Proofing commands for positive dog obedience

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By Guest Dog Blogger, Autumn

I was out taking a nice stroll with my person the other day when we came across a fellow dog and his human also enjoying the nice weather. Well, maybe enjoying is a bit of a stretch. The handler was trying to control her dog, but my canine cousin was lunging from side to side and dragging his person along with him. We stopped and stepped to the side to give them plenty of room and the lady gasped, “he does not act like this in dog obedience class, I don’t understand!”

My person, being the nice human she is, suggested we all head to the nearby bench and take a breather. The lady explained that although she and her dog had been attending classes since he was a puppy, things were not going as well as they should. Once away from the structured class setting or his own home, he seemed to forget everything he had been taught; making their daily exercise much more of a dreaded chore than a walk in the park.

I knew immediately what the issue was, and as always, so did my person. She asked the distraught dog owner if all of their dog obedience practice was in an enclosed building in the same setting week after week. Yes was the answer. My unruly peer and his handler perked their ears when we both said, “training with distractions and then proofing is what you need to do.” Training in the same familiar place is fine when learning new commands, but once the dog understands them, you have to incorporate distractions to make sure the command sticks in his mind. The command to “Stay” is no good if the dog takes off as soon as he sees someone else throw a stick for their dog or a car drives past. Walking nicely on leash will never happen if the canine half of the equation never learned to walk and not gawk.

We explained how to add distractions during their backyard training sessions, such as tossing a ball or having someone walk by, to ensure the dog understands he must obey the commands no matter what is happening around him. I explained to my buddy how he wouldn’t be nearly as distracted in the park after he got used to handling the added commotion at home. After all, our walks aren’t taken in squirrel-free, no wonderful odors to smell and totally silent rooms. Proofing for distractions ensures a dog will continue to obey his person, and the commands they give, no matter what is going on around them.

Remember, dog obedience is not a trick but a way of life!

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