There is a wonderful metaphor in the dog training world: the concept of an overflowing bucket. I find this concept a great way to help people better understand what their dog may be experiencing. In fact, it is SO wonderful that there are several versions of it out there that try to explain different dog training ideas. The versatility of this concept is amazing and comes in very handy when dealing with the cases with which I specialize. Here is one way to look at it.
Your dog's ability to learn and retain information
An untrained dog has an empty bucket. They lack knowledge and understanding of what is expected when you ask them for something. As training progresses, your dog learns and absorbs the training, the bucket begins to fill gradually, provided you go at a comfortable pace for the dog. Remember, this is about your dog's ability to learn and retain information. At any given time, your dog can reach the limits of their learning capacity. Teach too many things at once and your dog's bucket can start to overflow. Increase the difficulty too quickly...same problem. Move on to the "next thing" when they have not really absorbed what you have already introduced...water...EVERYWHERE! When your dog's bucket overflows, they become overwhelmed, confused, and the learning process is interrupted.
Fill that training bucket but prevent overflow
It is essential to introduce new skills and concepts gradually. You want to make sure your dog understands and is proficient in each behavior or skill before you move on to the next thing. This allows your dog's learning to solidify and become more of a habit, enabling training to progress. This will involve observing your dog. Learning capacity can be influenced by a number a things and each dog's bucket is unique. Some dogs may be able to handle more information at a time while others just can't. Move at your dog's pace.
Be Mindful and Patient
By applying the bucket metaphor to your training, you can approach your dog training with patience, mindfulness, and enjoy incremental and steady progress. Not only will this make training and time with your dog more pleasant for you, it helps maintain a positive and effective learning experience for your dog. So pay attention to that bucket.
There are other ways this metaphor is used in dog training, check out future blogs for more!