It never fails, our dogs will chose to embarrass us in public with behavior that we thought we had overcome at home. It is true your dog may behave perfectly at home, so why do they misbehave elsewhere? It’s called proofing. Dogs don’t generalize so you have to teach good behavior everywhere you go. Some of these behaviors can seem harmless, but under the right conditions, they could cost your dog’s life. Here is an example posed by one of our readers.
My Staffordshire terrier Robin has a really annoying habit of just blowing the crate door open as soon as I unlatch it at class! (It’s an indoor ring so she isn’t in danger at least.) She is super strong, and really fast, so before I can catch her she’s flying towards the agility obstacles without me. What can I do to stop her? She’s not aggressive, but I’m worried about the other dogs, or if she does this at an outdoor ring.
The worst place to start training the correct behavior is at class, you are setting your dog up for failure. We suggest more proofing at home. Start by crate training your dog at home with more enticing distractions. If you have done all you can, you need to find something that is equally exciting to your dog as agility equipment. Dinner is usually a great distraction. Crate your dog, and then fill their bowl. If tht isn’t appealing enough, let them see you add something delicious, too.
Ask your dog to sit inside the crate and give a treat. Put firm pressure against the door of the crate so your dog can not push out as you unlatch it. This may be all you can do at first. If your dog gets up from the sit when you unlatch the door, latch it again and ask for another sit. If your dog maintains the sit, give them a treat.
Work here until you can unlatch the door without your dog getting up, then you can try and open the door. Again, if your dog gets up shut the door before they can get out and ask for another sit. You may need a helper ready to pick up the bowl before she can get it, in case she DOES break past you. Be sure to treat the stay. Repeat until they stay sitting in the crate even as you open the door. (This may take a few sessions!) Then release with an ‘okay!’ to go to the food bowl.
You may find you need to give encouragement to leave if you have done a good job rewarding the stay. If so, simply toss a treat toward or into the food bowl. Try other distractions as well starting from the beginning. A favorite toy being tossed, other dogs running into the room, be creative. Then you are ready to take the show on the road.
If possible find a quite place away from home where you can recreate the above lessons before taking it to class. The more proofing with smaller steps, the easier it will be for your dog to succeed in the problem situation. Once you get to class, repeat the above lessons and don’t let them have there turn until they’re letting you open the door without charging out!
It will take time, but it is time well spent that will keep your dog safe when you go trialing to places that are not enclosed like an indoor class.