One of the most frustrating experiences of my life was watching my dog take a jump and run out of the the ring at a dog trial. We had worked so hard to prep for that trial, but clearly there was a hole in our training.
Dogs Don’t Generalize
We had worked on jumping at our training classes and at home. To me, that meant whenever I send him to jump, he should take it and return to heal position. Because I can generalize. My dog can’t.
For him to understand that the word jump means take the jump as I walk by the jump and return to heal position, I have to work on jumping a variety of jumps in a variety of places.
The saying is “Train 1,000 times in 100 places.” If you want your dog to sit and stay when you take him to the park, you have to train that sit and stay in more than one way and in more than one place.
We’ve All Been There!
I’m sure you’ve had a puppy that graduated from obedience class with flying colors. He was an absolutely angel at home. But the first time you took him to the park or the pet store, you were embarrassed by how good he WASN’T.
Been there. Done that. Anyone who has ever trained a dog has been there!
Sometimes we have bad days and that goes down the leash. Sometimes they have bad days. But we can set them up for success by making sure that when we give a command, they fully understand the command.
The secret to that is proofing!
Don’t Just Train at Home
Try to train your dog in as many places as you can. There are a lot of dog-friendly stores out there like Tractor Supply or Lowe’s. I personally like to avoid the pet store until my dog and I have a good grasp on our communication.
Look for parks and parking lots where you can train far enough away from cars, people, and dogs that you still can get your dogs attention. You can get closer to the distractions as your dog gets a better understanding of your commands and gets better with distractions.
Remember to back up and make it easier for your dog. You may have to step all the way back to getting your dog to look at you or luring a command your dog does well without treats at home.
Get Creative with Distractions
My trainers are incredible at this and have taught me to really think outside the box. My dogs have had to stay with chairs being dropped, blow up aliens dancing by, and singing stuffed toys dancing in their space.
At home, I jump at the chance to train when there’s a loose dog running through the neighborhood. Or when the garbage trucks are doing pick ups on Monday mornings. Or when our neighbor’s dogs are barking at the fence that separates our yards.
Anything that adds more complexity to the situation generally gets me less attention from my dogs. I use that as an opportunity to work on engagement and commands. Of course, I also increase the rewards when things are harder for them.
Watch this great video from Leerburg on proofing:
Drop me a comment and let me know what creative ways you’ve come up with to proof your dogs training!