Generalization & Proofing in Dog Training: The Missing Piece | Pupford
September 27th, 2023
Filed under Podcasts
Have you noticed how , but fails to do so in a new environment? We sat down with Richard Gonzalez (certified dog trainer) to discuss why it can be SO difficult for our dogs to understand behaviors in new environments.
The process of overcoming this is through a concept called proofing. As you work on 'proofing' new behaviors, your dog will acquire 'generalization' of dog training concepts and behaviors.
Plus, we break down specific things you can do to help your dog better understand and grasp behaviors no matter the distractions or environment!
INTRODUCTION OF RICHARD
Richard Gonzalez, has been learning dog behavior since 2010 when he was introduced to a organization in San Diego California while on active duty as a Marine. He was undergoing medical recovery due to combat-related wounds and injuries. During this time is when he discovered his love for learning animal behavior and learning theory. It has been a huge part of his recovery from wounds and reintegration back into society from being in the military.
Richard recently graduated from the University of Washington in the Applied Animal Behavior Program (UW-AAB), is a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA-CTP), is a Certified professional dog trainer through the CCPDT, (CPDT-KA) and is also an AKC good citizen evaluator (AKC-CGC). He was a lead dog trainer at Petco and went through their certification program and puppy start right instructor through the Karen Pryor Academy.
He tries to attend one annual conference a year, and he likes to stay up to date with continuing education in the dog training field.
Some fun facts about Richard are:
- He’s been to over 30 different countries and states
- He’s trained horses, fish, cats, goats, chickens, and dogs
- His first service dog licked Former First lady Michelle Obama’s leg
- He served in the Us Marine Corps for 12 years and was retired due to his wounds sustained from combat
- He resides in the Pacific Northwest with his 3 Malinois
- His oldest Malinois was born on the day he was wounded and his middle Malinois was born on the day he went into that battle
CONNECT WITH RICHARD
AUDIO VERSION OF GENERALIZATION DOG TRAINING
OVERVIEW OF GENERALIZING BEHAVIORS IN NEW ENVIRONMENTS
When we talk about generalization in dog training, it's the concept that your dog can perform a cue or behavior no matter the environment.
So for example, if your dog can perform a recall from 100 feet away around distractions as well as they can inside the home, the behavior is generalized.
And how do we get to generalization? Through proofing!
Think of proofing as testing out and practicing a behavior in increasingly more difficult environments. The more you proof a behavior, the closer your dog is to the behavior being generalized!
FIRST QUESTION… WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR OUR DOGS TO UNDERSTAND BEHAVIORS IN NEW/CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENTS? WHAT’S HAPPENING? ()
Let's first look at why generalization can be difficult for your dog!
- Our dogs don’t generalize behaviors like we do as humans. If you can play guitar in your living room, you can play it at a park… but for dogs, new environments, smells, sounds, etc. make generalization difficult
- In most cases, new environments essentially put your dog back to ‘ground zero’ with a behavior (or at least close to it)
- It takes a lot of practice to help our dogs generalize a behavior and become fluent, no matter the environment
- An important note to remember with new environments is that it typically means we need to ‘restart’ (or close to it) with the 3 D’s
Richard placed a strong emphasis that our expectations for your dog to learn quickly are often a mistake.
We must go at our dog's pace, not our own!
- We have to recognize that introducing a new environment is extremely difficult for our dogs
- Sometimes we have to take things at an extra slow pace and go ‘backwards’ in their learning
- Another way we can tame our expectations is by only going at our dog’s pace, not our own
HOW CAN PUP PARENTS HELP THEIR DOGS TRULY START TO UNDERSTAND BEHAVIORS IN NEW ENVIRONMENTS? AKA PROOFING ()
As you work on generalization it's important to factor in your specific environment and situation. Living in New York City commands a different type of criteria for behaviors than a dog that lives in a rural town.
- First, if you are wanting to build fluency and generalize that behavior, what is the criteria you will you need your pup to understand (your environment, ie. do you live in a city, or the country? Are you around a lot of people or just a few, etc.)
- The key is to treat a new environment as a challenge for our dogs and going back to basics
- If your pup isn’t being successful, bring it back to the last step they were successful at - set the learner up for success - ALWAYS
- Sometimes you just need to allow your dog to decompress and explore a new environment as well, before you even start training
- Are you asking too much of your dog? That is a question that must be objectively answered when your dog is struggling in a new environment
- Do you have a gameplan/end result in mind? Once you do, break down that goal into micro-steps and micro-goals
- Above all, go at your dog’s pace… not your own!
GENERALIZATION IN DOG TRAINING RECAP
We have all heard the expression, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” With training dogs, that expression is very applicable! We want to make sure that we are working at our dog’s pace and try to set them up for success. That means, moving at their pace, going back to the basics, and ending before we (or THEY) get frustrated. Look at other resources, and .
If you are struggling with your dog’s behaviors, push through! It is difficult, but it is possible! We have faith in you.