Instructor: Mariah Hinds
You've spent time, sweat, and probably even a few tears, working hard to teach your dog lots of different skills -- but now you need to make sure those skills will hold up when you enter a ring or are out in the real world. Come learn how to set your dog up for success... we'll talk about fluency, generalization, reliability, and distractions.
We can proof our dogs for reliability positively and we can set them up to succeed and build confidence in the process! We will start with behaviors that don't require duration. We will practice building reliability with distractions such as food, scent and toy distractions, spacial pressure, distance, stationary visual distractions and visual distractions in motion. These are all games that can be played with the handler and common household and training props. Each week there is one exercise that will be beneficial to do with a helper. Once the dog is able to do a stationary skill with that distraction, then we will work on skills that require duration such as contacts, one jump exercises, stays, utility articles, fronts, wrap a cone/ jump and short heeling patterns.
Gold students can choose which 2-3 stationary skills (sit, down, spin, stand, touch, come to heel, or any other non-duration skill) and which 2-3 duration skills (contacts, one jump exercise, stays, recalls, drop on recall, go outs, articles or any other duration skill) you want to practice during class.
Registration will begin at 9:30 AM PDT.
Enrollment limits: 12 gold, 25 silver, unlimited bronze. If you are interested in a bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
This class is going to be a lot of fun!
- Can you do the cue in any location in the house and in different outdoor locations
- Can you do the cue if the handler holds a loved object (dog bowl, bone, leash, harness, etc.)
- Can you do the cue if you start from a sit or a stand or a down or if you are looking away from the handler
- Can you do the cue with rewards off of the handler’s body (5 feet away)
- Can you do the cue if the handler sits, stands, lies on the ground, looks at the sky, looks at their shoes
- Week 1-
- Scent distractions (introducing smells as a distraction)
- Beginner people distractions or Helper distracts dog by saying judge’s cues
- Different tones of voice and different facial expressions
- On, in or behind an object (introducing distance)
- Unusual sounds
- Week 2-
- Food/toy distraction- beginner level
- Beginner people distractions or Helper distracts dog by saying judge’s cues in an excited voice.
- Handler body language distractions (distracting with tapping a foot for example if tapping a foot isn’t a cue for the dog)
- Handler dress up day (can you do it when I wear sunglasses, a hat, a t-rex costume, a mask, etc.)
- Near another obstacle (agility equipment, platforms, jumps, tables, etc.)
- Week 3-
- Food/toy distraction- on coffee table distraction, cookie crumbs on the floor
- Intermediate people distractions or Helper moves continuously during cues given by the handler.
- Practicing with odd, small things on the floor (white dots, pieces of paper towel, wet spots, chalk, confetti, etc.)
- Spacial pressure with balloons or household props
- Handler body language distractions part #2
- Week 4-
- Practicing with piles of toys or food on the floor at distance
- Intermediate people distractions or Helper moves continuously in and out of sight and talks continuously in a normal voice.
- Food/toy distraction- helper holds food or toys
- Adding distance part #2
- Flirt pole distraction
- Week 5-
- Practicing with piles of toys or food on the floor closer
- Advanced people distractions or Helper moves continuously in and out of sight and talks continuously in an excited voice.
- Spacial pressure part #2
- Unusual sounds part #2
- Advanced distractions near another obstacle
- Week 6-
- Tossing food or toys on the floor during the cue
- Advanced people distractions or Helper moves continuously in and out of sight and talks sporadically in a normal voice.
- Advanced visual distractions in motion (dancing toys, handler moves tarp/flirt pole/equipment or brings equipment into room)
- Advanced handler body language distractions
- Generalizing a skill
- Adding distance
- Adding duration
- Building fluency among other cues
- Adding distractions
- How to manipulate a distraction to help your dog be successful
- Pre-requisites: The dog should be capable of doing the cues that you chose (2-3 stationary skills and 2-3 duration skills) on a verbal cue.
- Equipment: If you chose a cue that requires equipment, such as weaves, dogwalk or go outs, then you will need regular access to that equipment.
- Props that you can find around the house that we may use for distractions: dog bowls, bones, leashes, toys, handler costumes (hats, skirts, sunglasses, masks, etc.), other equipment for the sport of your choice (ring gates, panel jump, table, tunnels, etc.), balloons, brooms, vacuums, flirt pole or toy on a rope, toy that moves, sings or dances when you push a button and various other household items.
- Handler dress up game! One of the games will be the handler or the helper dressing up in a costume. We might even do a contest for best costume! It'll be fun!
- Helper: A helper is beneficial for one exercise per week.
Proof Positive: Pre-Class
Why should we intentionally add distractions to our practice sessions with our dogs?
When we add distractions positively through errorless learning and through lots of successes, we are building confidence. The dog learns to say, "You can't fool me! I did it right!" The dog builds confidence through being correct time and time again even when the environment is slightly more distracting. As Denise stated in the book, Train the Dog in Front of You, for high drive dogs, proofing is a great way to build the dog's love for the work itself. It is one method to begin weaning your dog off of frequent rewards without building frustration. In Unchain your performance, Hannah mentions that proofing is an important foundation piece prior to backchaining behavior chains to a reward outside of the ring.
Another reason why we should systematically add distractions to our dog's cues is because trials do not happen in a sterile environment. Stuff happens. And the kind thing to do for our dogs is to prepare them the best way that we can. Proofing and practicing with distractions is part of helping prepare your dog for a trial.
Plus, proofing is fun. Dogs get a glimmer in their eye and an air of confidence when they are successful at doing a cue with an appropriately challenging level of distractions. We can also learn a lot about our dogs in the process of proofing their cues.
How to set dogs up for success with distractions
We will be training the dogs at the level where they CAN be successful and we won’t be training the dogs at the difficulty level where they struggle time and time again. We do not want to add stress to our behaviors. We want to build confidence through proofing.
In order to be in the optimal learning state, the learner needs to be as free from frustration or stress as possible. If a dog is unsure about what behaviors we want to see, then we are building frustration into the learning process. We are going to follow the 50/60/80 rule for that reason.
50%: If the dog is less than 50% successful or fails two times in a row, then we need to help the dog understand so we will make the exercise easier.
60-80%: If the dog is between 60-80% successful at making the desired choice and not showing signs of stress, then we will keep practicing.
80%: If the dog is over 80% reliable, then we can move to the next level of difficulty.
Dissecting a Distraction
The second way that we can ensure that we are setting our dogs up for success is to dissect the distraction into its simplest parts.
Here are our main factors that affect the difficulty level of a distraction:
- Spacial pressure
- Sudden Environmental Contrast
For example, in an obedience trial, if we have:
- The judge standing at a distance from the team that is easier than the judge standing right next to the team.
- The judge standing next to you for 3 minutes is more difficult than the judge standing next to you for 30 seconds.
- A dog running up to the ring gate while you are working is more intense than a dog parallel to the ring gate to retrieve something.
- People and dogs sitting within 2 feet of the ring gating is more spacial pressure than people and dogs sitting 10 feet away.
- Someone suddenly entering the room when it was quiet is more sudden and more challenging than people going in and out of the doors continuously.
In an agility trial, if we have:
- The ring crew sitting off of the dog’s intended path is easier than the ring crew sitting directly behind a jump that the dog must take.
- Walking into the ring and waiting 2 or 3 minutes to lead out and get started is more distracting (for most dogs and handlers) than going into the ring and setting up in a timely fashion.
- The judge walking to the spot where they can see the dog get into the contact zone is less intense of a distraction than if the judge runs to the spot to see the contact zone.
- Dogs barking at the dog running within 2 feet on all sides of the agility ring is more difficult than dogs barking 20 feet away on all sides of the ring.
- If the trial site is dark and someone opens a door that has been closed for hours that is more sudden and more distracting than if the door was open continuously.
If a dog struggles with a distraction, we can change any of these factors to make the distraction easier for the dog to be successful. By the same token, when the dog has demonstrated lots of success, then we can increase the distraction level by changing any of these factors. To help the dog be successful, it is best to change only one factor at a time.
Most distractions fall into one of these 4 categories.
- Visual distractions
- Sound distractions
- Smell distractions
- Touch distractions
We want to keep our particular learner in mind, as well. Some dogs will find visual distractions more difficult than smell and vice versa. Some dogs won't be affected by sound distractions at all (particularly if the sound isn't sudden) while others will find them more distracting. I've done my best with the curriculum to start with the easiest distractions for most dogs and build up to more difficult ones and we can modify the distractions to help the particular dog in front of us.
Latency is a good measuring stick to see how much a dog’s brain is having to work to focus on the cues with the level of distractions in the environment.
Latency is the amount of time that it takes for a dog to hear and respond to the cue you said. If you say down and the dog waits a second before responding to the cue, then that is a high latency behavior in that context. If you say down and the dog responds immediately, then that is low latency. We will need to know the dog’s typically latency to the 6 cues that you are going to practice. Dogs often have different typical latency. My Doberman has a higher latency for cues than my border collies do and that is just her processing speed. Adding proofing and distractions takes up more brain cells and the dog oftentimes will tell us that the proof is too challenging by responding to the cue with high latency or a delayed response. Different dogs have different baseline latencies and that is what you will need to know what your dog's typical response time if for the cues you will be practicing in this class.
This class is full of fun, short games and we will be covering a lot of material. For those reasons, here are the video submission options for each gold student:
Each week you have the choice of either of these two options:
1. Submit 3 two-minute videos that week (please limit to less than 130 seconds in duration).
2. Submit as many one-minute videos per week as you like (please limit to less than 70 seconds in duration).
In the first week, we will start discussing what to do when your dog makes a mistake to maintain your dog's confidence and enthusiasm for work. And our fun distraction games will begin! Can't wait to see you then! It's going to be a fun, action-packed class!