Community canine coursework

The Community Canine class extends the foundation skills taught in the Citizen Canine class in a logical fashion and prepares individuals for the AKC Community Canine Test.

Key Proofing Concepts

Goldilocks Rule

The Goldilocks Rule applies to distractions, praise, rewards... everything. We're constantly adjusting based on the dog.

  • Too much gives us something we don't want
  • Too little gives us something we don't want
  • Just right is just right

The 3 D's of proofing

We'll alter one of these items at a time, two at most (if we're increasing slowly enough) to increase the degree of difficulty for the dog:

  1. Distance - how far away you are from your dog, or how far away the distraction is from your dog
  2. Duration - how long you expect your dog to stay in a behavior, or how long you subject your dog to a distraction
  3. Distraction - how intense the distraction is

The 80/20 Rule

There should be far less correction in this class. As you begin proofing exercises, you should maintain an 80% success rate. If, at any given level of distraction, distance, or duration, you have to correct more than once in five repetitions, you need to lower the degree of difficulty by 20% so that they can meet that 80% success rate. If they are blowing through that 80% success rate, you need to increase the degree of difficulty by 20%.

Modal Thresholds and Drive Switching

If there is no competing distraction, and the dog is attentive but non-responsive, it's likely that you need to go back and rebuild a broken exercise that was not taught well in the first place. 

But assuming that your dog knows how to do what you are asking, is attentive, and is generally well motivated to respond correctly, our problem may be that they are over threshold. 

There are three main drives, or broad emotional states, that a dog may be in and while they can occur simultaneously, one generally supersedes another. A dog may be in:

  • Social Drive - this is where we want our dogs to be. A state of mutual communication and willingness to work together, and to remain in good social status with each other.
  • Prey Drive - the innate desire to chase moving things, to track, and to hunt.
  • Defense Drive - the desire for self preservation, often referred to as "fight or flight". This also includes defense of resources, territory, etc.

Our goal in training is to keep our dog in social drive. At times, we will access prey or defensive drive but still want social drive to be the dominate emotional state of the dog. This changes "chase that object" to "chase that object for/with me". This is an important distinction. 

When working obedience exercises, we increase one of the the "3 D's" of proofing until we see that the dog is just on the cusp of switching from social drive to one of the other drives. That is the "threshold". We work there until they are certainly in social drive before increasing the difficulty further.

Rebuilding Broken Exercises

Whenever we have a training issue at the core of any of the foundational exercises, it doesn't do us any good to simply take a small step back. We go all the way back to the beginning and re-teach the behavior from scratch.

If your dog isn't holding a stay, for example, I need you to go all the way back to doing 1ft/10sec stays and rebuild the behavior from scratch. 

What Consequence to use, and When

  • MISTAKE warrants CORRECTION
  • SUCCESS warrants REWARD
  • EFFORT warrants PRAISE
  • WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE or UNDESIRABLE AROUSAL warrants PUNISHMENT

Lesson 1: Rewards and Thresholds

This week we need to figure out what the most high value rewards are for our dogs and find out what their current thresholds are around various distractions. We are going to make sure that we stack the deck in our favor by limiting their ability to access the things we will use as rewards at times other than when we are training.

  • If you are using food, your dog should not have access to it outside of training time. Alternatively, use food to reward your dog in training, and then feed them their meal (or remainder there of) AFTER training.
  • If you are using toys, pick up and put away all toys so that your dog only has access to one at a time, that you use to play WITH them, as a reward in training.