In this picture, something’s clearly caught Lily’s attention. (It’s probably Nemo hiding behind a shrub – they like to play hide and seek.) This is called a distraction. The bane of a dog owner’s existence, the distractions. They’re everywhere! Another dog, visitors, a dead bird, a bouncing ball, the smell of a hamburger on the grill — you don’t have to go very far to run into a distraction.
The mistake some dog owners make is thinking that if their dog knows a behavior in class or at home, the dog knows the behavior. Wrong. The dog knows the behavior in that specific place under those specific circumstances. Add in some distractions and you’ve got a dog who can’t do what you’ve asked. Not because he’s willful or stubborn or hard headed. But because you’re asking too much of him.
Work with distractions, not against them. That means using a distraction as a "teachable moment." If your dog really wants to greet the visitors, ask him to sit first to earn that privilege. If he sits, he gets to say hi. If not, he doesn’t get to say hi. The important thing to remember when working with distractions is to keep them low enough that your dog is able to be successful. That’s really important – we’re looking for success, not looking for failure. So maybe if your dog is too riled up to greet guests at the front door, he’s behind a baby gate for 15 or 20 minutes until everyone’s settled (including your dog), and then you bring him on a leash to say hello to the visitors.
Distractions vary from dog to dog – what is irresistible to one dog, another dog barely notices. Your dog is in an individual – work with him and his preferences. Once he realizes that his behavior allows (or doesn’t allow) him access to the things he loves, you’ll be on your way to a well behaved dog!
Buddy’s main distraction is small animals. Small dogs, rabbits, squirrels, and anything else that will run away from him he will chase. I’m currently working with him on our newest addition, a baby bunny. He watches it all the time, and he really wants to get it. I don’t think his main goal is to kill it, but he is so crazy about the bunny! Any tips?
Laurie Luck, CPDT says
Work Buddy at a distance where he’s able to look at the bunny, but can still manage to look at you as well. You can use a really yummy treat to reward Buddy the instant he looks at you. If Buddy can’t look at you, you’ve got him too close to the bunny. Once Buddy’s really good with this, he’ll see the bunny, then look at you for the yummy treat. In other words bunny = yummy goodie!
Let me know how you and Buddy progress with this distraction!
Thanks! I’ll definitely put it into practice and let you know how it goes! 🙂