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SpotOn Featured in Tails and Toys: The Four D's of Dog Training

Training a dog is no easy feat — in many cases it can be exhausting and frustrating for both you and your pet. However, a well-trained dog can go more places and perform more activities with their owners than those that lack proper training. Training your dog gives them a better, fuller life, but according to a recent survey, only 19% of dog owners consider their dogs to be excellently trained.

Successfully training your dog — and getting it to stick — is all about how you approach it. Babies have to learn to sit up before they can crawl, crawl before they can walk and walk before they can run. They have to master each piece of the process before moving on to the next, more complicated task. Dogs are the same. Owners must approach training incrementally, mastering one piece of the training at a time, rather than throwing them into it and hoping for the best.

For those looking to instill basic training methods, here is a breakdown of the fundamental pieces. These are the four Ds of dog training:


Whenever you begin teaching your dog a new trick or new behavior, you want to establish a “square one” that you can go back to, especially as you introduce other Ds into your training. For that reason, distance training is a great place to start.

The key to distance is proximity. If we use the command “sit,” for example, you want to first get your dog to master sitting right next to you. Gradually you can begin to separate yourself from your dog, making sure they can obey the command from various distances.


Duration is the length of time you ask your dog to perform the specific behavior — for example,  how long they stay sitting when you say “sit.” Again, to master this D, you must start with enforcing the action for short periods of time before increasing it. Ideally, your dog gets to the point of holding the behavior until you signal a cue for release.

If you’ve already taught your dog distance and are introducing duration, it’s important to bring them back to that “square one” position. To continue with the “sit” example, you’re going to want to have your dog start to hold the position while they’re right next to you. Once your dog masters holding “sit” until you give your release signal, you can begin adding back in the different distances.


Dogs get easily distracted, but if you can keep them performing a behavior even in an active environment, it will make your dog that much more well-behaved and make that trick or behavior stronger.

To practice this, you’ll want to perform an action or behavior (such as “sit”) but with a distraction present — maybe have someone walk across the room or put out a bowl of food. To ensure that your dog performs well, you’ll want to establish a solid cue to determine their release.

Distraction is the most difficult D to teach, so it’s important to have treats or whatever excites your dog handy to reward them for their good work. This positive reinforcement will go a long way.


Once your dog has learned distance and duration, you can start making the training more difficult to ensure they can still perform certain behaviors under more stressful situations or in unfamiliar environments. There are several ways you can make situations more difficult to test the strength of the behavior. For instance, if you’ve successfully trained them in the house, try taking your dog out into the yard or a park to test out a new environment.

It is important for any dog owner to realize what makes your dog tick. If your dog can perform these commands on the carpet, a simpler stage of difficulty can be moving the training to the hardwood.

While there is no specific order to teaching, it’s a good idea to begin with distance and duration before moving on to difficulty and distraction. Once your dog masters one D, you can begin working on the next.

By utilizing the four Ds outlined here, you are more likely to make learning easier for both you and your dog. Everyone wants to see their pups happy and successful, so taking an incremental approach is the best way to ensure you give your dog the best, fullest life possible.

Content and images provided by Haeleigh Hyatt, director of training, SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence