When you are training your dog, understanding three key elements is going to help you create brilliant behaviours. The strategic application of  duration, distance and distraction will give you the confidence that your dog can perform any behaviour with total understanding anywhere you ask.

The Three D’s for Dog Training

  1. Duration; the length of time your dog is expected to maintain the response.
  2. Distance; the distance your dog is away from you or the high value reward or distraction.
  3. Distraction; your dog’s distractions are what is distracting for your dog.

Today we’re looking at how to use the 3D’s, and it’s related to the most recent episode of my podcast. If you’ve not checked that out yet, go to Shaped By Dog Episode 21 and make sure you get your 5C download. And if you are familiar with the 5C Pyramid, you’ll still want to check it out as there are some new tweaks.

When we are training anything, we start close. Let’s look at this in relation to something like “sit”. We create clarity in our dog for what we want him to do, and when he can stop doing it. Initially, the duration to ask for is very short, and you let your dog know he can leave position with a release cue.

The release cue might be “search” initially if the use of release cues is new for you. That’s a cue we use that gives our dog permission to look for a cookie we have tossed on the ground. The word comes before the cookie throw. You can see me use it with Encore in a video on my post “Positive Dog Training and the Difference in Shaping”.


When you are starting to train something, you start close to your dog, keep the duration very short and make sure that there are minimal distractions.

When you start with short duration, think seconds, maybe 3 to 10! Then you could grow it to a minute. Then ping pong the duration, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. So, one minute, back to 20 seconds, up to a minute and a half, down to a minute, back up to two minutes, ping ponging your way up as you grow that duration. When your dog is successful with you close, and you’ve got some duration, add distance.


By increasing the distance you are away from your dog, you are adding a distraction. Take a step away but decrease the duration of the behaviour for your dog. The first time when you step away, keep the duration to 3-10 seconds as you did when you first started. Then, with you at that distance away, grow the duration again out to around a minute. When you get further away, decrease the duration again. Ping pong distance. Ping pong duration. When your dog can hold a sit for around a minute with you a distance away, you can add a different distraction.


The first distraction you could add might be something like you sitting on the floor. When you purposefully add a distraction like you sitting on the floor, reduce the duration and the distance. With success, you can grow duration, and then grow distance. Eventually, you can add higher distractions, and one day take the behaviour to a bunny farm, but not until you have the layers in place. If the distraction is something like the dog’s favourite toy or person, be a good distance away from that distraction at first.

Changing locations can increase the distraction. The behaviour might be easy in your small bathroom with no other distractions, but moving to the living room with kids running around might be a big jump in complexity for your dog. If that’s the case, lower the duration and distance. Moving to the back yard where there might be squirrels is a big distraction, so again, lower the duration and distance, and then progress to building them back up.

If you are going to ask your dog to do something like “sit” when there are other people and dogs around, how close will you be and what duration will you want? If other people and dogs is a new challenge, start well away from the distraction with a short duration and be close to your dog. Set your dog up for success.

Save the graphic as a training reminder for yourself.

When to Progress

You’re always either going to work on the challenge of distance or the challenge of duration or the challenge of distraction. We don’t combine them all at once.

What will drive your decision to move on and increase any of the 3D is your dog’s confidence. Do a T.E.M.P. check to make sure your dog is happy and engaged with you and what you are asking of him.

The 3D’s are going to build the brilliance in your dog. In my training foundations, we introduce the 3D model in Crate Games, where we can protect our dog’s confidence. Any distractions you’re going to use, the distance away, the duration; you could do all of that in the framework of Crate Games which has already established a model of trust and joy in your relationship with your dog.

Keeping the 3D in mind is going to get you great behaviours and give you a point of reference when you are adding challenges for your dog. It’s not just for a “sit” or “down”, it’s for your recall, retrieve, agility skills, anything at all. It always comes back to the 3D.

And what ties it all together is the connection with your dog that I covered in Episode 21 of Shaped By Dog. Remember that our dogs are always doing the best they can with the education we have given them in the environment we are asking them to perform in.

Let me know in the comments your experiences with the 3D.

Today I am grateful for Momentum and her puppies Stevie, David, Alexis and Moira (3 girls, 1 boy), who arrived in the early hours of Tuesday morning. There will be lots of puppy pics coming up and there’s several now on Instagram and my Facebook page.