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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Is there any guide to how many different situations/contexts you need to train/teach a behavior in order for a dog to have generalized the behavior and understand that it needs to be done whenever and where ever asked for?

I know you have to vary the contexts and distraction level to generalize a behavior. I was just wondering if there's a more precise/exact number of contexts?

Also, what is considered a change in context? Are they:

-Changes in scenary? (obviously inside and outside, but how about outside on grass vs outside while on the sidewalk)

-Changes in emotional state? (Performing while excited/playful and while worried/anxious, for example)

-Changes in you? (Your different moods, maybe a slightly different posture, maybe eye contact vs no eye contact)

-Changes in objects? (Targeting my hand vs targeting a stick, for example)

-Changes in distance? (Targeting my hand from close vs having to walk across the room, for example)

-Changes in position? (Staying while sitting vs staying while lying down, for example)

-Anything else?

How many of these should change at a time? How many of each would be an ideal number to still get generalization with the shortest amount of time?

For example, if teaching targeting, how many different objects would be good before the dog understands that "when something is in front of me and I hear 'touch!' that means I go put my nose on it."

Would it be better to present largely differing contexts (say target my hand from close while at home to target a stick from distance while outside)? Or a lot of small changes? (target my hand from close while inside, then from 1 foot away, then 18 inches, then 2 feet, etc) I know for distractions, you want to try for small changes, especially early. How about for contexts?
 

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What you're really asking is about is intelligence. Some dogs are able to 'fast map' better than others. As a general rule the sensitivity to either sight objects or sound will affect the dogs ability to focus under different conditions.
You've nailed the general concept that environment plays a big part....it's the 'pattern' of that environment that dogs 'read'. Think of it as flash cards...presenting a picture of exactly what you want the dog to learn....what picture are you holding in your hand and is it always the same one under all conditions?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Ah I see - thanks for the response.

I find all of these aspects to learning fascinating. It certainly has given me MUCH more patience once I learned what he's trying to work out in his mind in order to comply with a direction and when trying to learn something new.

I should have been a behaviorist :)
 
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