Distraction Training

For the first time this Great Dane sees an animal that is seemingly closer in size to him than all of the dogs he passes on a walk.

One of the top requests we get with dog training is overcoming distractions. A dog can listen great in the house but as soon as you go outside and distractions present themselves, it can look like utter chaos.

People often make things difficult on themselves by attempting to heel a dog that doesn’t know heel, when they are hyper, in their own neighbourhood, past high level distractions. You almost couldn’t make that harder if you tried.

In my lifetime I have already seen quite the change with dogs and how they are trained. As a kid I wanted a dog. We lived in a small farm town and at that time it was just thought of that if you live in town you don’t have a dog. You only have a dog if you live on a farm. So I wanted to move to a farm so we could get a dog. Now when I travel back home I see a lot of dogs in town.

When dogs lived on a farm the distractions pretty well stayed the same. You might get the odd deer going through, or a coyote passing close by. The dogs would bark and chase it off. The farm was their territory and they had that imaginary line in their minds as to what it was, and they protected that line. Pretty simple.

Now with dogs living in urban settings, you are walking through all kinds of territories, and all kinds of dogs and people are passing through their territory as well. The stimulus has increased greatly over what it once was.

With any new thing a dog sees they will often wonder if it is predator or prey; friend or foe. As a human it would be as if you felt you had to greet every person on a walk and were unsure if they were friendly or not. Would they just want to shake hands and say hi, or would they want to hurt you? With rabbits and squirrels it would be as if you saw toy RC cars with a thousand dollars in cash strapped to it driving around. If you chase it and caught it, you just might be able to keep that thousand dollars for yourself. The odd new distraction a dog had never seen before would be as if you saw the odd rhinoceros in a backyard. Then what you thought was the most venomous snake crossing your path. Maybe a killer robot.

Things where you just couldn’t help but stare and concentrate on. If someone you were with was talking to you, you wouldn’t hear them because you were concentrating so much on these distractions.

We ask a lot of our dogs these days. We want them to walk nicely (which is one of the hardest behaviours to master) while they are hyper, walking through a bunch of other territories, with all kinds of distractions. When you understand how dogs think it is no wonder so many dogs struggle with this.

With clients we go over how to properly increase distractions, what things to start with, and how to troubleshoot problems as you progress. No two dogs are the same. We have worked with thousands of dogs at our location near the same distractions and you can get wildly different results. What works for one will not work at all for another. The key is understanding the different types of dogs, how they think, and the tools and techniques available to overcome those issues.

We especially seem to help a lot of clients whose dogs are not food motivated, or maybe they come snatch a treat and run off again.

Some of the more memorable requests of clients we helped:

One of our clients had their dog get hit by a car, rolled underneath the car, but didn’t hurt him. Then he thought he was invincible and could really take on any car. We taught him to stay on the acreage and not chase cars anymore.

Had a client whose dog chased a grizzly bear. Did not come back when called. Luckily in that case the dog didn’t come running back with bear in tow.

Another lived on a property southwest of Calgary. 2pm in the afternoon was out for a quad ride with his dogs. One stopped to poo so he waited for that dog. The other ran ahead. Heard a yelp. Cougar killed his dog. Incredibly sad. Had to teach the dogs to all stay very close when out and not wander ahead or behind.

Had a client from BC who spent a lot of time in the bush. He said his dogs learned the “come” command meant that dad has spotted a deer and doesn’t want us to chase, but instead of not chasing it let’s run off like maniacs looking for it! We retrained what the word “come” meant 🙂 .

Lastly was a client who lived on an acreage and his dog liked to chase his horses. The neighbour was moving his cows back in a month and told him if the dog chased his cows he would shoot the dog. Taught the dog to leave the horses and cows alone.

Point being, sometimes getting a dog to listen or overcome distractions can mean the difference between life and death.

If your dog is struggling with distractions send us an e-mail at Tyson@DogSquad.ca or give us a call 1-403-224-2224. It is one of my favorite things to help clients overcome. Give your dog the gift of having an amazing life because you trust them to listen and take them to all kinds of cool places.