Capping vs Chasing Corrections

I can’t take credit for this one…. it’s content from my good friend Sean O’Shea of The Good Dog.

It’s something all of our ecollar clients need to know and understand.


Good Dog tip  (by Sean O’Shea) : Chasing versus capping. This is something that stymies many dog owners, especially those with reactive dogs. Chasing, is when your dog begins to escalate (sees another dog for instance), and as every millisecond passes his mind becomes more intense and he becomes more committed to the escalation. Most owners either see the escalation late, or they see it but correct the dog too softly compared to the state he’s in currently. The upshot here is that your dog’s mind is at 4 or a 5 and your correction is at a 2 or a 3. When this happens, your correction/conversation has zero positive impact, and in fact might even contribute to your dog’s escalation.

So now you’ve shared your first correction, but your dog is still intensifying, and you’re getting worried. He’s now at a 6 or a 7, and you quickly attempt intervene with what you feel is a solid correction, but what feels solid to you is a 4 or a 5 correction, and unfortunately your dog is in such a heightened state that even this fairly firm correction doesn’t even register. You may try to quickly sneak another harried correction in, but at this point you’re stressed, nervous, tense, and trying to maintain control of your dog, so your corrections/conversation will be seriously compromised. But more importantly, once your dog is at this point of escalation he’s actually unable to hear you, or de-escalate – you’re headed for explosion avenue!

You’ve just chased your dog into problem land.

The opposite of this is to cap the behavior. If we take the same situation as above, but this time when your dog sees the other dog and begins to escalate (he goes to a 2 or 3) you intervene immediately, and at a level of firmness (perhaps a 4 or a 5) that caps the escalation. The trick is to get ahead of your dog, and prevent the spiral of escalation. You want to correct your dog when his mind is still quiet enough to hear your conversation – which means as soon as the first sign of interest occurs – this is why timing and being tuned-in to your dog is so important – and you need to use a level of firmness that de-escalates the intensity immediately.

The hard part for many owners is that it feels like we’re over correcting, or correcting too firmly for the state of mind the dog is presenting. But that’s the whole catch. If we try to match the correction to the state of mind, we’ll likely never cap it, we’ll always chase it, and we’ll always be behind. Which means you and your dog will struggle. Getting comfortable with correcting above the state of mind offered (and doing so quickly) is essential for successful work with reactive dogs. (Regardless of whether you’re using e-collar or prong.)

Here’s another thing to remember, the longer we wait (many owners play the waiting game: will he react this time?) and the more we under correct or chase, the harder we actually have to correct our dogs. Much better to correct once at 4 or 5 than it is to correct at a 2, a 5, and an 8. Less corrections, less intensity, and if you are consistent, you’ll see far less reactivity in the future, which means less correcting overall. Remember, the earlier you correct, the lower you can correct.

Of course it’s not just about correcting, we need to utilize foundation work (proper heel and structure and rules everywhere) and of course we need to utilize space as an ally to ensure we’re not too close to triggers and causing our dogs to escalate to quickly and to a point where they can’t be successful, but chasing versus capping is a very important concept to understand if we’re to successfully address reactivity issues.

Remember, chasing is doing just that, chasing (being behind) your dog intensity/correction wise until he explodes, capping is getting ahead of your dog intensity/correction wise and preventing the explosion.