Sometimes when I’m training dogs I feel like I’m speaking my own language! There are so many terms for different training techniques and types of behaviour your pooch may display during the training process. So today I wanted to take a moment and fill you in on the terms I use while working with your dog, to empower you to understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it!

When we’re talking about the techniques I use to train your dog, there are a few common terms I will use:

“Proofing” 

When I talk about “proofing”, I’m essentially putting your pup through a little exam to ensure all our hard work is paying off! No need to panic, though – we go through a lot of study together first! Proofing normally takes place after general obedience commands have been repetitively taught and tested in low distraction environments. After all, we want it to be as fair as possible for your dog to pass!

The act of proofing involves me intentionally adding distractions to the environment which might throw your dog ‘off their game’. This is our first step out of a training environment, and putting their brand new skills to test in the ‘real world’! What I’m testing for, is will the dog remember their training in a new environment, and continue to obey even with toys, other dogs, and people in the area? This is a fantastic way for me to gauge the dog’s headspace, and make note of further training that needs to be done.

“Correcting”

When I say that I’m “correcting” a dog, I’m reinforcing the meaning of ‘no’. This happens a lot when we are taking walks together and I need to show the dog that they are behaving inappropriately according to the obedience that I teach. This can be as simple as a tap on the e-collar or a pop on the prong collar. This reinforcement teaches the dog that their behaviour has consequences, without having to hurt them, confuse them or yell at them – which are common misunderstandings of how to teach a dog ‘no’.

“Environmentals”

This is an easy one! Environmentals basically refer to the things surrounding us in a particular setting. Environmentals can include people walking by, cars driving by, and water fountains in the distance. It’s important to note environmentals, particularly when proofing, to gauge what distractions may derail certain obedience cues in your dog’s mind. 

So when I’m talking about proofing your dog, spotting environmentals and correcting practices, I’m sure you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!

With these in mind, I also use a lot of words referring to certain types of behaviour that your dog may display during the training process. 

“Aroused”

I use this term to refer to the energy, state and/or response of a dog.  Behavioural examples of arousal could include a dog pricking their ears; in a lower level of arousal the dog could be distracted and focussed on something, and in a heightened state of arousal this could include hackles up (‘fluffed’ hair on the back of the neck), barking, and growling. 

It’s not as simple as a black-and-white behavioural identifier, I’m afraid. Just like humans, no two dogs are alike! So commonly, one dog may show physical signs of arousal that completely differ when spending time with another dog. Something else to keep in mind is that different breeds have different ways of physically displaying arousal, so I’m very attentive to this when spending time with each dog! 

Occasionally I talk about the ladder of arousal which is in reference to thinking of your dog’s energy or response levels on a scale – noticing the smaller signs like fixating or lip licking first (i.e the bottom of the ladder), before behaviour escalates to higher levels like growling, snapping and biting. And we don’t want that!

“Trigger”

A trigger could be a particular person, place, object or thing that is causing the dog to feel a certain way about something. It’s important to understand triggers when training so I can map out different areas of opportunity for the proofing stage! 

An example of a trigger might be a lady running by. Seeing this lady might trigger a dog to feel nervous, anxious or reactive. This then tells me I need to set up this situation in a controlled environment while proofing, to ensure we can teach the dog to respond differently to a seemingly non threatening situation.

“Leash Reactivity”

When I talk about leash reactivity, I’m talking about physical displays we see from dogs when they’re out and about on a leash. These physical displays can be anything from pulling on the leash and being distracted, to barking and lunging.

A common misconception is that leash reactivity equals aggression. This isn’t always the case! Being on a leash is fairly restrictive for a dog, especially if the leash is pulled back or the dog is particularly excited (or aroused!) After all, being on a leash restricts the dog from being able to do what they want. Especially if we haven’t fully moved through training and obedience yet, the dog won’t understand what is expected of them during leash time yet, and may become reactive as a result.

A great way for us to deal with leash reactivity is to teach the dog the heel position and hold them accountable to it. But more on that later!

Hopefully this information has given you some clarity when it comes to dog training, and a little insight into some of my training techniques as well! If you’d like any more information on the terms discussed above, feel free to get in touch – it will be great to hear from you!

Until next time!

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