Distraction Training For Your Dog

This blog will help alleviate a lot of stress for many dog owners.  Distraction Training is something every dog must go through if you want them to be proficient with obedience and listen in all distractions.  When I am training a dog out here for a client it is usually for 7 weeks.  The things a dog will learn are:

  1. Sit
  2. Down
  3. Stay
  4. Loose Leash (Heel in a few weeks)
  5. Recall
  6. Place
  7. And a few others.

Can I answer Yes to “Does the dog understand all of these commands in the first week?”  Yes I can definitely answer yes to that.  Then why does a dog stay here for another 6 weeks?  The answer is distraction proofing.  Just because a dog knows sit in your house does not mean they will sit in front of a stranger or around new dogs or ones they know.  Most everyone gets very frustrated and mad at their dog for not listening.

When you spend as much time training dogs as I do you recognize many patterns and this is a sure-fire pattern:

  • Every time you go up a level in distractions your dog will screw it up and sometimes screw it up a lot.  Don’t worry this is the norm and not the exception.  I know without a doubt the dog will make mistakes and it is my job to help them through by breaking it down into easy steps again.
  • When you stay consistent and practice regularly the dog will get better each time you practice (so long as you communicate properly – we can show you that part).  Then when the dog is proficient at that distraction I increase the distractions again and they will screw up like crazy again.  The key is to not get frustrated here because that is just the way learning works.

Treat distractions like Math for your dog.  In Grade One you learn Addition.  Now that you know Addition does not mean you automatically know Calculus.  You must learn that in stages over years of your life.  Luckily your dog can learn these things in days or months.

This is what you don’t want to do when you go up a distraction level:

  1. Don’t get frustrated – a dog will always disconnect and stop listening to the jerk on the end of the leash :)   Frustration is an excellent indication of something is not working.  End on a positive note and go think how you can be a better leader and communicate more clearly to your dog.  People try to make too big of leaps in training as a common mistake.
  2. Don’t repeat the command over and over again – English (or any other language) is a dog’s least preferred method of communication.  You must teach them with body language and easy steps and then associate it to your English command.
  3. A proper working level is where the dog is distracted but you can still get the dog to pay a bit of attention to you.  If you have completely lost communication with the dog you have gone up too high of a distraction level or you are too close to that distraction.  You must back away and try again.  If that doesn’t work go further away or away altogether.

So what advantage is there in going to see a dog trainer?  The answer to that is experience.  I can tell you from experience what works and what doesn’t work.  Every dog will be different so some things work for some dogs and not for others.  I can also point out how small you should break that exercise into.  Sometimes what you think is a simple exercise is actually training 4 or 5 things at the same time and you need to break those into separate exercises. 

When you communicate effectively to your dog, training is a ton of fun and you won’t want to stop teaching your dog new things.  You will get addicted to working with your dog.  You will see them as a stress reliever and not a source of stress.  Instead of wanting to lay on the couch when you get home from a stressful work day you will want to go out and have fun with your dog.  Give us a call if you are wanting to learn the best ways to work with your dog.  We can be reached at 403-224-2224 or Tyson@DogSquad.ca


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