Proofing your Dog’s Commands

What does proofing mean? Proofing means your dog is able to complete a command in any location, at any time, with any distractions. Many owners report that their dogs can do all the commands perfectly at home but when they come to group class or take a trip to a local store, their dog forgets everything they practiced.

In order for a dog to really retain the information and become consistent, you need 1000’s of repetitions at home. Practice in different rooms of the house, different times of day, with the TV on, radio on and people talking. Practice in the house, in the garage, in the driveway, in the yard, at the local park, in a pet store, etc. Take advantage of training while you are eating (settle), cleaning (place), walking to the mailbox (loose leash walking), watching TV or working on the computer (settle).  As you are practicing at home, start fading out the treats and help reinforce the commands if your dog is being stubborn. Remember that perfect practice makes perfect. It is important to reward at the correct time and to start asking for longer durations of each command.

All dogs are different. Don’t compare your dog to others. Your dog may master one command that another dog is struggling with. The benefit of group classes is comradery. You will hear from other owners what helped with certain behaviors such as jumping up, chewing and counter surfing.

As I said above, it takes 1000’s of repetitions for a dog to master a command. Not all at once but over time. You have to commit to practicing and adding in those distractions and duration at home before your puppy will give you 100% in public.  Use your neighbors, friends and family to help you with training. It really does take a village to make your training successful.

Group classes are a great way to help your dog focus on you. Reward that eye contact and check in. Help your dog if they are not getting it (stand closer, use hand signals or leash pressure and show them what you want). Remember to teach and not yell or get frustrated. Training takes patience, time and consistency. Sometimes you just have to laugh. Sometimes you may want to cry, but don’t punish your dog. They are trying and giving you their best effort. As with human children, remember they are not giving you a hard time, they are HAVING a hard time.

Sometimes we may recommend a training aid to help reinforce those commands. We also recommend coming into a class with a positive attitude and bragging about your dog. There may be specific commands you need to work on but share what is going really well and how proud you are of your dog each week.  Your dog WILL pick up on your body language and confidence! Training is a marathon-not a sprint! Take the time to enjoy the process. Slow down, take notes and show off what your dog is doing really well. I guarantee, your dog will appreciate and respond to that attitude.

How do you proof your dog’s behavior?