The Three D’s – Key Elements of Effective Dog Training

In the dog training world, you will often hear the term “the three D’s”. Understanding and focusing on these three key training elements will help you be confident that your dog will, under almost all circumstances, consistently perform the behaviours they have been taught.

So, what are these Three D’s?

Let’s start with number one – duration. Your goal might be to increase the amount of time your dog is able to hold a certain behaviour, such as a sit or down. These are worthy training objectives from both behavioural and safety standpoints. When starting training with your dog, they might be excited (especially if a treat is involved) and it might not be easy to maintain the position you’re working on. As you start to work on getting your dog to hold a position longer, start with your dog close to you, preferably right in front of you. Keep the duration really short and sweet, maybe a second, then build it up one second at a time as they become more comfortable holding that position. Minimize distractions when increasing the time, so they don’t break the position. To help them focus on the task, start in a quiet room, maybe at home – perhaps in a bedroom or living room, somewhere where there are minimal distractions and where they can focus on the task. If you’re having success, and then your dog gets it wrong and breaks the sit, go back to shorter periods, and start again.

When your dog can sit or perform a down and maintain it, then it’s time to start working on the next D, which involves increasing the distance you are from your dog while they hold that position. As you increase the distance between you and your dog, you’re also adding movement, which can be an added distraction. When you are starting to train for distance, start small and build it in small increments. Begin by moving away slowly from them when they’re in front of you before you try moving beside them or behind them. One way to work on distance is to have your dog sit while you move just one step, then increase it to two, until you are getting the success that you want – e.g., maybe the length of the leash. Eventually, you can work up to walking around them while they maintain their sit. A bigger goal might have you leave the room while they remain in a sit. That’s really challenging for all trainers, as the dog can’t see us, and they love being with us. Again, start in a familiar, quiet room at home, to get them to stay while you are in their sight. Then you can increase distance as you achieve success.

The final D is distraction, which can be one of the hardest. And that covers whatever is going on in the room which might distract your dog while you’re training. Distractions can be noises. At home it might be a TV, a knock at the door, a doorbell, or a person in another room. If you think about outside, the distractions become much greater because there could be cars, squirrels, or birds. When adding distractions, make sure your dog can maintain the position and you’re still able to do work on distance. Again, you start off with small distractions and build slowly. One thing that can be a small distraction, is simply movement. It could be you clapping your hands or moving your hands up and down. Increase the value of the rewards when increasing the distractions. Use low value rewards such as kibble when working in the house. When working with greater distractions, like in the outdoors, increase the value of the treat, e.g., a liver treat or a toy they love.

The three D’s affect almost all behaviours. Dogs don’t generalize. For example, if you have them in a sit in front of you, they don’t know that sit in front of you is the same as when you’re farther away from them and asking for a sit. When you increase each of the D’s, it becomes more of a challenge for your dog to understand how to perform the behaviour successfully. If you increase all three D’s without having trained and succeeded with your dog in each element individually, the chance of them getting multiple D’s right simultaneously is very low.

When you are working on the three D’s, the duration, the distance, and the distractions, you want to work on them one at a time, starting with just duration first and leaving the distractions for last.

Once your dog is successful at the duration goal you have set, you are ready to move on to distance. When you’re adding the second D – distance – to your training, begin with a shorter duration, and keep all distractions to a minimum.

Once you have distance and duration solid, you can now move on to adding distractions, but keep the first two D’s shorter to begin.

The goal is that you’re going to set your dog up for success in any environment.

Remember, sometimes they may not get it right all the time.

If they’re struggling to perform a behaviour, maybe you’ve moved ahead too fast in expecting them to maintain the position longer than they understand. Maybe the distractions are too high, and you’ve gone from your quiet household to a busy park. Maybe you’ve advanced too fast with the distance, or your body position has changed, and you’ve raised your hands.

Look at your three D’s, the duration that you’re expecting from them, the distance that you’re going, and the distractions that you’re adding. Maybe you need to go back and reinforce one of them and break it down and work on just duration again. Progress at a pace your dog can manage and positively reinforce when they do it right or make the effort. Reward and praise them when they succeed. When you do it consistently, you’ll be surprised at the results that you can get wherever you are.

Corey McCusker, CPDT-KA

Is the founder of Muttz with Mannerz Canine Academy located in Stouffville. In addition, Corey is an evaluator for St John Ambulance Dog Therapy Program and created the first Kids & K9 Camp in Canada.

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Without a doubt, a dog is a real friend. Our dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common — they all need loving forever homes. Open your heart and your home to a rescue dog. You’ll be glad you did. For complete information about the adoption process, please visit For more information on each dog, simply click on their pictures and you’ll be taken to our available dogs.

Meet our August Feature Dog: Jelly

Jelly, who is possibly a beagle mix, came to Speaking of Dogs at about 6-7 weeks old with her sister Bean. At first, she seemed like the quieter of the two girls. but it quickly became clear that she was very ill. Jelly unfortunately had parvo (a contagious viral infection that is often fatal in young puppies). Speaking of Dogs found treatment for Jelly and, miraculously, she survived. Even more miraculously, her sister Bean never became ill. Thankfully, Jelly has no lasting effects of parvo and is a delight. She has all the energy of a healthy puppy and potential adopters need to honest with themselves about the time and energy they can provide to ensure her successful upbringing. Jelly is confident and outgoing and plays well with the 2-year-old dog she is fostered with, as well as the foster family’s cousin’s husky. Interactions with other dogs has also been positive. Housebreaking is a work in progress because of her parvo recovery but she has come a long way and is a clever pup. Jelly also lives with an old grumpy cat. When the cat met Jelly, she quickly showed her that grumpy cats should be avoided. The cat keeps to herself and, when they meet, Jelly is excited to see the cat but the cat controls how much interaction they have.

Jelly lives with two girls who are 7 and 8 years old and has had experience and positive interactions meeting both adults and kids through her foster family’s busy life. Jelly even went to a KOA campground with the family and handled the experience very well. She’s proven to be quite the social girl! Jelly sleeps in a crate through the night. She is approximately 5 months old now and would make a wonderful, loving addition to a puppy-patient home. Jelly is fully vetted and spayed and is about 30 pounds at 5 months old.

If you think you would be a good match for Jelly, please fill out an application for our consideration.

Click here to visit our adoption application


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Pearl & Gizmo

Shih Tzu’s (Short Coat’s) Females


Labrador Retriever / Newfoundland Dog / Mixed (Long Coat) Male


Catahoula Leopard Dog / Labrador Retriever / Mixed (Short Coat) Male


Labrador Retriever / Shepherd/ Mixed (Short Coat) Male


Poodle (Miniature) / Retriever / Mixed (Short Coat) Medium Adult Female


Shih Tzu / Mixed (Short Coat) Male


Labrador Retriever (Short Coat) Female


Yorkshire Terrier Yorkie / Mixed (Short Coat) Male


Husky / Mixed (Medium Coat) Male

Mary & Tink

Yorkshire Terrier’s Yorkies (Short Coat’s) Females


Pomeranian / Mixed (long coat) / Male

Daisy May

American Bulldog / Mixed Female


German Shepherd Dog Male


Mastiff / Labrador Retriever / Mixed (Short Coat) Female

Benji & Fifi

Shih Tzu’s / Mixed (Short Coat’s) Small Seniors, Male & Female


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Scottish Terrier Scottie / (Short Coat) /Female

Dear Speaking of Dogs Rescue,

We found out from Violet’s foster mom that she came from Sandy Lake Reserve, so we decided to rename her Sandy. She’s been an absolute joy, a perfect addition to our home. When we brought Sandy home, we had a senior husky and a husky cross, both wonderful dogs. They taught her manners and patience. She is a smart girl, we have never had any behavioural issues other than a bit of aloofness around new people. It lasts for less than an hour and then she is her lovely goofy self. We have a large property that is completely fenced, our dogs have their own dog park, Sandy is rarely without her ball close by.

I’m attaching some photos. Our old husky Quinn has left us for his next heavenly adventures. We still have Jenny and are presently looking after our daughter’s dog, Ruby, while she is in England. Ruby is also a Speaking of Dogs alumni. Another lovely dog.

Thank you for helping a great cause,

Heather and family












Clarice aka Lily

Adopted December 2013

Loved by Linna and family


Forever in Foster

Loved by Linda and family


Forever in Foster

Loved by Shirley and family


Adopted April 2021

Loved by Martha Miller

Loki a.k.a Duke

Adopted March 2015

Loved by Pat Rose and family


Forever in Foster

Loved by The Houston family and Mountain Vista Vet Staff

About Speaking of Dogs

Speaking of Dogs Rescue Program is a Canadian registered charity established in the Greater Toronto area (with foster homes across Ontario). Launched in 2001, we are a foster-based, all breed rescue with a focus on senior dogs. We are run solely by volunteers with a mission to help homeless dogs in need by providing shelter or sanctuary, necessary medical care, adoption and education.

Newsletter Team

Contributors: Kim Gladding, Lorraine Houston & Corey McCusker

Editor & Design: Sarah Kapp

Contact Speaking of Dogs

P.O. Box 8058
RPO Hurontario
Collingwood, ON L9Y 0H1
705-444-SODR (7637)


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