Being Canine Prepared For the Worst: Canine Bug Out Bags

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Northern California

Seems strange that it was just August 2014 that I wrote an article on being prepared, and making sure your canine is ready for the worst too.  Fast forward a year, and for similar reasons (another act of Mother Nature) I feel compelled to bring this subject up again.

Being prepared can seem like an over used motto, but some very serious and real outcomes can be alleviated and even avoided with a little pre-planning.  With the devastation seen in Northern California, it is easy to see why forest fires are scary, seemingly “living” things that can destroy thousands of hectares, homes, even towns, without slowing.  Wind, humidity, ground moisture, human activities, and even other acts of nature (e.g. lightening) are all factors that can cause the speed, direction, and intensity to change.  All make fires very unpredictable and can catch residents off guard, requiring them to leave without a moments notice.  You might ask how we can be prepared for that?  Well in many ways we can’t, but if we have an evacuation plan in place, just like the fire drills we had at school growing up, we can make things happen quickly, orderly, and most importantly, safely for everyone involved.

One way to facilitate a safe and speedy evacuation is to have a “bug-out” bag for all your family members.  Most people have a good idea of what a bag for a human would have in it, but what about our canines?  What is important?  What are the must haves?  Well look no further, here is a list to help you make sure your canine is just as ready as the rest of your family when the time comes to split!

  1. Food: Whether it is kibble or cans, bring enough food for at least three days. (And a way to open the cans!)
  2. Medication: Any specific medication needed for your dogs. Zoom doesn’t have much, but I’ll be including Zoom’s tick and flea medication. Other examples: arthritis, heart, anti-seizure, eye or ear drops, etc. Again, have multiple days’ worth in case you cannot return home for a refill.
  3. Water: Try to bring enough bottled water to prevent dehydration during the first 12 hours of an emergency. Infrastructure may not be working, or county water sources maybe tainted.
  4. Collapsible food and water bowl.
  5. An extra leash, harness, and ID collar, in case you can’t get to the part of the house where you normally keep these items.
  6. Medical records: Have a printed and/or electronic copy of your canine’s medical record in case they are injured or you have to go to a different veterinarian than normal. Having their background information can greatly accelerate how vets can help you out in the event of an emergency.
  7. Have a basic first aid (e.g. compression bandages, topical wound treatment) to help treat any injuries that could have been sustained during a natural disaster.
  8. Blanket: This can help keep your dog warm, give them a bed to lay on, and can also help you treat shock or hypothermia if needed.
  9. Strong Bag:  You don’t want to put all this effort in, put everything in a plastic bag, and have it rip spilling everything while you are running out of the house.  So make sure the bag is sturdy (e.g. heavy rip stop nylon), can be closed to avoid contamination, has easy to grab handles, and suites your ability to carry things.  If you can’t carry a lot in your arms, get a backpack style bag that you can sling over your shoulders!
Zoom's Bug Out Bag!

Zoom’s Bug Out Bag!

NOTE: Try to make sure your bag is in a good place you can grab easily and also make sure it isn’t too heavy. You don’t want to struggle with the weight of the bag. If your pet is going for a sleepover or a longer stay because you are out of town, drop them off with the bag and let the sitter know what it is for and why you have made it.

It doesn’t take long to create or keep a bug-out bag maintained (fresh food, water, and medication), so I would encourage you to set aside half an hour this week to plan one out. And if disaster strikes, you and your furry friend will be very happy you took a few minutes to plan ahead.

If you would like to share ideas of what’s in your bug-out bag, or you want to send pictures of the final result to our community, tweet them to @CaninesByDesign. And of course, I’m always here to answer any questions about your bug-out bag and what you can do to make sure you and your canine are prepared in the case of any emergency.  STAY SAFE!!!

The Canine “Comfort/Stress” Fuel Tank: What Is Your Canine’s Range?

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Let’s dive a little deeper into your canine’s “Zone of Comfort.” Last week, we introduced the idea that your canine’s level of comfort is constantly being adjusted when things like their environment change or as they approach new, exciting (and even familiar) stimuli. We also talked about how we as caregivers need to account for this adjustment as part of how we create a successful, positive, and educational experience for our dogs. This week, we are going to talk about exposure limits to stress, and how stress affects our canines and their behaviour.

Let’s start with a human analogy: For some of the human population, entering a really busy mall or crowded street can be frightening, even debilitating. Heart rate rises, palms get sweaty, we get a little on edge, and it can even get to the point that we take ourselves out of that situation. But for others, going to a busy Sunday farmer’s market sounds like a perfect morning!

Next, think about one of those “unnerving” things in your life. How long could you be in the same room or in a closed situation with that “thing”? For some, about two seconds is enough before they want out! For others, with controlled practice, desensitization, and positive reinforcement, we can extend that time. In a sense, we have a “comfort/stress” fuel tank, and the more uncomfortable something makes us, the faster we use the tank up! Once our fuel is used up, we do not have an ability to deal with the situation we are in (or with that particular item(s) in the environment). Often, stressed emotion starts to overpower our thoughts. Military, police and related groups specifically train their members to increase their ability to handle severe and stressful situations (increase the range of their tank) so that they are still able to use their cognitive processes and training when it really counts!

The same stress scenarios regularly affect our canines. For some, specific stimuli can create real feelings of unrest, and if severe enough, they can elicit behaviours in our canines that we may have never seen before. In fact, we may only see them in that exact scenario! As we work with, and bond with, our canines, we begin to understand their likes and dislikes, where they feel comfortable – and where they do not.

If we are working through certain behaviours and are developing a desensitization program to a particular stimuli or behaviour, or simply working on socialization and general environmental exposure, keeping in mind the idea that our canines can only handle some situations, stimuli, environments, and their combinations, for a certain period of time becomes hugely powerful.

What it means for us as caregivers is that, alongside the bonding and discovery process, we need to also recognize the small signs and changes that show us that our canine’s “comfort/stress” tank is being used up. Most importantly, we should be in tune to the moment when it is getting close to being emptied. When this happens, just like in the human world, our canines will be more prone to reacting to situations versus thinking them through.  In some cases, A tired dog might be a happy dog, but like tired/distracted humans, mistakes in judgement and reaction can be made by these tired minds.  What we do with the “zones of comfort” at Canines By Design is work within a canine’s comfort boundaries (dictated by their behaviour to a particular environment or specific stimuli) and slowly build up their ability to handle the scenario, understand that the scenario is safe, and build the trust up between canine and caregiver. We want them to feel comfortable walking in their own paws, and it is about giving the caregiver and the canine the tools to do so in a positive way!

Next week is part three of the “Zones of Comfort” feature in which I’ll discuss the three colours we use, how they are used, and how they can supercharge your canine’s education in a safe and positive way!

The Black Lung, Pop… No Wait… Kennel Cough

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Doctor DogNot every one of us has been there. But for those of us that have experienced the cough, hack, mucous, and other unpleasantness associated with Kennel Cough, hearing that sneezey, hacky cough means we are in for a long week. Unfortunately, this highly contagious canine cold is hard to avoid 100% and if it does creep its way into our lives, it means preparing, changing plans, and making sure our canine is as comfortable as possible. Why am I talking about this? Well, remember how I said it is 100% impossible to avoid (unless you live in a bubble)? Our Labrador, Zoom, came down with the cold last week, and it sadly meant that Leah and I had to change our vacation plans to visit friends and family. Don’t worry, we were into the veterinarian last Friday, and he is much better today than he was the last 5 days. But I thought it important that I talk about the experience, how it came about, and how we can be prepared as canine caregivers to make sure they are being well taken care of.

  1. Vaccination Does Not Equal 100% Protection:

We have heard of vaccinations for Kennel Cough. So you maybe asking why does it still exist? With fear of simplifying it too much, think of Kennel Cough like human influenza (flu). We syringehave flu shots, and many op to receive them yearly, but many of us still get sick despite this “protection”! Well small variations between the flu vaccine and the flu bug we receive in our environment mean that this environmental bug can settle in and cause all fun stuff that comes along with the flu regardless of the vaccine. Same for Kennel Cough.

  1. Symptoms:

What symptoms or signs appear first also vary between dogs and the bug they were exposed to. For some, sneezing starts, for others it can be a dry hack (like clearing the throat), and for others it can be an increase in mucous load in their sinuses causing a “stuffed nose” sound. Pretty variable isn’t it? Could it be difficult potentially to tell the difference between Kennel Cough and Seasonal Allergies? You Bet! This is why keeping a canine health record is really important! Read all about canine health records here. If you think your canine MIGHT have a sneeze, a cough, above average mucous production, then DO NOT expose them to any other dogs until you have it diagnosed.

  1. Diagnosis:

Kennel Cough is VERY contagious. This means if you think there might be something up, it is time to make a vet appointment. Why? Because you don’t want to go about your daily routine for a few days or a week before realizing it is worse than you thought. Think how many people and dogs you come across every day? Let them know you think it might be kennel cough as many vet offices have policies to avoid contamination and can make sure you get in right away!

  1. Treatment:

For some dogs, such as those that are immune-compromised, older dogs and young dogs without their vaccinations, and dogs already sick with other ailments can all be prone to having a more serious reaction to the bug and might be less able to fight it off with their own immune system.antibiotics For others cases, its just like a cold in humans… time will heal. Again, it is critical to seek your veterinarians advice for the best course of action. It could just be the right environmental cues existed to allow the cough to settle in, which can cause fever, a more severe reaction, and longer recovery. For these dogs, antibiotics might be necessary to get everything under control again and ensure they are safe. Some signs that antibiotics maybe necessary: worsening of symptoms, fever, change in mucous colour (e.g. going from clear to milky/green).

  1. Making Their Lives (and yours) A little Easier:

Lets not kid anyone, you have a sick child on your hands. Best thing we as a parent can do is be prepared. Just like for us, maintaining fluids, continuing to eat, getting lots of comfortable rest, and sanitary practices are really important in speeding up recovery.

FLUIDS: If your canine is not drinking you can help encourage them by adding a little stock to their water to make it a little tastier. Zoom’s protein base is chicken, so we picked up a container of no salt added, organic chicken broth. Zoom had quite a dry hack from the Kennel Cough, so having a little water around to “wet his whistle” helped to keep irritation down and helped him sleep more through the night.

FOOD: For some, the irritated throat, feeling sick and even being on antibiotics can affect their desire to eat. Have a few alternatives around before you need to go get them and you can’t because your dog is coughing up mucous. If they normally eat dry kibbles, dry pulverizing them in a food processor and adding water to make it a little less dry and easier to eat. Don’t have a food processor? Just wet the kibbles and let it sit for 20-25min to soak up the water. Add water as needed and mash with a fork. You can also have a few cans of the “wet version” of their food, or even pick up some low residue food from the vet while you are there. Discuss what is best with your vet!

SANITATION: As I have mentioned, Kennel Cough is very contagious. Keeping floors clean and sanitized, washing blankets and bedding regularly, and ensuring that their toys are cleaned will help stop the bug from spreading. Avoid public places such as dog parks or places where you will meet with another dog. Don’t forget we act as vectors, so washing your own hands, and clothes is really important. washing handsCancel play dates, don’t go stay in hotels, and make sure you let anyone that may have come in contact know what is up so they don’t go and spread it around unknowingly. My veterinarian said that the exact time that canines are no longer contagious isn’t known so she said to be safe wait for 3-4 days after they stop showing symptoms before reintroducing them into public spaces.

COMFORT: No one likes to be sick. We all feel rotten and just want to be in bed. Well dogs will do better if they get good rest as well so make sure they are comfortable.sick zoom Give them items they can lay on that are easily washed, make sure they are not in room that is too hot or cold, and even the humidity can have an effect (e.g. air conditioners dry the air making them more likely to cough and hack at night). Don’t leave them exposed to the elements in any way, and as much as they might want to go out and play, keep them quiet!!  Zoom dealt a lot with mucous in his sinuses and I found elevating his head with a blanket underneath it made it a lot easier for him to sleep and breath.

If you are ever in doubt, always contact your veterinarian. The price of a checkup is well worth knowing what is going on. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience and there isn’t anything more frustrating and scary when it comes to sickness than not understanding the root cause!!

The Quick Fix: Should You and Your Canine Be Skeptical?

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canine jump!Being together, training together, playing together, smiling together. Canine Companionship…. It’s the life!! But occasionally, funny little things happen and certain behaviours can arise that become disruptive (in a “nails on a chalkboard” sort of way) during our special time with our canines.

Sometimes this behaviour starts off cute, but then veers toward the dangerous or destructive, and we might find ourselves in a state of confusion, anger panic, sadness, or helplessness… Our human nature takes over, and we rush to our nearest source of information (WebMD, anyone?) and attempt to label, define, and understand what is going on. It’s perfectly logical that we would want to know why our dog is doing said behaviour, especially if we aren’t confident in the appropriateness or safety of it all.

And, in a way, this attention to the situation is good! Canines are not mindless automatons without feelings or personalities. They are dynamic – and their resulting behaviours are not automatic responses to environmental cues. But what isn’t helpful when you are concerned is all the BAD information that is out there. There are pages and pages of misleading, wrong, and downright dangerous advice out there!

Have you ever watched one of those “As Seen on TV” adverts and said “Ya right….” Or “if only it actually did that or worked…” – maybe we would all have 6-pack abs and amazing golf swings. The reality is, the majority of these products don’t work, or they only work as a small portion of a larger plan.

Canines and their behaviours are dynamic, and the causes for their actions are as equally dynamic, with environmental and internal factors contributing to the “whole” behaviour. And yet there are umpteen people and products out there offering the quick fix. “Try this and your dog’s barking will be solved first try,” or “this collar will get your dog walking right.” The reality is, good behaviours take time to mold and fine-tune and bad behaviours take time to correct – because your canine needs time to learn what is right! Quick fixes attempt to treat the “visible” behaviours and in doing so can cause other inappropriate behaviours to arise, can harm the welfare of the animal, and can actually have no effect at all (except on your wallet).

So be aware of those “quick fix” promises! (But don’t feel hopeless!) This is the part of the change we are seeing in the Pet Industry, specifically the canine world. I, like my student cohort from Bergin University, are some of the first academic minds to have their post secondary and graduate education focus entirely on canines, understanding their history, development, physiology and psychology. We are being trained to treat the underlying emotions and behaviours that result in the “visible” behaviour and it is from this new wave of academic focus that we will move away from the “quick fix” concept to creating useable and successful programs that work, while putting the needs of the canine at the forefront.

Redirection and Canine Attention: Putting It Together!

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Zoom waiting for whats next!  @caninesbydesignOne of my favorites, if not THE favorite training tool I love to use when working with, and educating canines and their caregivers, is the power of redirection. Redirection can be defined here as moving our canines attention from one object, thing, or stimuli in the environment to another another in a deliberate fashion to help them succeed at a particular task or in a particular situation.  This can help decrease tension felt in certain situations, help maintain order when multiple dogs are around, and offer a fantastically positive way to keep your canine engaged with you when working with them in stimulating environments or in new situations when distractions are everywhere.  But why use redirection?  Why not other techniques we may have seen on TV or read in a book?  I already gave you the hint, and it is the link between positive experiences and redirection, but lets look a little bit a where redirection fits into the realm of psychology and that might help explain it!

It’s common in modern training circles to hear about Operant Conditioning, including the four quadrants of operant conditioning and how they apply to modifying, changing and creating canine behaviours. I hope I haven’t lost you yet… if you stick with me as I break down the concept, I promise it will be the best move you ever make in your relationship with your dog.

Psychology (and Parenting) 101

Operant conditioning is a keystone concept in psychology. It is brain/psychologyone of the fundamental topics taught to university students attending classes ranging from introductory to clinical psychology, and is also being taught to new puppy parents at their first training session. Founded by Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner, his approach was to understand behaviour by looking at the causes of an action and their consequences. The basis to his findings was that behaviour that was rewarded after it was completed would be more likely to occur again. Behaviours that were not reinforced would become weakened and eventually removed (or extinguished) from one’s behavioural repertoire. In other words, a positive outcome leads to increase of rewarded behavior, and an outcome in which the desired result was not achieved, leads to decrease of behavior.

Skinner focused on reinforcement and punishment, which are the outcomes of behaviours that are likely to affect their occurrence later, and created four quadrants of these outcomes: Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Positive and Negative Punishment. To keep things relatively simple here, we will condense the four quadrants into two: (1) Reinforcement, which leads to an increase in a behaviour and (2) Punishment, which leads to a decrease in a behaviour in the future.

Reward and punishment are terms that we have experienced in our own upbringing. Did you receive a “favorite dessert” for cleaning your room? Your parents were practicing operant conditioning. Specifically, a type of reinforcement in which something positive is added (dessert) to increase the chances that a behaviour (cleaning your room) will happen next time.

dog treats reward

Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Quiz time: What part of Skinner’s theory seems out of place with what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks? Your answer should be along the lines of… “I thought we were to always keep things as positive as possible and nurture our bond with our canine?” and “wouldn’t that mean the punishment quadrant shouldn’t even be there?” Well, you would be correct!

We will all encounter situations where our furry friends are misbehaving, putting themselves in dangerous places, or doing something wrong. This is where I would like to introduce you to a very powerful word, and way of thinking: Redirection.

Redirect is defined as “to change the direction or focus of” (Dictionary.com, 2014). As a fundamental focus at Canines By Design, I propose that we replace the word “correction” with the word “redirect,” removing negative interactions with our dogs (such as scolding them or physically correcting them with a leash) when addressing their behaviours.

It’s Not as Hard as You Think…

You are going for a walk with your canine and working on heeling and keeping slack in your leash. One block up, your neighbour turns the corner and continues up the same route in front of you. Now all your dog wants to do is pull out in front to hurry up and go say hi to their friend. Old school (and outdated) technique would tell us to use physical touch to correct them, using a butt-tap or backward force on the leash. What you are doing here is correcting their behavior by adding something negative (collar correction) for pulling ahead. Instead of adding negativity to the situation, add redirection instead.

Redirection would be to use a command or behavioural response currently in the canine’s repertoire to change their leash pulling into a proper on-leash heel. For myself and Zoom, I could say “touch,” which is his cue to turn to me and touch my open palm with his nose, or “look at me,” which is his cue to make eye contact with me. In either case, the situation has been turned from a negative one where your canine isn’t listening or walking nicely with you, to a positive one for both. Zoom would stop pulling (which makes me happy) by performing a command (which makes him happy because he gets praise for doing something right).

The Future of Training

Using redirection instead of negative corrective techniques requires patience and practice. However, keeping it positive, calm, and working progressively through these situations without negative influences (caused by adding punishment) will only help to strengthen the bond between caregiver and canine, and promote a very healthy working relationship.

I would love to hear about your experiences using redirection and positive reinforcement in your training journey. If you would like more information on positive training methodology and how redirection can change how you interact with your canine, I would be happy to start that discussion with you.

#caninesbydesign http://www.caninesbydesign.ca

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References:

Dictionary.com (2014). “Redirect”. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/redirect. Accessed on: April 1, 2015.

Don’t Forget to check out the other Canines By Design blog posts such as T.A.P for a better relationship https://caninesbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/t-a-p-a-better-relationship/, and Proofing, https://caninesbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/proofing-what-is-proofing-and-what-to-proof/.  Canines By Design helping canine communities succeed!

Doggin It… I mean Bloggin It For a Year! Keep on Waggin!

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Today marks the one year anniversary of the Canines By Design blog, and actually, really, the one year anniversary of starting my adventure writing and sharing information with the world about my experiences with canines.

A very supportive family and amazing post-secondary academic experiences helped catalyze the dream of starting my own business that focuses on improving canine lives in our community. There is academic literature being published on a fairly regular basis now that surrounds canine welfare and behaviour and it is up to those of us that have decided to be a voice for canines to continue to learn and help spread this knowledge into our communities.

Canines By Design has created quite a little following of people over various social platforms in the last year, and I wanted to thank all of you for the support and interest in reading what I put up here.  I like to think our little community is drawn together by our like-mindedness towards canines, and our desire to learn as much as we can so that we can be there for them just like they always are for us.

Our positive and inclusionary approach with our canines will become the societal norm, replacing older beliefs with academic proof. Canine behaviour and welfare will stop being a “mystery”, and everyone will be able to share in the benefits of canine companionship!  Spread the word!  Change is a happenin’! 🙂

So THANKS for reading!  And THANKS for the support!  But Most of all, THANK YOU for loving your canine(s)!

Keep checking back each week as Canines By Design continues to explore all things Canine!  ~woof~

Came across this video of dogs underwater in slow motion! Enjoy!

Why Novelty Is Key To Canine Training

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Out For A Walk

Out For A Walk

One concept that I revisit often with clients and when I see other training teams in action is proofing. In fact, proofing was the topic of my second blog post ever, which you can access here. How often have we talked with a friend or another canine caregiver and heard that “normally they will listen” or “they have never done that before”? Well I am here to show you how a three letter word, NEW, will help your canine achieve the ability to stay “cool as a cucumber” and know how to act appropriately no matter what is going on around them.

Quickly, proofing or the concept of proofing with dogs, refers to the act of practicing already learned instructions (e.g. sit) in different places with different stimuli around. By doing so, we increase the efficacy of that instruction, or to put it another way, we increase the reliability that the instruction will be completed by the canine when asked no matter what is happening or going on around them.

New and novel things, items, and stimuli are just experiences, objects, and animals that we have yet to encounter in our lives. An extreme example is this, for many of us that live in Canada, the sight of a Lion would likely be a new a novel thing, but for someone that grew up in Central Africa, or who have been on Safari’s before, this sight isn’t necessarily something that will elicit an “oooo and awwww” reaction. A less extreme and maybe more realistic example would be a person trying out a new ethnicity of food. New smells, tastes, appearances and textures can be overwhelming for the uninitiated who is flooded with plate after plate of unknowns. But if that same person was eased in to the new food and was able to order a familiar item alongside a new an novel one, they will be much more open to the experience as a whole. They would be more likely to look back on it fondly than if they were traumatized by textures and smells they never thought could come from food.

Novelty applies for dogs as well. Novelty comes in many forms in our surrounding environments. It can be a surface they are walking on, the smells around them, the sounds, another new dog, or a new person walking them, a new walking harness, and even smaller changes like the time of day and lighting level (e.g. walking in the dark at night), the fact you are using a new treat for training, or that there is a new ball being used in the dog park. Small changes make a big difference!

For those of us who have spent time training and working with service dogs, we try to cover off as many of these “NEW” things that a service dog would encounter in their lives so that when it comes up again, and they are helping out their service partner, they will know what they need to do, not be surprised by what they encounter, and will still get the job done.

For the rest of us, proofing can be a bit of a new concept so lets use an example familiar to many of us, “sitting” inside the house, and “sitting” outside the house. Generally speaking, if the sit instruction has been taught using positive reinforcement, when we say sit, they should sit. And in this example, inside the house, this is exactly what we get. It also should be mentioned that in this example, I have a young puppy who has just learned sit, but because it is new, we have only practiced it inside so far. But at this point, I ask “Spot” to sit, and he sits. Now, Spot and I go out front of the house. We are going about our activities and I politely ask Spot to sit. No response. I wait 15-18 seconds to let him think it through, but still no response. What changed? Same command, same technique and procedures were used to ask and re-ask the instruction.

The major change occurred when we went outside into a new environment. We are in a new place, with new stimuli and a young puppy who hasn’t experienced it before. Like the person who was overwhelmed with new smells and tastes, this in itself can overwhelm them and make it hard to listen and think. Like being flooded with lights and sounds at a rock concert, this new place is full of stimuli that will contribute to “sit” being less effective outside.

So what can we do? Well this is where proofing is so powerful. Proofing can be thought of as practicing an already learned instruction or behaviour with a dash of novelty incorporated. Each time we practice the “sit” with Spot, we can make small changes to the environment, incorporating new and novel aspects, which will help Spot solidify the learned instruction in a variety of situations. For example, once he can sit inside, and sit outside by the front door, I will have him sit on a new and novel surface (e.g. tile, or a drain grate, or grass), proofing that surface. I could then practice sit when there is another novel aspect (e.g. there are other dogs in the vicinity [first farther away, then very gradually closer and closer over time]). By going through this process of practicing instructions and proofing them with a variety of stimuli, we can help teach our canines how the boundaries and behaviours that we have already taught them expand and apply out into the community.