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Working with Dogs that Become Distracted While Heeling

Imagine walking in your neighborhood and it is a beautiful day the wind is blowing slightly. A car goes by the noise distracts you. You walk a little farther, you smell beef barbecuing and it makes your mouth water. You hear children in the distance laughing and calling to one another. All of these noises, movements, smells, sights and touches are distractions. The same is true for our dogs or puppies. They are distracted by smells, sights, sounds, motion or the touch sensations. The reactions are not much different then ours. Dogs may sniff at the different smells. Bark at something they may want to warn you about, or turn to look at something. The only time this may seem bothersome to us is if they pull us by the leash, bark too loudly, or cause us to become impatient. How do you work with a distraction that may be causing your dog to over react? One of the rules is to go the opposite direction of the distraction but this can ruin your walk if you are constantly going the opposite direction. Here is a list of dog training suggestions we at “Angel Dogs” put together to help you learn how to work with distractions.

How to Diminish the Dog Distractions:

• Decide which distraction you want to work on, for example; bouncing balls, children playing in the yards, a dog approaching in the distance, etc
• Let say you want to work on a dog approaching. You need a partner who will have a neutral dog on leash sitting in the distance
• First you need to see how close you can come to the neutral dog before your dog starts to react this is referred to as the safe training zone, the distance between the dog and the distraction where you have control
• Then you begin to work your dog in that safety zone with basic obedience you can use a training clicker as a distraction and treats
• Start with short training sessions and slowly increase the time
• When you feel comfortable in that safety zone then you may decide to go closer or have the neutral dog come closer
• Continue with the basic obedience heel, sit, stay, down and come
• Keep working your dog until the neutral dog can get closer
• Depending on the dog this process can take a few days or a few months do not rush with the lesson plan
• When your dog behaves at all distances around the neutral dog have that dog start walking with its handler with you and your dog, if needed begin with some distance and while on the walk start closing that gap slowly, I suggest side by side training first than later one dog behind the other
• As your dog becomes proficient with this skill add a second dog than a third keep repeating the training schedule as needed
• Skate Board Parks, soccer fields, basketball courts can present another form of distraction, motion and noise which often can get a dog nervous and can be an excellent training area
• First find out how close you can get to the activity than walk your dog back and forth to work off nervous energy and achieve a calmer state
• Spend only a few minutes there and when you leave reward your dog with treats or some form of play
• Throughout the weeks move closer to the activity take your time and make it a positive experience
• Reward your dog for calm energy and if your dog starts to get nervous put more distance from that activity and work in that area
• The more you do this type of training throughout the week the faster the dog will learn that the noises and motion is not going to hurt him

Key items while working with your dog

• Your voice is a great tool to keep your dog’s attention
• Keep your energy level low if you get nervous your dog will get nervous
• A squeaking noise you can make with a dog toy
• dog treats, clicker or a lure such as a ball or tug
• learn the “leave it” command
• basic obedience commands
• Remember to work on distractions daily in order to keep your skills at hand and to condition your dog be persistent, consistent and give lots of praise for a job well done
• Treat your dog or reward your dog in some fashion when he or she is demonstrating good behavior or manners
• Have fun during your dog training session and make it fun for your dog they will learn faster and look forward to training sessions
• Time please do not rush some dogs will learn in days some in months

About Eileen Tonick

Angel Dogs, provides dog training, puppy training, dog agility training, dog obedience training and therapy dog training throughout the Phoenix, Arizona Metro Area.
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