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My dog is stubborn . . .

My dog is stubborn . . .

We talk about this a lot within classes and 1-2-1 consultations. Most people’s first thing they teach their dog is a sit, closely followed by a down or a paw, depending on your preference. Some go on to teach more tricks others focus on Recall and Lead Walking but how many of you can genuinely say you have ‘proofed’ your behaviours?

Many of us teach our dogs to sit, lay down, go to a mat or bed, walk on a lead and recall. However, I have heard many times people say, my dog can sit in my home in every room whenever I ask, but as soon as I open the back door he shoots out of it like a bullet out of a gun?  

This is a problem many dog guardians meet. They think their dog has learned an arsenal of cues, but when used in different scenarios or out in the real world, they struggle to recall what is being asked of them.

If this sounds like your dog, remember they’re not doing it because they’re stubborn or disobeying you, they simply haven’t learnt to offer the cued behaviour in any location and under any circumstances.

What Is Proofing?

Proofing is essentially the process of progressing the training of any behaviour to help your dog be able to offer it when cued in numerous scenarios or for differing criteria. You can’t really say your dog has learned a cue until you have proofed the behavior. I really feel this should be taught to everyone as a vital step you go through with every cued behaviour you teach. 

Before you start proofing a behaviour, you need to make sure your dog is able to offer it consistently:

  • Does your dog offer the behaviour immediately upon being given the cue?
  • Does your dog only offer the behaviour when they are cued?
  • Your dog only offers the behaviour in response to the set cue not to other cues too.
  • Your dog does not offer any other behaviour as a response to the cue.

Once your dog is consistently offering the behaviour on the cue given you can start proofing it. When you are looking to start to proof a behaviour, think about applying one of the fours D’s, dependent on which is appropriate to the behaviour you are training:

  • Distance: Can your dog dog perform the behaviour with you 3, 5, 10 or 20 meters away?
  • Duration: Can your dog perform the behaviour for different periods of time?
  • Distraction: Can your dog perform the behaviour when there are people, other dogs, noises, movement, interesting objects or activities around them?
  • Difficulty: Any combination of the above three D’s

You can think of different ways to proof a behaviour by asking yourself this question: “Can my dog do the behaviour if …?”

Push, Drop, Stick

Do you want to make your training sessions more efficient? Push Drop Stick Rules as taught by Jean Donaldson is the way to go. The rules are simple to use and will make your training sessions both systematic and efficient. These are our take on the concept.

Push Drop Stick Rules:

Train in sets of 3

  • If the dog gets 3 correct in a set push to the next level of difficulty.
  • It the dog gets 2 out of 3 correct repeat (stick) the same step again.
  • If the dog gets 1 or less correct drop to the previous, easier step.

Eryn Martyn-Godfrey

"I believe in Magic AND Science, so I make state-of-the-art Training Techniques SUPER accessible, to help pet guardians Hocus-Pocus their Crazy Dogs into Calm Canines." Eryn has been a Dog Behaviourist & Training Instructor since 2007, she is based in South East London UK.

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