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Distraction Training

Distraction Training is the ability to have your dog focus on you with distractions present. There are several things that have to be in place first for this to be effective:

  1. Pack Structure - Your dog has to see you as the leader.
  2. Bond - Your dog has to want to do things with you. Fetch and Tug are two excellent games to build that bond.
  3. Obedience - What do you want your dog to do around distractions? Your dog must be proficient at obedience in low level distractions.

There is one thing I can guarantee when you increase distractions and that is, a dog will make mistakes

when you increase distractions. Each time you jump to a higher level of distraction it can feel like you have done no training whatsoever. Your dog will start to get better and then you will increase distractions again and the whole process starts over. I train dogs to a very high level of distractions so that anything else seems very easy to the dog.

The German Shepherd (Delta) has had hundreds if not thousands of hours in training. It can be easy to look at this video and think this level of training will come quickly but it will often be several months of training working at it everyday. When I chose Delta as a puppy and began training I thought she might never make a good demonstration dog because she had so many problems with barking and even aggression at an early age (at 3.5 months of age I tried taking a bone away from her and I thought she was going to rip my hand off). Luckily I stayed persistent and kept on training. I remember after 2 weeks of training where I would go into town like you see in the video having her work for her kibble and she was finally quiet and focused on me. I came home and told my wife how exciting it was that she was actually starting to focus on me.

When we first brought these chickens home we had them in a dog crate in the back of our vehicle. When Delta first saw them she was barking and growling, she did not like them at all. Delta loves chasing birds and I thought I would never see the day that she would co-exist with them peacefully. Because I had all of the foundation set in place with Delta, her and Enzo were able to be in the yard with the chickens and not pay any attention to them at all within 5 days. For some dogs this would be much longer because a lot of the groundwork has to be set in place. We don’t treat our dogs like humans. We want our dogs to be happy so we treat them like dogs. Somewhere along the way it became popular belief that spoiling a dog makes them happy. This of course is completely untrue. The more you make a dog work and provide clear leadership the happier a dog is going to be. If a person wants to spoil their dog and not provide leadership I can guarantee they will never train their dog to be proficient at high level distractions unless their dog is a pure Omega. If that dog is a Beta or an Alpha by nature, they will never have success.

Stay persistent and keep at it. If you have never been down this road it can feel like you will never get there. You may think that your dog is the one and only that can’t do this. I used to think the same until I found each dog I did the training with would eventually do excellent. The best word of advice is to pretend that you cannot fail. In some cases a dog may only be fed their meal when they are focusing on you with distractions present (like I had to do with Delta for two weeks around other dogs and people). I have seen dogs go from wanting to kill other animals to being perfectly fine with other animals.

So here is the formula for distraction training:

  1. Teach your dog obedience and games in low level distractions.
  2. Practice this over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
  3. Increase distractions - it will now feel like you have done no training whatsoever.
  4. Practice this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
  5. Increase distractions - it will now feel like you have done no training whatsoever.
  6. Practice this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
  7. Repeat this process until you have trained to a much higher level than you want your dog to be good at. By training to a much higher level, your everyday life is going to seem very easy to your dog.

That’s it that’s all :)

Distraction Training - Horse Intro

One dog at a time on a long line.

  1. Focus on you through obedience or games.
  2. Practice with distraction nearby but do not let the dog go to greet or sniff the distraction.

Working for food, toys or attention are great motivators.