Would you bet you a thousand bucks….
Following on from the series on Reactivity in dogs, the third in the topic is understanding. Obviously there are numerous layers to the concept of understanding… does the dog understand signals given by other dogs does the dog understand men in black hats, does the dog understand umbrellas etc, and that is all very relevant. But for me, I will include this in the heading of socialisation.
In this context, the question of understanding relates to trained behaviour.
How well does your dog understand behaviours such as ’sit’? How well does your dog understand a recall? Can the dog do it under distractions? Can your dog do it in different environments? Can your dog do it with arousal? And so on and so on.
This is a conversation relating to ‘dog training’, rather then ‘behaviour’ as such, but the two are related as we well know.
Whenever someone attests that their dog ‘definitely’ knows what they are doing, I ask them to place a bet on the likelihood of their dog doing it, to the sum of £1000…. suddenly you see their certainty wain…..
There is no shame in identifying gaps in your dogs understanding…..its allows for growth and stronger foundations from which to build a dog that is well adjusted.
Under the heading of ‘understanding’, two areas that need to be considered are ‘proofing, and ‘generalisation’.
Proofing is challenging your dogs understanding and may/could create some confusion, anxiety and doubt in your dog….. this can be territory that people avoid for fear of undermining their dogs confidence. However if done strategically, and in layers…. the dog should have clarity and confidence.
Generalisation is taking your dog training on the road…. location, location, location…. the more places you can take your training and in as many locations that you can access, the better.
So this is a question of chicken at the egg, when it comes to the discussion of reactivity issues. How do you get your dog out to new locations, if they are likely to ‘react’ and you can’t control the environment?
Firstly, start at home. Train behaviours in as many places around your own home as you can. Train in the front garden, back garden, bathroom, living room etc….. then ask a friend if you can train at their home, in their garden etc…. you are building your dogs understanding, and more importantly your confidence.
Proofing is a process. You are testing your dogs understanding, and potentially undermining it. So tread carefully. Proof in increments, and always balance out success and failure. Too much of either can damage what you have created.
Having a strong understanding of behaviours, with distractions that you can control, will benefit you when you venture out in the ‘real’ world. If your dog can hold a sit, whilst have a ball thrown, a fast moving toy in front of them, or treats thrown around…. sitting whilst another dog walks past at a distance, becomes more achievable in time. The beauty of having distractions you can control, is that you can drip feed information and do numerous sessions throughout the day. Split and don’t lump behaviours, break the challenges down.