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Distractions




I've been going to the dog park agility area early in the morning with Teddy so that we could avoid distractions. Teddy is a dog that has not yet learned how to shut out the noise of the world and focus on his tasking. We have been working through distractions in other scenarios. For this training scenario I was keeping distractions to a minimum as I wanted to get his skills better. I have been trying to get him to apply his directionals in different ways and learn to go to the different obstacles from a further distance off leash. He has been making a bunch of progress.


However, shortly after we started his training this week, someone came in with 2 dogs to the neighboring fenced area. The other dogs focused on distracting Teddy as much as possible. They kept barking at him through the fence and running back and fourth trying to get his attention. Their human completely ignored their behavior.


I had 3 choices in this scenario. I could expect Teddy to perform to the same level he did in other trainings and get angry at him for not being able to perform as he normally would. This would be a very bad choice. I could take him out of the area and give up on training for the day. However, I was only a few minutes into his training session and I didn't want to give up so soon. So I choose my 3rd option as he had a solid base on the agility course.


We adjusted our training plan and focused on working through the distractions instead of my other goals for the day. For this to be successful, I had to lower my expectations. I could not expect the same level of performance from Teddy with the distractions as I could on a normal quiet morning. Instead of keeping him off leash and working at a large distance as I had planned, I had him on leash at first so when his attention wandered off I could bring it back. Most of the training I had him dragging his leash instead of the normal off leash training that we have done other mornings. Instead of more difficult combos we did short and simple exercises. Instead of pushing his distance we tried to keep things short. I evaluated how things were going. As he got tired he started focusing more on the other dogs, so we called it for the day. There is no point practicing bad behaviors. It will just lead to things I will have to correct later. I set him up for success and we were able to accomplish a good distraction session even though it was not what I went to the park to do that morning.


When you are first training a dog you need to do it in as familiar of an environment as possible. Minimize your distractions while the dog is learning. Once the dog is solid, you need to take things on the road. When you start doing that, expect the dog to have a lower performance in a new area. It will take time to build up to the same level of performance. Change your training plan and expectations to account for that. Your dog will not perform the same when faced with new locations and distractions. Set up distractions little by little. Evaluate how your dog is doing. If your training plan is not working, don't be afraid to stop. Set your dog up for sucess.







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