Time to Focus

Usually, dogs that don’t listen outdoors can listen at home.

Cocoa isn’t naughty, or stubborn even. He simply struggles to understand the cues or signals we give him, if we change the context in which those cues are given.

We can teach Cocoa to listen!

The secret to success with training him to obey in real-world conditions, where distractions are everywhere, lies in the way we go about proofing.

The trick is to teach in one context, then teach the same thing in another context—one that’s slightly more challenging. And to repeat this training. Raising the bar a little each time.

For example, we teach Cocoa to lie down in our yard. Then repeat the training in a quiet corner of a large park, well away from others. Then repeat in a quiet street, then in a busier one, until he can eventually do it in a bustling public place.

In each environment, we start over, as if the he has never done this before.

A structured training plan that includes these different circumstances can transform our ability to be controlling Cocoa outdoors in open spaces.

And it works by adding distractions in incremental stages.

The distractions that we introduce during effective proofing, don’t just include the distractions that can happen around Cocoa during a walk or a training session.

They include all aspects of the environment that he is working in. And features of the way we interact with him. And the responses we are asking him to make.

Proofing actually starts at home, in the kitchen. And it includes variables such as time and space.

It’s simple really. It’s about how far Cocoa is from us, and how long we want him to continue doing the thing we are asking him to do.

Add duration in tiny, tiny, increments to begin with!

The foundations of training are not the positions we ask Cocoa to adopt and maintain, or the response to that all important recall cue that means so much to us.

The foundations of training are more simple yet.

They include our ability to gain and hold his attention. And Cocoa’s ability to offer and sustain it.

Even when those pesky distractions are involved.

We taught Cocoa to pay attention before we taught him to sit!

It’s crucial to secure this attention and focus from him to build a new and better relationship together.

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