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Discussion Starter #1
I feel as though Taedyn understands the "spirit" of a command much better than the command itself. I'm not sure if she's essentially telling me she will do what she prefers, or if she truly understands only the "spirit" and not the command itself.

Here are examples:

<ul>[*]We're at the office and I tell her "sit". She instead moves to her prefered spot and lays down comfortably[*]She's standing and actively interacting with me, and I want her to stop bothering me while I do something. I tell her to sit, and she instead lays down comfortably[*]She is standing and I tell her "down", she instead sits at attention[*]She is acting anxious and I tell her "sit", she instead stops being anxious and becomes more calm[/list]

Now, this may sound like she just doesn't understand the commands (that for instance, she interprets "sit" as "down"), but during training sessions she follows them perfectly. However, during real-life situations where I want her to perform these commands, she appears to instead follow the "spirit" of what I want, and not the actual command.

Of course, she is sometimes wrong in what that "spirit" is! For example, telling her to sit while at the office, I could be wanting to just scratch her chest, or give her a treat, and instead she's thinking I'm telling her to go rest while I work!

I thought this was an interesting phenomena, and wanted to know what your opinions are about where it could be coming from. Either that you may have noticed it yourself, or some clues as to why she may be trying to comprehend the "unspoken" meaning of what I'm telling her, instead of following what I say word for word.

Now, for the office example, I may have ended up training that behavior. When she first came to the office, I would tell her to "sit" then "down", praise her for a bit and then ignore her for an hour while I worked. Now, when I tell her "sit" her reaction may be, "Oh... well, if you're intending to ignore me for an hour, I'm going to go lay over at this better spot instead." Still, I find it somewhat surprising that she's anticipating that whole process from just the first command.

She does frequently try to anticipate me. I get this impression she wants to do what I want before I tell her. Could this be part of her nature, or am I somehow training her to guess my intentions?
 

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My thoughts on this. Dogs do not understand words the way that people do and they do not generalize commands easily to different situations. Suppose you train your dog to "sit" in your back yard. You might be outside, on grass, with your dog on leash and you standing up with treats in your pocket and perhaps a clicker in hand. Your dog learns that every time you say "sit" in that context, that sitting gets the treat. You think you have trained the dog to understand "sit", but in actuality you have trained the dog to understand something like (outside/grass/on leash/you standing/treats/clicker/"sit"). You should not expect your dog to then immediately understand what you mean by (inside/carpet/off leash/you sitting/no treats/no clicker/"sit"). But I'll bet if you tried (inside/carpet/on leash/you standing/treats/clicker/"sit") then your dog will respond as trained because you have only changed some of the factors.

To get your dog to generalize the command, you have to train it in many different contexts. After training in all kinds of environmental situations, eventually your dog will learn that the common factor in all of them is the word "sit" and then when that command is used in a new situation it will be more likely to elicit the desired response.

Keep in mind that your dog is paying attention to every little behavior that you exhibit, even ones that you may not be aware of such as your tone of voice or facial expressions. Those could be more important to the dog than the actual word that you say. So it behooves you to be very conscious of how you look and sound to the dog.

To your dog there is no difference between training and real life. Every time you are interacting with your dog you are training, whether you are doing it consciously or not. If you give a command and your dog does some behavior other than what you intended, and you reward that with something as little as a smile, then you have reinforced that behavior and it will be more likely to happen in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for your input. That very well could be the problem.

I do carry treats around with me always. However, I end up rarely giving them out and using verbal and physical praise instead.

I'll try more impromptu situations where I'll actually whip out the clicker and treats.
 

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That's an interesting concept/theory. I think dogs really get tuned in to tone of voice. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep exasperation, pleasure or displeasure, joy etc from our voices. When we're doing training, sit means sit, and we expect the dog to sit. That's why I kind of refrain from the "obedience" type commands when I just want him to leave me alone. If he's being a pest I'll usually say something like, "Hey! Bug off and go lay down." in a somewhat less than happy voice. He gets the idea and I really don't really care if he goes and lays down or not as long as he leaves me alone. Your's could likely be getting the same cues from your tone of voice. If you use the obedience commands in every-day situations, I think you need to reinforce them just like you would in a more formal training session. That is, after all, what the formal sessions are for. Dogs will get away with whatever they can. But, OTOH, if you're comfortable with her obeying the spirit of the command, then why sweat the small stuff?
 
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