PROOFING THE BEHAVIORS
Each of the various behaviors (the recall, sit, down, place, etc.) that we train must be proofed. The basic proofing is similar for all of the behaviors; it just gets modified in its form slightly. You'll need at least five dog toys. I use a tennis ball, a Kong, a K-9 Frisbee a large bumper and a small bumper. Based on what you know of our dog you may already know which of these toys is his favorite. If not then just toss all of them out at once and see which one he goes for. That will be "Toy #1." Pick up Toy #1 and put it away our of sight. Toss out all the toys again and see which one he goes for now. That will be "Toy #2." Do this with all the toys until you have them all numbered. Your dog's favorite toy is Toy #1 and his least favorite is Toy #5.
This is referred to as the "Hierarchy of Toys" and will be used throughout the training of all the behaviors. Be aware that the hierarchy may change, it's not engraved in stone. If it does, just renumber your hierarchy.
Proofing the Recall
Before you start to proof the recall the dog should be at the start of what's called "Velcro Dog." That is he should stick to your leg as if he's Velcro'd there. When you walk away he should quickly turn to go with you. He may be in the Heel position if you've been guiding him there. There are varying degrees of this, the extreme is that the dog pushes into your leg so hard that he pushes it out from under you as you move it forward as you walk. You're forced to push the dog away so that he doesn't trip you. It's not necessary to go that far to get a good recall but it may happen anyway.
To proof the recall you'll need an assistant to throw your Hierarchy of Toys. You can't do it and handle the dog at the same time. You'll need an open area with a minimum of distractions. You're gong to be supplying your own in a carefully graduated method.
Imagine an isosceles triangle (one with two of the sides the same length) with the base, the side between you and your assistant of about 20 feet. The other two sides are about 30 feet.
Your assistant should stand about 20 feet to your right. This allows the dog who, is going to be in a rough heel position, to see you in his peripheral vision when he looks at your assistant. Where he stands is important to this process.
For this training your dog should be on a six-foot leash. Give your dog a "here" command, even though he's standing by your side. From now until the end of the proofing, he's required to stand such that he's within one dog body length of you. For very small dogs a couple of feet is the distance that he's required to stay within. If he moves from this position you're going to, at the same time, press and hold down the button and say "Here." If the dog continues to leave your side, when he hits the end of the leash, give the command again and guide him back towards you. As soon as he's affirmatively moving towards you release the button. Guide him back to your left side, a rough heel position.
Have your assistant get the dog's attention, show him the toy and then throw Toy #5 the dog's LEAST favorite one, into a high arc so that it lands about thirty feet in front of both of you. (He'll throw slightly to his left). A perfect arc has the toy going about 20-30 feet into the air.
If the dog holds his "here" command give him some light praise. Not so much that he breaks the command, just enough so that he knows he did the right thing.
Again, have the assistant get the dog's attention and then he'll throw Toy #4 in the same manner as before. Repeat with the rest of the toys, ending with Toy #1, the dog's favorite.
If the dog breaks and goes to chase one of the toys, have your assistant retrieve that one and work at that distraction level a couple of times. If the dog keep breaking the here command, either for one particular toy or any of them, turn up the stimulation level SLIGHTLY. His perception is clouded by the distraction and it will feel about the same to him as his "working level" of stimulation.
If you work through the entire Hierarchy of Toys praise your dog, again, not so much that he breaks the Here command but enough so that he knows he's done well.
Have your assistant retrieve all the toys and this time he'll stand about 20 feet to your left. This raises the level of distraction very slightly because now, when your dog looks at the assistant you're NOT in his peripheral vision and so he gets to do the work without the visual reminder of your presence/
Have your assistant throw the toys as before, beginning with Toy #5 and working down to toy #1, your dog's favorite. Your duties are the same. If he holds the Here command Praise him warmly.
This time your assistant will stand 20-30 in front of you. He'll throw the Hierarchy of Toys in a high arc, directly over your head, so they land about 20-30 feet behind you. At the top of the arc they'll be 15-20 feet over your head.
This is the hardest for the dog. At some point he'll probably turn his body to follow the travel of one of the toys. This is OK as long as he stays within a body length of you (or a couple of feet for a very small dog). But according to the old saying when a dog's body moves, his mind is free to follow. If he turns his body to follow a toy's flight, as it goes over his head, be ready. He's very likely to break on the next toy because it's closer to his favorite and his body has already moved. If he holds his position, praise him warmly.
It's now up to you to take your dog to his favorite distractions and proof the recall off those. Cats, squirrels, deer, porcupines, skunks the neighbor's dog. I'd suggest using the Flexi leash for this as it give the dog the opportunity to leave your side but still gives you the restraint if he doesn't recall.
As we've been doing all along. Walk along with your dog after having given him the "Here" command and give him the opportunity to make a mistake. If he does, do several things at once. Walk directly away from the distraction, press and hold the button as you guide him back to you with the leash. If one of the distractions is a dog behind a fence, approach the dog's yard so that you are on the other side of the street from the dog. As soon as your dog starts to walk ahead of you and opens up the distance between himself and you, do an about turn, press and hold the button and guide the dog back to you with the leash. As soon as he's moving affirmatively towards you, release the button.
Approach the distraction again and this time you'll probably be able to get closer. If the dog wanders towards the distraction, repeat as above. Soon, often in a matter of minutes, you'll be able to walk past the other dog so that your dog is inches from the fence, and he's ignoring that other dog.
Keep in mind the essence of Ecollar training. Apply the stimulation and then use gentle guidance to show the dog how to shut if off.
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