“Proofing” means to make a dog strong in their understanding of an exercise by adding MEASURED challenges. I’ve talked about that before. All dogs should experience some proofing in their training; whether a pet dog or a dog destined for competition.
The reason is that proofing, done well, is what eventually gets a dog from the beginning phases of training to maintenance. “Maintenance” means that the dog can perform reliably without the promise of a cookie and under even more distracting conditions. To better understand concepts like Management, Training and Maintenance, check out my two part post on my other blog where I discuss these in detail: Management, Training and Maintenance Part 1 and Management, Training and Maintenance Part 2.
Once your dog is able to withstand basic proofing and distractions without losing concentration, you’ll want to significantly increase the challenge levels. The following video is my efforts to teach Brito the difference between “stay” until I send you to fetch and “go” when I cue you to fetch. To do this, I’m adding proofing. Done well, this exercise makes the path to reinforcement very clear; cooperate with me and it works out for both of us. It also does wonders for teaching that “get it” means just that…get it.
Note that I am feeding Brito after throwing the dumbbell; that is reinforcing his stay. That is fairly straightforward training to prevent a dog from leaving before being sent. Now I need to communicate the next part; “Go” even if it seems to be against your best interests.
To get this message across, I am feeding Brito treats to reinforce the stay and I cue him to fetch. At that point the treats immediately stop. I do not take them away from his mouth and I say nothing if he continues to work at my hand. He’ll figure it out – cooperating with my cue is the route to reinforcement; not messing with my hands.
Finally, I add his bowl of treats to the mix. By leaving them on the floor with the dumbbell, he has to make a choice.
Here’s an Unedited video with errors included to make this more clear. If you add this exercise to your training, start with extremely low value treats and over time, work your way up to the most powerful options that you have available. And after working challenging sessions like this, consider making the next training session really easy for both of you!
I’d suggest not adding this level of distraction training to your training until you’ve given your dog a solid base in understanding cooperation under a wide range of circumstances. I’ve written a book, designed for all dogs (pet as well as competition dogs) to make this a lot easier. It covers the topics of generalization (working away from home), without a cookie in the hand (reducing reinforcers) and distractions in the working area. If you’re interested, the book is called “Beyond the Back Yard: Train Your Dog To Listen Anytime, Anywhere!” You can order it directly from me at The Dog Athlete or pick it up off of Amazon if that works better for you.