The answer to this question is one word: DISTRACTIONS! You see, dogs don’t generalize well. That means if you teach them a rock solid sit-stay in your kitchen and then go to another room, your dog is not going to understand that the same rules apply. Dogs need to be taught that the rules of the game apply everywhere. In his textbook, “Applied Dog Behavior and Training Volume 1” Stephen R. Lindsey states that dogs need around 40 different scenarios before they understand the command applies no matter what.
When you go outside, not only is the above concept working against you, but there are also SO MANY FUN THINGS to do! There is grass to be sniffed, birds to be barked at, rocks to dig up, and worms to eat. From the dog’s view, why in the world would they want to sit-stay for you when so much amazing things are going on?!
This begs the question: How do we combat this? Variety is the antidote. Training your dog in as many places as possible with a variety of distractions. You will want to start easy. Start in your kitchen or living room where there aren’t a ton of distractions and your dog is already pretty familiar with the smells and sights.
Then, you want to make the scene slightly more difficult. You may not be able to right to your back yard. Perhaps we need to do the training in the kitchen with the window or door open first. This would give the dog a glimpse of the distractions without being flung head-first into the challenge. Slowly increase the difficulty level by adding more distractions and tweaking other variables (such as time of day, what you’re wearing, etc.)
As you slowly increase your dog’s endurance and concentration, it’s basically guaranteed you’ll hit a rough patch. Don’t fret! When training starts to fall apart, go back to where you were last successful. Work there for a bit and then add difficulty in smaller increments if possible.
Following this protocol will help your dog understand that it’s easy and fun to listen to you no matter where you are or what they are doing.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions you’d like answered!