Using Distractions to Your Advantage
There are several key factors that contribute to successful training, the first being CONSISTENCY. Consistency is crucial, not just in training session but also in the language used when we ask our dogs for behaviours outside of training sessions. In other words, asking your dog for behaviours using the exact cue or instruction you use during training. Consistent language will increase the probability of a successful outcome and lead to a stronger bond between you and your dog.
The second key factor is MANAGING your EXPECTATIONS. Often our expectation is far removed from our dog’s actual capability. Managing your expectations is a cornerstone of successful training but one for discussion at another time.
The third critical factor is training with a CONTROLLED INCREASE in DISTRACTION which includes distance and duration. For a quick overview of using The 3 D’s (distraction, distance and duration) have a look at Mr. Darcy Says Teach me Using the 3D’s .
Quite often I hear: “she’s good at home, does everything I ask, but once we leave the house, she is stubborn and just won’t listen”. If you sometimes feel like your dog just doesn’t want to listen then I want you to imagine your dog’s total concentration span as an empty glass. When we expose our dog’s to an environment where their senses are overloaded that glass will fill up very fast and soon it will be full to capacity. This means there’s no more capacity for concentration and they don’t have the ability to “listen” to you any longer. When we put our dogs in an environment where the stimulation they’re exposed to is far too much, they’re just not able to cope or respond to the direction you give them.
So how do we overcome this very real challenge and give our dogs the right exposure so they can and do give us the focus we ask for? The answer is simple. If you undertake a planned approach to distraction training your dog will thank you from the bottom of their heart. Click here to download a practical guide to using distractions in your training.
This is how it works; when you start training any new behaviour, be it sit/stay, lead walking or the all-important recall, you identify different places to do your training in. I recommend at least five different places. Each of these places should have a SLIGHT INCREASE IN DISTRACTION (for example, in your garden or in the supermarket car park) and every time you move to the next level of distraction you begin training that behaviour all over again. In addition, you’ll need to be tuned into your dog’s ability to cope and pay attention in the new environment. If they can’t manage the next level you’ll need to drop back to the previous level i.e. go back to the previous place you trained in. If this should happen, don’t be disheartened, it doesn’t mean failure. Dropping back is just following a process that will, in the end, give you a strong, generalised behaviour.
Click here for a table to help you identify five different locations and levels of distraction. Remember to only move up in distraction level when you have a solid behaviour at the current level. BE MINDFUL NOT TO MAKE IT TOO DIFFICULT TOO SOON.
CONTROLLED INCREASE in DISTRACTION is essential when training lead walking and recall. If lead walking and recall are of concern to you, please keep an eye on our website for our LOOSE LEAD WALKING and WHIPLASH TURN RECALL online training courses which are launching soon. Click here to find out more