How can making something harder to do make it better? How can I challenge my dog’s understanding of what to do when distracted without discouraging them? I call it the positive proof, teaching your dog that they can gain reinforcement by fighting through the distraction. Here are some thoughts on proofing your dog in a positive training program:
Since my friend, Trisha was out visiting, I was able to do some great proofing with Maggie on articles. Here’s the video of what we worked on with her:
Note that I only increased the difficulty in the session when Maggie had success. If she had started to grab the wrong article, as an example, I would have backed off the distraction and made it easier for her to succeed.
Note that she even cries to do the scent discrimination! She knows that overcoming these distractions leads to her reinforcement, so she happily works through some very tough distractions, knowing that she controls whether she gains reward or not. Also, several times I rewarded at points that I knew she would have trouble with in the sequence. I rewarded the waiting for the judge to say “send your dog” at the beginning of the session and also ended with a reward for waiting at heel before sending. Both parts need to be strong for a successful exercise, and even in the same proofing session, I can work on these separately to make sure reward is distributed throughout the exercise.
Here’s Trisha and I working with Shine. I want him to learn to look at me and maintain eye contact with me during the exam by the judge in the Stand For Exam exercise and also while at heel position. My goal was to get just enough distraction in that he had to fight to keep that eye contact, but not so much that he failed over and over. Here’s his video:
Again, I want to add the level of distraction up in increments that he can handle. First I have Trisha walk around him when maintaining eye contact in heel position, then I have her add talking, and then talking and motion, after I know he can be successful.
Note at 1:36 he looks at the judge and I immediately step out of heel, the timing of this abort of the exercise is important to tell him what went wrong. It’s the only way I can tell him that looking at the judge leads to loss of reinforcement. If I had waited until he looked back at me and then aborted, he would have lost valuable information.
I find this positive proofing a huge help in getting my dogs ring ready and building understanding of exactly how to win.
Happy training to you!!