We are very verbal creatures, unlike dogs who find body language much easier to understand. This means that we as handlers sometimes overestimate what our dogs actually know, that is, what behaviors the dog can perform when we ask it to do so. We usually think that the dog knows more than it really does and believe that for example it is always the word “sit” that makes the dog to sit.
However, this is not always the case. It is rather that the dog knows the cue if it is presented in a context that the dog is used to, for example at home in the kitchen next to the dining table. But if we move it out to the forest it seems like the dog never heard that cue before.
You probably recognize several other situations like that: If we don’t have our hands on our belly when we say “sit” then the dog doesn’t sit. When we stand with our back to the dog and say “sit” it walks around us to look at us instead. If we lay down on the floor and say “sit”, the dog lays beside us. And so on.
When we give courses and when we train ourselves, we
therefore work a lot with distractions and proofing cues and behaviors to be
sure that the dog understands what we mean.
In the video below you will see some examples of how you can proof the sit cue. You can of course use the same procedure for all your cues.
If it gets too difficult, just go back to a previous step again and gradually work your way towards the more difficult situation. For example, if the dog lies down when you lie down even though you said “sit”, you can start with squatting and say “sit” (and reward the dog when it sits), then you bend more and say “sit”, sit on the floor and say “sit”, lay halfway down to the floor and say “sit” and so on. Treats that you can throw away can be good to get the dog to stand up again. When the dog sits you reward it and then you throw or put a treat on the ground and say “take it” so it stands up again. Good luck with the training and please send us pictures / videos of your proofing training!