Does your Dog Do any of These
While You are out Walking?
* Not come back when called
* Run over to other dogs
* Run over to people
* Interrupt children playing games
* Chase Bicycles
* Chase Small Furry Animals
* Chase Joggers
* Ignore you
* Fail to respond to the simplest commands
If they do…. you’re not alone!
Many owners experience exactly these problems on a daily basis with their pets, at best it’s an annoying situation, at worst potentially dangerous and even life threatening for your dog. Read on for advice and information on why this happens and how to go about finding a solution.
Dogs are incredibly intelligent (often more so than we give them credit for) and have the ability to associate lots of verbal and visual cues with behaviours we would like them to exhibit.
Why then, do they sometimes appear to
not understand or be ’deaf’?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, whichever way you want to look at it, although our dogs are incredibly intelligent, they also have very simplified thought processes and will usually choose to do whatever gives them the most pleasure, gets them something they want or enables them to achieve a desired result (this may not always be ‘good stuff’ it could also be getting away from something the dog is scared of, or getting something to go away from him)
So from The Dog’s Point of View, his recall may work beautifully when at home, or in the garden, or in the park when there isn’t anyone else around, but then it fails when there is something more rewarding on offer, like other people, dogs or activities your dog would like to join in with! The same thing with unwanted behaviours like jumping up, he may not do it to members of the family, but anyone new comes to the house and wham, he’s leaping all over them like they are made of chicken!
All this means is that you have installed the basics of your dog’s education, which is brilliant, but now you need to build on this so your dog learns this behaviour will get him the best rewards, or a desired result even when he chooses it over his desires to do the complete opposite.
So What is the Solution?
The solution is to ‘Proof Train’ all this means is teach your dog to WANT to do the behaviours YOU want him to, instead of the ones HE wants to. As you can imagine, if you use force or unpleasant techniques to teach your dog what you want him to do, the chances of him ever CHOOSING to do what you want him to, are greatly reduced.
Look at it from his point of view, given the option of doing something you love to do,
that has only ever brought you joy and fun, how likely are you to want to do anything
that in the past may have caused you pain, got you shouted at or got you nothing?
There are several approaches you can take to achieve this, and with most things, no one size fits all, so what works brilliantly for one dog, may not work for another. So be prepared to try a few different approaches with your dog if things are not hugely successful 1st time around.
- Make the things YOU want him to do more enjoyable/satisfying / rewarding for your dog
- Use management techniques to prevent your dog from being able to ‘self reward’ by doing what HE wants
- Use the power of association to alter how your dog feels about a scary situation
- Lower your dog’s reactivity / excitement levels so he can learn alternative behaviours that he enjoys instead.
This may all sound like a lot of work, and in some respects it is, but then if you weren’t aware that dogs require a lot of training and education in order to be the well behaved companions we want them to be, maybe you should have thought about an alternative pet instead.
So How Do I Proof Train My Dog?
Dog’s learn best when we teach them gradually and consistently, if we start increasing distractions and changing the criteria of desired responses before they clearly understand what we want them to do, they are doomed to fail.
The key to proof training is to follow a structured process of education, whereby we can automate responses and ‘training’ becomes so effective our dogs react AUTOMATICALLY without hesitation. Any training or behaviour can be taught using this structured process of learning to ensure achievement of the best results. In the absence of this process, dog’s will still learn, but it’s likely to be less reliable and have a tendency to break down when we need it the most!
When we educate our children, it is an ongoing process over many years, things have to be repeated over and over and we have to be consistent so they are clear of where their boundaries are. It is the same for our dogs, it’s not a few quick training sessions when the dog arrives, it is a persistent approach that takes place all the time, during training sessions and within everyday life situations.
The most important thing to remember throughout this process is to make sure you do not progress too quickly. Your dog needs to be responding first time and 99% of the time at each level before you increase distractions or change the environment (there is no such thing as 100% when working with animals!) For example, if your dog won’t return to you when called in the familiarity of your home or garden, there is no way he is going to do it when you get him out in the big wide world full of wonderful smells, sights and sounds!!
Whatever behaviour it is you want to proof train, start with the easiest, least distracting environment, which is usually in the home. Use only positive reinforcement methods to help your dog learn to ignore the distractions, and choose to remain interactive with you instead. Only focus on proofing ONE behaviour at a time and be 100% consistent with YOUR behaviour so your dog will learn quickly and without getting confused.
So for example, if you are teaching your dog a recall cue, start at home, in the house, then progress into the garden. When he is responding first time and 99% of the time at home, take him to the local park. If you find he is suddenly no longer responding first time, or hardly any of the time, you have progressed too quickly for him. Go back home and refresh the training back to 99%, then you have two choices, take him back to the local park at a much quieter time of day, with only 1 or 2 distractions or take him to a different quieter location and build the behaviour there first, up to 99% before returning to the local park. Continue with this process until he will respond 1st time, 99% of the time no matter what distractions are all around him.