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Train Your Dog Month: Introduction to the Four D's

Megan Lewis, VSA-CDT

What Are the Four D's?

The four D's are an important step in what's called "proofing" your dog's behavior. We train for Duration, Distance, Distraction and Direction individually, then train various combinations of these to proof our dog's behavior in a variety of situations. Dogs are not great at generalizing, so we have to teach them how!

You may have heard of the three D's of dog training. Here at Mod Dog we add the fourth D, Direction, which we feel is an important addition for many behaviors. The order in which you train the four D's can vary depending on the behavior you're training. However, this is the general order you'll usually want to follow:

Duration: For how long do you want your dog to do the behavior?

Example: Skipper lies down on his mat while Dad cooks dinner

Distance: How far away will your dog be from you when doing the behavior?

Example: Skipper will be outside the kitchen (this might be a specific distance such as 3-4 feet away)

Distraction: What will be happening around your dog when they do this behavior?

Example: There will be food smells, cooking noises, and Dad will be moving around the kitchen

Direction: How will you be oriented to your dog when cueing the behavior?

Example: Dad will not be facing Skipper

We must train the four D's individually before we combine them. This makes it much easier to track your dog's progress and ensure they understand exactly what you're asking of them!

Tips for Training the Four D's


We almost always start with Duration, because if your dog cannot hold the behavior for any length of time, they will not be able to do that behavior with different Distractions, Distance, or Direction.

Example: Ask your dog to Sit for 3 seconds, then 4, 5, 6, etc. until they can hold it for 10-20 seconds.


Training Distance can mean a few different things. It can mean creating space between you and your dog when you tell your dog to Stay and walk away. It can also be the distance you are from your dog when you give them a cue and expect them to respond. These are all things that must be trained separately for clear communication, before they can be put to work!


The next step is to add small Distractions, but to keep the Duration and Distance short!

Example: Try waving your arms around for 1-2 seconds or making silly noises while your dog holds the Sit.


The fourth D is Direction. Think of Direction as how you are spatially oriented to your dog. When you ask your dog to Stay, are you walking away straight in front of them, or diagonally? When you ask your dog to Sit, are you standing above them on the stairs? These are all criteria that may confuse our dogs when learning a new behavior.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the four D's, you can apply it to training your own dog!

I've created a Training Tracker to help you work on your four D's! Click the link below the image to download this printable tracker. Don't forget to tag us @ModDogTraining on Instagram when you use it!

Training Tracker
Download PDF • 169KB

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