header
logo bottom

 
Building Distractions

To effectively teach our dogs to respond appropriately under increasing distraction we must follow a few simple rules. 

 

1.      If your dog is not ready to perform under a certain level of distraction, don’t ask him to.  You are not only inviting him to fail, but by asking him to do something that he likely will not do, he is learning that he needn’t always listen to you.  This will make training much more difficult as well as reduce your dog’s reliability in the long run.

 

2.     Do not increase distraction to a new level until it is reliable at the previous level.

 

3.     While training, do not relate cues to anything other than good things.  For example, while training ‘come’ if you must call your dog over to you to take a sock from him, make it a positive experience by giving him something better than the sock.

 

4.     When increasing distraction, you must also increase the potency of the rewards.  You may find that kibble is a perfect reward at home, it may even be effective in class, but you will likely find some situation, at some point, in which it is ineffective.  The same goes for Rollover, steak, and roast beef.  All this means is that the distraction (whatever it may be) is more ‘mind occupying’ than the reward.  You should use a graduated reward system, so that when you need a ‘high value reward’, it is just that, not something the dog gets regularly.

 

5.     Begin fading rewards once the dog is fluent with a certain behavior at a certain level of distraction.  For example, once your dog is 98% reliable at ‘sit’ under ‘level 2’ distraction (see below) you may begin working ‘sit’ at ‘level 3’ distraction.  At this point you may begin slowly fading rewards for successes at ‘level 2’.  Personally, I prefer fading at 2 steps back.  So, I wait until I am working on ‘level 4’ until beginning to fade rewards at ‘level 2’.

 

6.     Avoid using cues until the dog understands the behavior, then put them together, so the dog can relate the word to the already fluent behavior.  This speeds up training (and understanding) immensely.

 

The following is the beginning of a sample outline for increasing distraction effectively (for teaching any behavior.)  It should be altered to fit your lifestyle as well as your dog.  When making changes to the plan, be sure to consider all variables when selecting a replacement distraction.  One distraction that I have used as a ‘moderate level’ distraction (the use of a ball, starting in level 3) may need to be changed according to your dogs drives.  If your dog is highly reactive to balls you must change this to something else, and put ‘ball work’ in a much higher level.  The same may go for other suggestions.  If something is too distracting for your dog to work with, you have either progressed too quickly, or that ‘something’ should be placed in a higher level.

 

Once cue response is 98% reliable, (for at least 3 consecutive sessions) collect $200 and pass ‘Go’ (move on to the next level.)

 

Level 1 Distraction (Zero)

·          In kitchen, nothing cooking, no one else around, no cat, no ‘anything’.

·          In living room, no TV, no one else around, no birds chirping outside the window, no ‘anything’.

·          In bathroom, no water running, no one else around, no ‘anything

·          In bedroom no one else around, no ‘anything’

·          In the basement, laundry room, etc. all with zero distraction.

 

Level 2 Distraction

·          In kitchen while moving around, no food odors, no one else around.

·          In kitchen with someone else washing dishes.

·          In the living room with someone else quietly reading.

·          In the bathroom, having just finished showering, wearing robe and towel wrapped around your head.

·          In bedroom while making bed.

 

Level 3 Distraction

·          In kitchen while calmly rolling a ball across the floor.

·          In kitchen with smells of dinner cooking (separate from previous.)

·          In living room with someone else dusting.

·          In bathroom, having just showered wearing robe, towel on head, and face mask.

·          In bathroom, with someone else in the shower or brushing their teeth.

·          In bedroom, with someone else making bed.

 

Level 4 Distraction

·          In kitchen with two people quietly rolling a ball to each other.

·          In kitchen with someone actively preparing dinner (complete with cooking odors.)

·          In living room with two people waltzing.

·          In bathroom with someone else singing in the shower.

·          In bedroom with two people paying ‘Yahtzee’ or ‘Trouble’ on the bed (fairly noisy games.)

 

Level 5 Distraction

·          In kitchen with some kibble scattered on the floor.

·          In living room with 2 people playing ‘hide and seek’.

·          In bathroom while bouncing a ball.

·          In bedroom, with people jumping on the bed.

 

Level 6 Distraction

·          Outside in very quiet yard.

·          Outside in very quiet yard.

·          Outside in very quiet yard.

·          Outside in very quiet yard.

 

Level 7 Distraction

·          Outside in very quiet yard.

·          In the kitchen with food on the floor.

·          In a quiet yard while puttering in the garden.

·          On a familiar (but very quiet) sidewalk

·          In the dining room while everyone else is eating dinner.

 

Level 8 Distraction

·          In a quite yard, with someone else puttering in the garden.

·          On a familiar sidewalk with a stranger a block away.

·          In a totally quiet, familiar park.

·          In a friends house, with no one else in the room.

 

Level 9 Distraction

·          In a quiet yard with two other people chatting (at least one of which is familiar.)

·          On a familiar sidewalk with people at a distance of half a block (no dogs.)

·          In a familiar park, with people at a distance (no dogs.)

·          At a friends house, with the friend in the room.

 

Level 10 Distraction

·          In yard with 2 other people moving around.

·          On familiar sidewalk with people walking past.

·          On new, but totally quite sidewalk (new place, no one else around.)

·          In familiar park with people walking past.

·          At friends house with friend and new people present.

 

Level 11 Distraction

·          In familiar yard with 2 other people in yard and another dog nearby (but not in yard.)

·          On familiar sidewalk with people walking by, with a dog a block away.

·          In familiar park, with people walking around, and another dog at a distance.

·          In a new, but totally quiet park.

·          In an empty ballpark.

 

Level 12 Distraction

·          In familiar yard with friends over for BBQ.

·          On familiar sidewalk with dog walking by on other side of street.

·          On sidewalk in new place with people walking past.

·          In familiar park with dogs walking at a distance.

·          At friends house with a few people over, interacting with each other.

·          In the ballpark with the clean-up crew.

 

Level 13 distraction

·          In familiar yard with people playing croquet.

·          In familiar park with dogs at a distance of 30 feet.

·          On sidewalk in new place (another new place) with dog walking on other side of street.

·          At friends house with dog in other room (after meet & greet)

·          In new park (another new) with people walking by and dogs at a distance.

·          At ballpark with the first of the crowd arriving at a game.

 

Level 14 distraction

·          In familiar yard with friends and strangers playing volleyball.

·          In familiar park with dogs at a distance of 20 feet.

·          Another new sidewalk with a new dog on the other side of the street.

·          At friends house with familiar dog in the same room.

·          In ballpark with a few scattered people and dogs at a distance.

·          In ballpark with people in the stands and people still arriving.

 

Level 15 distraction

·          On familiar sidewalk with dogs walking on same side of street.

·          In familiar park with dogs at distance of 10 feet.

·          On familiar sidewalk with kids walking home from school.

·          In own home with new dog visiting (after meet & greet.)

·          At a bustling ballpark.

 

Level 16 distraction

·          On familiar sidewalk with many kids and dogs.

·          In familiar park with dogs all around.

·          In own yard with visiting dog.

 

Insert steps here

Incorporate toys, food, dogs, snowplows, birds, the ‘A & W bear’ (people in costumes), ping pong tournaments, any sports events, fluttering garbage bags, any thing you can think of.

 

 

Written by Sonja Desjardins

dog