In the movie Groundhog Day, a bigtime jerk has to live the same day over and over again until, to make a long story short, he gets it right.
We dog trainers likewise stress how important it is to practice, practice, practice, repeat, repeat, repeat, until your dog responds to whatever cue you’re teaching – impeccably, pretty much every time. I do this myself. I’ve often said, for instance, that if you want your dog to come when you call her, even if she’s busy and distracted, you need to think in terms of thousands of reps.
But, oh, the boredom of doing the same thing over and over again! It bores you, it bores your dog, and there go your thousands of reps, right out the window.
So let me clarify. You may need those thousands of reps, yes. But break them up! Five reps of coming when called. Five reps of “Shake!” Fifteen reps of “Interact in some way with this cardboard box, just for the fun of figuring out how to get me to click and treat.”
And while you’re at it, break up the kinds of rewards you use, too. A piece of dry dog food for something easy that you’re practicing indoors. (Also, for when your dog is hungry anyway.) A piece of chicken, and permission to go back to the game, in exchange for coming when called away from play with other dogs. Does your dog like to pounce on blowing leaves? Kick up a pile of them as a surprise when she’s paying good attention to you on a walk.
Come to think of it, even in the movie, February 2 didn’t play out the same way every time.