An important part of dog training involves a step called distraction proofing, which reinforces the commands and behaviors that a dog has learned by making sure they are able to follow through even when distractions are present. Some trainers view this as the final phase of training, while others integrate it in with the rest of their teachings. It’s not uncommon for dog owners to find that their pets are great at obeying instructions in training class or in the living room at home, but once they venture into a new environment, their furry friend seems to have forgotten everything they learned. Proofing is a technique designed to help with this problem, and can be implemented with the tips below.
Imagine Yourself in Your Dog’s Position
The first thing you’ll want to do is try to think along the same lines as your pet. Because dogs don’t generalize and understand that they are supposed to carry over behaviors that apply in one setting to all others, they have to be repeatedly taught how you want them to behave. This means your dog must be exposed to a wide range of distracting scenarios in different places until you can see that they’ve gotten the picture that the command applies no matter where you may be.
Start With Familiar Situations
Begin your proofing with familiar situations and commands (come, sit, heel, lay, etc.) that your pet has already learned in dog training to increase their chance of success. The more times they are able to get it right, the more they are likely to continue that trend into more distracting circumstances. The goal is not to set your dog up for failure, but to help them gradually progress until they are able to consistently display the behaviors you would like to see.
Train in Various Environments
Once a command has been pretty much mastered in a calm, distraction-free environment, it’s time to take them out to various places and start introducing new distractions. This can simply involve having other people walk into the room or turning on the TV. You will want to practice until you receive a quick response, and then it will be time to move on to another location with even more distractions (i.e. other dogs, toys, children, etc.). As the level of distraction grows, ensure that your dog never feels that it is being threatened because of unexpected elements suddenly showing up.
Practice with Consistency
As with any other part of the dog training process, consistency is key with distraction proofing. Though you should keep in mind that a dog’s attention can only be held for so long at one time, it’s critical to keep practicing in increments until you can see your pet has gotten a grasp of the command in numerous different places and with a mixture of distractions.
It’s natural for dogs to become distracted at times, but it’s important that you complete your dog training with the knowledge that your pet will be able to listen and obey in most any kind of situation you bring them into.
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