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Training with distractions

A lot of dogs have trouble focusing on training when there are other dogs or distractions nearby. But are the distractions really the problem...?

Yes, sometimes they probably are. Particularly intact males of a certain age can have a really hard time with working for the trainer’s reinforcers when there are dogs around, particularly if they are not used to training with distractions.

But a significant number of people who are having trouble with their dogs when there are distractions nearby should actually stop worrying so much about the distractions. They should instead focus on achieving FLUENCY with as many behaviors as possible.

A dog capable of voluntarily offering sits, downs, heel position, paw-targeting a mouse pad or other behaviors with speed and precision approximately 15-20 times in 60 seconds in a distraction-free environment, can in most cases perform the same behaviors excellently with distractions as well – even if the dog hasn’t been trained much around these distractions before.

In a nutshell – if the behavior itself is trained well enough, the distractions lose much of their power. However, if a lot of your dog’s behaviors are dependant on on luring to one degree or another, or if they lack fluency in other ways, you can train around distractions until you go blue in the face. You will probably still have difficulty with new distractions...

So instead of making the effort to go practice at the dog training club every day (although that can be fun), a better training effect is often achieved by perfecting behaviors at home in the back yard, with no distractions. Then after a few weeks you will bring your perfect, fluent foundation skills back to the training club again - and notice the difference in your dog!

Morten Egtvedt

Canis Clickertraining Academy