It really is a simple concept, I have even done full two day seminars on the topic. But why don’t people do it? I recently read a post on an IPO social media site where a person entered for a BH and the dog "checked out, and was "lack luster", even to the point of falling apart. The handler/trainer was a novice. They said in the post that during training the dog was always perfect. They thought the dog was over trained, and thats why they had problems. 99% of the time overtraining does not exist. Bad training does, but rarely does overtraining. What I see in most cases is a dog and handler not prepared for the environment, or the actual trial. Its not often people practice the actual "routine" of whatever sport they are doing. I mean practice EXACTLY like a trial. No rewards, no praise, no training gear, and having people around in a new location and running the whole "routine”. Why is it people don’t do this? Well I think there are a number of reasons. Let me list some.
1) A novice may actually not know what a actual trial looks like or will be like, so they are not familiar with how to generalize to the environment.
2) Nerves of the handler get in the way from the unknown situation which will impact the dog.
3) People get afraid to NOT reward a dog, therefore the animal never gets used to working for a longer period which can actually cause stress.
4) People train alone. Which will work to a point, but don’t be that person with the excuse "I don’t have anyone to help”. I find a case of beer will usually do the trick!
5) People do not understand variable reinforcement schedules.
6) People do not have a consistent "warm up routine”.
Obviously if you are looking to compete, there comes the point where you are done teaching behaviors and they need to be proofed and generalized. It never hurts to do the whole routine, be it tracking, obedience, protection, agility once or twice a week before you go to trial. Do it EXACTLY like a trial, EXACTLY! Even video it and watch it back so you can see what it looks like. Just remember the phrase, "Trial like you train, train like you trial"