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10-8-6 Rule

One of the first things we tend to do when training our dogs is ensuring that our dogs fail. Then we have an excuse to get frustrated...that's how we work in a blameful society.

However, what if we pushed to failure, then determined that we shall get past that failure as quickly as possible?

10-8-6 Explained

The 10-8-6 rule states that:

If I ask for 10seconds of a behaviour and my dog fails at 8seconds, next repetition I am asking for only 6seconds


The physical failure only occurs after the motivation is depleted. The physical signs of failure, what we can see, then, always occurs after the student has given up. In order to ensure that we capture the best mind set possible, we must end the repetition on as high a note as possible.

This leads to increased motivation to perform rather than avoid. It decreases variability and therefore increases determination on the task at hand. Increased motivation means that your dog is enjoying what is presented!


First, we must determine the initial fail point. Then we "Fix the 6". We set the stage so that our dog has the best chance at success and when failure does occur, we mark that and restart the repetition with a reduced expectation or standard.

Let us say for example you are teaching a Heel in the Hallway. You take 5 steps and your dog sniffs at the vase on step 4. Rather than check them, mark the behaviour and in the next repetition ask for 3 steps. Then reinforce. Then take another 3 steps and again reinforce.

Now you have taken 6 steps, when you initially set out to do 5! But your dog ignores the vase on the 2nd repetition. Hey presto! Problem fixed! Not so fast! We broke one repetition down into attainable goals. We still have to be able to walk past that vase in one bold repetition. That will take more repetitions. But they are all built on success leading to reinforcement which outweighs the slight reinforcement from the vase. Further, this type of training also simulates real world situations. Our dogs are being steadied and locked into the Heel despite whats on over in the environment.


All the time! Whenever we find failure, we find a teachable moment. When we find failure that does not mean our dog stuffed up! It means we have found something we have not adequately prepared for in the front end.

Think of it like this: A coach prepares their team to be competitive against their next opponent. The coach sets up situations in which their team can learn to execute strategies and tactics during the game to leverage what the opponent offers. But the opponent is doing the same thing!

Dog training is much the same. We teach our dogs to perform in specific situations. Then we teach in systematically more specific situations until the skill is able to be applied generally. However, there will always be gaps in our training. A-L-W-A-Y-S! So we can use those gaps to continue to improve our training for ever.

That is one of the fun things about training our dogs whilst also the most frustrating!


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