I have a nine month old Spoodle and he is great at listening at home but as soon as we go out for a walk he just ignores me. Yesterday, the only way I could catch him to go home was to ask another dog owner to hold him for me. It is a little embarrassing and now I don’t want to take him to the park because I’m the crazy dog owner chasing my puppy around while he visits anybody and everybody. It would be great if you could give me a start in the right direction. Thanks. Liz
Hi Liz, thanks for your question and don’t worry, dog owners are usually a forgiving lot because we have all been there at some stage. Trying to have your dog work through distractions is a very common problem, and the solution lies in measuring your expectations, motivating your dog and consistency in practice.
Often I feel we expect too much from our dogs and we inevitably are left feeling let down. Too often people ignore the most simple behaviours from their dogs, and instead expect their dog to come away from distractions as the first step to training. The first step is to lower your expectations and make a fuss over the small behaviours, like your dog watching you while distractions are around, even do this on lead in the beginning if you need to.
Along with measuring expectations comes understanding your dogs’ threshold point. Your dogs threshold point is the distance at which they are able to concentrate on you if needed while in the presence of a distraction. For some dogs this may be five metres while for others it is 200 metres, become familiar with this invisible line for each distraction and train your dog at this point, over time you will notice the line draw closer to the distractions.
Motivation is another factor you need to consider when working through distractions. You are competing for your dogs attention and if what you have to offer is not good enough why should your dog listen to you? On the other hand if you have some fresh, raw meat, a toy, and are willing to play with your dog, you all of a sudden become much more interesting. Do not forget to take all of these things with you when you go for a walk and reinforce your dog with them for small behaviours.
If you practice reinforcing your dog for looking at you, coming to you and staying close to you on walks you will make these behaviours so strong that they will become habits. For a new dog you are looking at having to do this consistently for at least one year. Liz, it does sound like a lot of work, and there will be days where you will feel frustrated but if you can recognise the small achievements they will soon turn in to big ones.