Proofing: Train your dog to listen wherever you are
You may have noticed that while your dog has learned a behavior and can do it at home, he seems selectively deaf when you have guests or you're out on a walk...
Proofing is strengthening a behavior so that your dog will listen to you in lots of different situations!
Why do behaviors need proofing? Because distracting environments make listening to humans much more difficult! Other things can be so exciting or stressful that it’s hard to practice self-control. The good news is that proofing is effective and very often fun!
4 Steps to Proofing
Teach your dog until he is an "A student" before moving on to the next level!
1. Teach the behavior at home, indoors.
Use the lowest-value treat your dog will work for. (You're going to need the really good stuff for the harder work!)
2. Practice the behavior in another room.
This helps your dog start to "generalize", to understand that your cue means the same thing in every environment or situation.
3. Practice in the backyard.
Now we're adding some low-level distractions. (Unless your neighbors have dogs that like to bark or play, then this can be really distracting!). You may need to use treats your dog likes more.
4. Practice in public, on walks, and with guests!
This is where it gets really fun! Start with less-exciting places and work your way up to more exciting. (For example, you might try going to an outdoor restaurant when it's not too crowded, to start.) Use your dog's favorite, special treats. This is hard, he needs to be paid more! You may have to temporarily make it easier for him! (E.g. if your dog can down-stay for 1 minute at home, you may need to start back at 5 or 10 seconds in public.) Then, you can fairly quickly build back up.
Some examples of places to practice:
At outdoor restaurants
In local dog-friendly stores (Not just pet supply stores! Many Home Depots, Lowes, TJ Maxx's, Homegoods, and Bass Pro Shops are pet-friendly; call ahead to check.)
At friends' houses
Wherever you would like your dog to listen to you!
If the steps above don't work for you, don't worry. There are many more little steps and nuances to proofing and training that can help your dog succeed. If you'd like help, contact us!