The Necessity Of Proofing - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 03:46 AM Thread Starter
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The Necessity Of Proofing

This came up in discussion recently and I thought it would be interesting to discuss it on the board as well.

The way I have always trained has been in three steps.

First, the introduction phase. This is when I introduce a new action to the dog, usually using a lure or free-shaping, the clicker and treats. The introduction phase takes place in an environment that is relatively free of distractions, such as my kitchen or living room, or even my back yard.

Once my dog has learned the action and a word for the action, I work on making sure that she will do it regardless of her positioning in relationship to me. So, if we're working on "sit", I would have her sit in front of me and next to me on either side, or have her sit while I'm sitting in a chair or on the floor. Basically making sure that she understands sit is putting her behind on the floor no matter where I am in relationship to her.

Then I move on to proof the training by working in more and more distracting environments - moving from the back yard to the front yard, practicing on our walks, practicing in public places, and, finally, trying it out in places where there's a lot going on, lots of distractions.

So, in discussion on another site, the following came up. Someone suggested that dogs don't need "proofing" at all - that, if the dog has good nerve and has learned a command, then the dog is perfectly able to perform this command no matter if the distractions are kids running by with soccer balls or gunshots going off.

I think that's nonsense, personally. If it were that easy, you could train obedience in your back yard and have it be perfect anywhere you go. That, if your dog knows how to sit, he'll stay in a sit the very first time he's taken to a gun range.

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 03:52 AM
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I agree with you. It's easy to learn something and stay focused when there are no distractions, but I feel that the dog needs to be 'retrained,' in a sense, with different levels of distractions.

I wouldn't expect Ozzy to be able to learn a command in the yard and be able to perform the command reliably at a big dog event, like a flyball tournament.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 07:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbbyK9 View Post
So, in discussion on another site, the following came up. Someone suggested that dogs don't need "proofing" at all - that, if the dog has good nerve and has learned a command, then the dog is perfectly able to perform this command no matter if the distractions are kids running by with soccer balls or gunshots going off.
IMO, proofing doesn't have to be done for each new trick. The key is having the dog learning the trick 'till he knows it well, and having the dog to stay focused so he listens to the owner.

To have a dog listening without getting distracted by outer influences of an environment, a dog needs to first get used to listen to commands, and then get as much experience as he can from different environments. When a dog is used to various stimulus from different environments/situations, he will be less stimulated and therefore less distracted. And this proofing is general.

So the key here is to proof a dog for his capacity to focus and listen to his owner, and there's no need to proof every single command.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 07:32 AM
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I wouldn't say that dogs don't need proofing. The amount though certainly depends on the task and the type of training. We conduct a lot of negative trials, for example putting rubber gloves, plastic bags, the handler's wallet etc, into the search area. If the dog does not respond, which is correct, we don't do anything. The negative trial will tell you if there is a problem or not.

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 07:34 AM
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I'll give my opinion based on knowing someone who actually does train psych dogs.

And just my general opinion.

While I agree that a dog with good nerves does not need to go a million places and see a million things to be proofed so they are not scared, freaked out, or bothered by unusual sights and sounds, it's absolutely rubbish to think that one could take a dog at 2 years old who has never left their backyard, put them in the middle of a crowded parade, and have a dog that is 100% focused on you. Would a dog of sound nerve be so distraught that they are unable to recover from any chaos or insanely loud noises? No. Would you expect the dog to be 100% engaged with their handler from the moment they left the car? I think it would take an exceptional dog.

I don't think there is any way to proof everything. But before a person makes the decision to make a working dog "operational" the expectation is that the dog has been exposed to enough stimuli to ensure that it can reliably continue to work. For instance, training at or near a gun range for a day probably count as being proofed for both gunshots and, say, working near a construction site. Proofing at a parade could probably count as also proofing the hustle and bustle of NYC.

CERTAINLY....a good working dog should not be unreasonably distracted by unexpected environments. If they are, they should probably be washed. But one must expose a dog to new and strange sights and sounds to PROVE they are capable of working through these things and to find potential weak spots. The time to find those weak spots (EVERY creature--human or otherwise--has them!) is not when the dogs is out in the field and someone is relying on that dog to perform in a certain manner.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 09:25 AM
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Proofing is important. Dogs are very context-specific. With the sit for example, sitting by my side is very different to a dog than sitting in front. Similarly, sitting in my living room is very different than sitting in a crowded dog park or a crowded intersection.

A good socialized dog with good fundamental training (focus, body positioning, engagement, etc) SHOULD be able to be proofed faster, doesn't mean he doesn't need to be proofed at all... just my opinion

I think besides proofing, it's a matter of getting the dog to generalize the command.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 09:50 AM
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I agree with the OP.

A dog with strong nerve doesn't have magical powers to understand complex ideas, overcome very bizarre and alien like encounters (sit while things you've never seen nor heard going on) just because their nerve says "be cool".

They will probably even startle slightly. So slight a human eye may not recognise. Doesn't mean it didn't happen. But nerve is the ability to overcome and have courage to do so. That does NOT= "sit means sit"

And to be honest if someone said something to that extent doesn't understand dog psychology and has unrealistic expectations of their dog.

A dog with strong nerve plus intelligence may be able to comprehend and handle doing this sooner.

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Last edited by 4TheDawgies; 12-15-2011 at 09:53 AM.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-15-2011, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
So the key here is to proof a dog for his capacity to focus and listen to his owner, and there's no need to proof every single command.
True - and I apologize if it sounded like every single command needs to be "proofed" in distracting places. But your basics - look at me, sit, down, heel - certainly should be proofed in as many situations as possible because you never know what your dog may be exposed to one day when you're asking these basic behaviors and you really do need them to be absolutely rock solid.

In the other discussion, the person suggested dogs do not need proofing AT ALL, that a dog that is well-trained (either at home or at a facility during classes) would be perfectly obedient in any and all situations.

I always, always stress to the people I train with that they should expose their dogs to as many different things as possible, especially as puppies. I feel that the more experiences a dog has with different situations (and sounds and surfaces and people), the more likely they will be to easier adapt, not be startled or frightened by something new, and stay engaged with their handler even if the environment is distracting or difficult. Does this make sense? It does to me, anyway.

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