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Dog Training 101 Proofing Cues using doggie pushups and more!

Rat will work for food!
Rat will work for food!


September 29, 2009

Joyce Kesling, CDBC

Dog Training 101 Proofing Cues, using doggie pushups and more!

I decided to write this blog after following up with a puppy client today.  I recorded the training sessions this morning and while waiting on all the downloads called the client.  Like many clients, they have ups and downs for all kinds of reasons.  This is one reason pet dog training can be challenging as opposed to working with dog owners who compete with their dogs.  The competition dog trainer can rely on these owners showing up every week, training like crazy in-between classes, because their dog serves a conduit for meeting other types of human needs, not just companionship. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with just wanting a pet dog simply for companionship, personally that’s my choice.  Companionship with dogs, whether it requires competition or simply filling in as a friend, the dog provides  different kinds of needs.  In some instances, that’s why we have specific breeds.  However, whether we choose dogs strictly for companionship and/or going for titles, we all should strive for dogs to have good manners.  Dogs with good manners tend to be more appreciated, we enjoy being around them, like good friends.

Clients often have reasonable excuses for inconsistency; however, one problem often cited by pet dog owners, inconsistent cue delivery could be problematic.  Ah ha, something we all suffer from when we live with spouses, children, well meaning but…relatives and friends, we can expect inconsistent responses from our dogs.  This is a personal problem, remember the dog is just being a dog, doing what dogs do and we can always view the problem as insignificant.  However, if a dog’s behavior is causing conflicts not just between owner and dog, but other humans as well, then we need to figure out how to resolve the conflict between man and dog. 

In this case, we have an adolescent dog with a lot of energy.  Some of us recognize energy expenditure doesn’t always mean physical, in fact for some dogs too much exercise can actually be counterproductive.  We forget or neglect that training is mentally exhausting.  That is one reason pet toy manufacturers have devised so many puzzle type objects.  I’m sure some of us know what it’s like working in jobs that need a lot of mental thought and focus, we are not just mentally exhausted but physically too.

Therefore, suggestion is get going and start using doggie pushups more…thank you Dr. Ian Dunbar.  This is a great way for proofing cues.  In addition, don’t forget to slow down setting your dog up for stay training, attention and recalls, not focusing on walks and energized play sessions.  It’s also a good idea, if possible, to break up the dogs food ration to use throughout the day during these training sessions.  You can still do this even if you work away from home.  No Excuses.

These next two videos show doggie pushups, proofing cues, adding new behaviors and using non-reward markers as directive cues.  It’s also important to emphasize both verbal and especially hand cues.  Dogs do not understand the English language; they actually understand visual cues better.  They pay closer attention and understand what our body and expression is saying, rather than what’s coming out of our human mouth. 

In this first video, I briefly discuss concern-using treats with this “individual” dog.  Emphasis on “individual” since I have some knowledge of his earlier behavior problems and immediately noticed he wouldn’t work for anything unless you “bribed” him with a treat.  I still use his food during training sessions, but work at getting more and more individual behaviors before rewarding him.  I’m also adding new behaviors to break up the monotony that may impede learning when using repetitive behaviors.  This is also one reason short 5-10 minute training sessions work great in the beginning of training while slowly working up to longer sessions. 

Note using the non-reward marker provides the dog with a directive cue to try something else; you will see a few examples where this was used effectively.  There are also times when one gets stuck, simply move away, redirect your dog to do something else and then go back to your previous goal behavior.  Most of all, notice how rarely if ever cues are repeated, an occasional mistake is not going to be the end of the world, but repeated and inconsistent cues coupled with reinforcement contingencies has the potential to create frustration and anxiety for dogs. 

There’s a funny moment when our communication was not in synchrony.  I wanted Darwin to follow my hand around to my side and he chooses to get there using a different way, perhaps for him, it made more sense.  Sometimes we have to remember we are training dogs.  We are training them to do what we want dogs to do; it does not mean dogs understand why and/or that it is natural for them!  I try to remember this when training, it prevents me from blaming the dog and/or as some people and trainers might suggest the dog is trying to dominate me, is stubborn, and my favorite is trying to get back at me, spiteful behavior!  Dogs are capable of doing many things, we see it all the time, but using human emotional descriptions suggested here goes beyond what dogs are capable of thinking.  Equating “guilt” for example has been disproved, dogs are simply responding to our body language!

Proofing cues, discussing food motivation


Proofing cues, adding new behavior and distance



Responsible Dog & Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

Sarasota, Florida 34277





The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.  Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 

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