You’re with your dog, playing a fun game of Frisbee and – squirrel! All concentration is diverted to the chase. This is one of the many distractions you and your dog face while going for a walk, playing, or training. If you’ve ever felt that your dog was deliberately ignoring you because there were more interesting things around, you’re not alone. Here, we will talk about what dog training distractions are and how you can curb your dog’s selective hearing.
What to Expect from an Obedient Dog
The obedience that we expect from dogs is not the same as the obedience we expect from, say, a human child. When a child obeys his parent, he is making a calculated decision to submit to their authority, possibly considering the potential consequences of not obeying the parent. Dogs, however, are not going to make these types of rational calculations. Your dog is not being trained to make well thought out decisions, she is being protected and ultimately controlled on cue.
An “obedient dog”, for example, is one that recalls away from other dogs when told to, because he has been trained to follow that order by a command from his owner. A “disobedient” dog may fail to recall entirely from the other dog, but we like to say that he simply just hasn’t been trained to cope with that particular situation.
When you see service dogs calmly leading their owner across the street or patiently waiting on their owner to come, it’s not that these dogs are smarter than yours, they’ve just been distraction trained. If you want your dog to come when you call him, even with other dogs and distractions around, you will need to train specifically for this skill, either by integrating it into your own home training program or selecting a professional obedience training program.
If your dog has already been taught to respond to commands consistently and in many different settings, he can now learn to respond to those same commands around distractions by focusing on only you and ignoring whatever else is happening around him (and not the other way around!). There are five levels of distraction training: teaching your dog to disregard irrelevant visual (sight), auditory (sound), tactile (touch), and olfactory (smell) stimuli, and obeying you even when he thinks he should be socializing with other animals.
In order to successfully train your dog to overcome distractions, you must practice each command while moving him through each level of distraction until he has mastered them all, for each command. Yes, this takes time, patience, and determination to work through, but with a good attitude and sense of humor, you can ultimately get the result you desire.
Of course, no one expects you to try to seek out each type of distraction as they happen naturally to try to train your dog, you will need to create artificial training scenarios, that way you have more control over both the level of the distraction and the dog’s response to it. This is called proofing. Your dog may find some levels easier to work through than others, and some near impossible to master.
Do your best not to get frustrated and make it fun! It takes work, but keeping you and your dog motivated, and starting as early as you can, will make for a well behaved and “obedient” pup. And, if you start to feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, don’t hesitate to bring in a professional. Even just one session with AlphA and Omega Dog Training can move you leaps and bounds ahead of where you are, and keep your progress on track. Our team of trainers, located in Tampa, Cleveland, and Ft. Lauderdale, are ready and willing to lend a helping hand!