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Proofing Games

What Is Proofing?

Let’s start by defining what walking with manners really means.

Behviors and Skills Needed For Walking With Manners

No matter what your starting point is with your dog with walks, in order for your dog to be able to handle whatever the environment might reveal, your dog must home and build skills to handle a variety of situations.When there are gaps in skills, the emotional state of your dog will begin to rise. Behaviors occur because of underlying emotions. So this section builds skills through games to help your dog home skills that will make walks more enjoyable for both of you.



Conceptual Skills


Starting the Walk Off Right


Pick Me Game


Games do not involve cuing. This style of training requires waiting for your puppy to do the behavior you want or make the right decision. It can be tough to wait and not say anything, but this is important. Your dog should learn to manage his behavior so that you don't have to cue it all the time. That is where the games come in.

Teach your puppy how wonderful and valuable it is to be near you! We start now while your puppy wants to be near you. You will portion out some of your puppy's kibble from a meal to play the game.

Play to build that bond between you and your puppy, depositing into the relationship bank account! Build trust, confidence, and focus. Build value in turning to you (orientation). Build value in wanting to be close to you (proximity). Build value in coming back to you. All in one simple game!

This game is a must throughout your dog's life with you!!! You will also find that there will be more like this later - to help you keep your value as your pup grows through different developmental stages. I still play this game with my adult dogs every time we go outside.

The fun of the game is the bouncing of your puppy to and from you. Your pup will need to learn to focus on tracking a tossed piece of food, and the fun in chasing after it. You want it to be fun, but not out of control, so use a calm, but happy voice.

Stack your rewards. Use praise, always! Add in petting and affection, if your puppy loves that, when he/she comes to you, as well as the higher value treat. If your puppy stays at your side and doesn't follow the tossed food, your puppy picked you, so reward that. Then, switch out the high-value treat and use the same value so you can create some fun sending your puppy out and bringing him back in. Most importantly, play and have fun!

This game will be so useful for other concept games, cues, and behaviors in the future! It's so amazing how something so simple can do so much!

Collar Grab/Hold


It is a hold on the collar, and does not involve any pulling or yanking. Practice positive associations when you hold the collar or harness. If you start now, you will be able to have a simple and positive way of gaining control of your dog.

Many dogs develop a negative association with this because something the dog does not like (punishment) follows. That then causes problems down the road with off-leash scenarios and with recall (come cue).So be proactive and conscientious about how you handle your pup and make sure it all has good associations.

Collar grabs come in handy for very nippy/mouthy pups who like to grab on to clothes and not let go. Use a collar grab to eliminate the ability to pull by applying gentle pressure towards you. When your pup lets go, you can mark and reward and then redirect your puppy on to something more appropriate.

Collar grabs, when they have positive associations, can also help in calming a dog down a little.

It can also be a tactic when a dog is playing tug with a toy and does not know to let go on cue yet.

Attention Cue - Pup Pup Recall


Recall refers to any way of getting your dog to return to you. That includes the cue "Come," but that is not the only cue for the same behavior. I don't want you using "Come" at all. Not yet, anyway. Wait until your relationship has had time to build, and good food drive and some focus with training are established. Only then should you begin work on "Come," and all the rules that lead to reliability, so it doesn't fall apart down the road. Come is more formal in my book, and whyI don't teach it in the beginning - I teach more informal, fun recalls first to build value in the behavior while the relationship is still new.

The Pup Pup recall can fit into any situation, inside and outside. It is easy to say in a bright and cheerful tone. And it is easy to fix. So if it gets blown off, don't fret, it won't mess upany of the important stuff. You will connect the association of this cue with rewards directly from your hand, or right at your feet, to prompt your pup to return to you for something amazing. So, unlike what might be the requirements of your dog's name (eye-contact only), this attention cue requires your pup to return to you and be close to you (Proximity).



This cue is essential for every dog to learn.

People are taught to greet dogs by reaching out a flat hand for the dog to sniff. Even though this is incorrect, as a dog owner, it is imperative to teach our dogs skills to handle the general public. It is also an excellent cue to have, forit is used to teach and support othercues such as loose leash walking and the Come cue.

Touch also builds confidence, focuses a young dog, and will help you in your efforts of teaching bite-inhibition.

Touch can also be used for socialization experiences to get your puppy to turn away from something and break eye-contact, yet be fun and rewarding to create positive associations. It also helps with distractions in public places.

Touch can be a recall (coming to you), and this is one of the ways you will use the cue, inside and outside. Touch is to be used until you formally teach your puppy Come, including outside (Part 2). So, refrain from using the "Come" verbal cue and do Touch first. Make sure that your puppy is proficient with Touch at a distance before you consider moving on to teaching the Come cue. You want to avoid the cue "Come" and have your puppy not respond, risking the reliability of the Come cue right from the start! Touch is used in many contexts, and much easier to fix than Come.

There are two ways to teach touch - a flat hand and a closed fist. I encourage you to teach both ways. The flat hand is helpful for socialization with people. The closed fist is useful when teaching loose leash walking, recalls, and how to handle distractions when out on a walk.

Orientation Game Basics


Orientation games are outstanding to play with your dog throughout their life. It promotes a healthy relationship and builds skills with loose leash walking, recall, focus, and so much more! Play the games inside first. Build fun and drive for the game and quick auto-orientation.

You want this to be a strong automatic behavior, so play often. You will continue to build on this throughout the training.

Throw a piece of kibbledown a hall or room - you can toss in one direction away from you to start, similar to the PickMe Game. Variations on this game to build focus are in the future. One is below.

This game differs from the Pick Me! Game in that your puppy does not need to return to you, just orient (turn), and focus back on you, which may or may not be direct eye-contact. You shouldn't be too picky, especially in the beginning stages of the game. Nose off the ground would be an excellent addition after the orientation is consistent. The difference between these two games is where you say your Reward Marker - when your dog turns around to you (orientation), or when your dog returns to you (proximity).

Play this game with food, but also incorporate playing with toys - this can be a great final reward for the end of the game as well.

The basic orientation game is excellent to play first thing in the morning when a puppy's battery is full, but yours is not. And when your puppy has a bunch of energy and is a bit mouthy, you can play this game to work through that initial bit of energy before working through more focused games and cues. Or in the evening, when you are tired from work but you need to get some energy out of your puppy. 

It is exercise - physical exercise but with structure. Your puppy gets to move, run, and chase, but it is not a free-for-all. Your puppy is learning to redirect attention back to you. It also keeps four paws on the floor and helps build your relationship!  

Orientation is a prerequisite for recall and off-leash control. It also is critical for dealing with distractions. So, you want your pup to be super good atorientation. The Side to Side game below is a rendition on the original game that ramps it up and brings more drive and more fun in orientation.

Orientation FUN Side to Side


This game builds on the original game and creates momentum and fun for orientation. It also works through flexibility in working side to side, rather than always turning to face directly to you. It is a useful game for high energy puppies and when batteries are full. I use this game often first thing in the morning to burn off some of that initial energy, and also in the evening when puppy zoomies often occur. It is also fun to play outside to support focus on you in the more distracting environment.

Running Orientation Game


Orientation is going to be a very important; a valuable and needed behavior! So there are a number of games that build the drive and value in the behavior so that it becomes default.

This game in itself is an informal recall - your body and the running is a visual cue.

This variation builds some excitement and fun in the original game. It is also going to be very helpful for future, morecomplex cues and behaviors like loose leash walking and recall.

This game boosts and supports your Follow Me Movement Game. Work through not having your puppy jump on you in excitement.This game also builds focus (paying attention), and will be crucial for working through distractions.

Plus, it is just super fun and boosts your relationship with your puppy.

The Come Cue (Part 1)


The recall, or "Come" cue is a complex cue that many people want their dog to be reliable with. It could actually save your dog's life one day, or at least keep her out of trouble. Puppies want to be near us, so this is the optimum time to teach the cue. You've already set the foundation for the Come cue by teaching Touch and working with distance. Now, we use this skill and build upon it to teach your dog to come on cue.

**It is important to read through all the rules/guidelines to the cue so that over time your dog retains a positive association and attitude with the cue. 

Prerequisites before bginning this cue: proficient with Name Recognition, Pick Me game, Orientation Basics. Highly recommended - proficient with Touch and Pup Pup Recall.

Important Points to Remember:

  1. Practice more than you actually use the cue in real life. When you practice, have your dog "COME" to you andthen "GO" (release or Premack) to something fun.
  2. Combine this with your orientation games - basics, running orientation, so it is more about being near you than anything else.
  3. This is for inside only! If you take it outside before the concepts of how to work distraction is taught, you run the risk of the cue falling apart. There is a method to my madness!
  4. Use multiple methods of reinforcement - high value food, toys, praise, play, fun!

This cue is easily punished without even knowing you are doing it, so it is very important to follow the rules with how and when you use it. I get more calls for help on recall because their dog won't come anymore. It is always because the person has inadvertently punished the cue without even realizing it. So follow the method and the rules in your handout!

When in doubt, use other ways to get your puppy to come - either by using your Attention Cue "Pup Pup Recall" or your puppy's name, or clapping or patting your legs, crouching down, playing an Orientation Game or Pick Me! Game, using the Touch cue in place of the Come cue, cuing a sit or going over to your puppy.


Do not use the Come cue to bring your puppy inside (when all the fun has now come to an end) after having a blast playing outside - this can easily be interpreted as punishment by your dog! Enough repetitions of this can make a dog stop coming to you. When you need your puppy to come inside after being outside, use either the Touch cue to get him near the door or you where you can then pick him up and bring him inside, or use an "In" cue and toss a treat on the floor inside the house for him to get. Or, use a boundary game and set a boundary at the porch/patio or just inside the door (both "In" and Boundary Training are part of Level 2). Reward your puppy for coming inside, either with some kibble, a treat, more play and fun, etc.


I can't stress this enough. Stack your rewards and have a party!

FOOD: Yes, you can use chicken, steak, bacon... The value of these treats will be designated by your puppy, so test things out. Save these super special treats for the recall only.

PRAISE: Take your time to teach this cue and build drive in your puppy so she is enthusiastic with coming to you. Use a fun and exciting voice and have a party when your puppy comes to you!

TOYS/PLAY: Use toys (tugs, squeaky toys, balls, frisbees) as rewards and play with your puppy when he/she comes to you.

By using multiple rewards with your puppy you are teaching him/her to be a flexible learner and you then have multiple options on rewarding your pup for a job well done.