The Three D’s of Dog Training!

December 18, 2023

Do your clients find themselves walking their dog and getting dragged down the street in pursuit of a squirrel?  Maybe the new rescue dog you are training  thinks slippers are the tastiest chew toy? There’s a secret to transforming dogs into well-behaved companions, and it’s as easy as remembering three simple words. Today we discuss the D’s of dog training. Distance, Duration, and Distraction are important aspects in finding dog training success. 

The 3 D's of Dog Training

Refers to the space between the dog and the handler during commands that require the dog remain in command regardless of how far away the handler is.  It also includes the distance between the dog and distractions present during training.

Initially, your dog might follow commands when you’re right next to them, but what about when they’re a few feet away?  Will they listen to those commands then? The key to achieving this goal is gradual progression. 

Begin with small distances, when distance training, and progress gradually. It’s important to ensure your dog understands what is asked of them and is comfortable with a gap between you. 

Moving out of eyesight or expecting the dog to remain in command around distractions too soon is unfair to the dog. Clients are often proud in early training when their dogs respond to a down-stay, place or a sit-stay. They are eager to see how the dog does when they leave the room. Dogs usually fail when it is done too early in training. Do not rush to leave the space. Take plenty of time to help the dog understand before moving forward. Rushing the process will likely confuse the dog and delay success.  


Refers to the length of time a dog can hold a behavior or follow a command. Can your dog sit for a second, a minute, or longer? 

Start with a very short duration when training a new behavior, which means you start by releasing the dog after a half second. Then very slowly build the time the dog remains in command.  As you increase the distance, decrease the frequency of the rewards. 

Reward the dog for successful command repetitions rather than immediately after they break it and you cue them back. By doing this, we encourage the dog to understand that the reward comes from staying in command, not just returning to it upon cue.


Refers to factors that may divert the dog’s attention away from the training task at hand.

Family members and  guests in the room during training, visitors entering the house, squirrels, other dogs, strangers,  busy settings or anything else that your dog finds disrupting are all considered distractions for a dog. 

During early stages of training, your dog will not be able to respond when distracted, regardless of the reward you offer. Early training must be completed in quiet, familiar environments. Then gradually adding low- level distractions. 

Examples of low-level distractions include training while another family member is present in the room after a period of time, or teaching commands in various rooms of the house before practicing them in the backyard.

Whether you practice indoors or outdoors, do so on leash. Hold off practicing on grass, as grass adds a new level of distraction – scents. It is best to begin training outdoors on concrete or decking. 

I had a client whose dog recently learned sit implied stay. This client was thrilled with the dog’s progress in the hour of training they received for this command.  Two days after the lesson, the client attended a backyard party with his dog. In front of a dozen guests he cued the dog to sit and then attempted to walk away.  The dog failed miserably. The client expressed frustration at his next lesson. When we do not follow the three D’s of dog training, beginning with duration and distance, the dog will not perform well around distractions.

In Closing

When it comes to the three D’s of dog training, we need to work on duration and distance before moving to distraction. Move as slowly or quickly as the dog is capable, until the dog fully understands and exhibits the desired behavior. Once the dog exhibits a full understanding of the command and remains in command,  we can move to distraction. Even then, the level of distraction must be slowly increased.

Written by Katie McKnight

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