We make a joke that when either we or our pets get distracted we say "squirrel!" I could have said this at least two times per day this past week when I sat down and tried to write this blog. The date started on this blog is Sept 2nd and today is... well past that date and then some. I had clinics to plan and private client sessions to plan, laundry to do, and the list kept going as my focus did not. As it is a funny way to say we lost focus it can be true and tough for our dogs when training in high distracted environments. It's not that they are disobeying or ignoring us on purpose. They either don't know what we are asking of them or are too distracted with what else is going on around them. Starting in a low distracted environment is one of the keys for successful dog training. Once your dog has learnt the skill and has had repeated success with it then the distractions can be slowly increased to your dogs level. Remember to always set your dog up for success, if you think that they may not be successful you have increased that distraction level too much and need step it back.
Here are examples of distraction levels
In your home with no one else around
In an indoor classroom with no or a small quantity of other dogs and lots of space between you
In different rooms of your home with tv, music on or other members around
In the front or backyard with sounds, smells, birds and more
At a park or walking on sidewalk with dogs or people in the distance
In a busy classroom
At the vet or groomer
On walks past other dogs and people
In your home with dinner on table
At a pet friendly store
Practice your skills in all environments to help your dog with these distractions. Make your own list of your dogs distraction levels and practice with them. Keep in mind that they may know the skill in the low distracted area but in order to gain reliability in high distracted areas practice will be essential.
To be able to finish this blog that isn't even long I had to go to a coffee shop where I had no other distractions and no squirrels!! I found my low distracted area and was successful!