choose the same area for each training session. That’s why when you attend training classes with your dog, it’s so important to follow through and practice at home. When given the same command, for example, to sit, in a place different from the training area, your dog often doesn’t respond. The same can be true if one person has trained the dog to sit. The dog will obey the command given by that person and not anyone else.
Take heart, your dog isn’t dumb or being stubborn. S/he is just associating the command with the place where it was learned and is confused when asked to do the same thing elsewhere. To add to the confusion, “elsewhere” can be a place with lots of interesting distractions.
Punishing your dog for not obeying the command may only teach him/her to associate the command with harsh treatment.
Dogs are amazing and have the ability to learn to perform complicated tasks whenever and wherever they are asked to do so. Working dogs such as service dogs are asked to perform, sometimes under difficult circumstances. But they are trained to act under all conditions no matter where or what is happening in different places.
If your dog seems to be having a difficult time performing away from the training area, start retraining. Begin with areas that have few distractions, increasing them gradually. Your dog will soon learn that commands mean the same thing no matter where the two of are.
Remember to include other family members in the training so that your dog will take direction from them too.
Keep practicing commands in different situations with different levels of distraction. Never use punishment as a tool to teach your dog something. Being kind and patient with your dog brings many rewards including a loving companion.