The Baby Bunny Distraction; Working through Distractions in Dog Training
My dog’s obedience is nearly perfect! I am a dog trainer after all! When we head out to the training field in my back yard, she is astounding; in my mind I can hear the crowds cheer as she gazes up at me with pure adoration and excitement, immediately executing each command.
Remember when I admitted to being a little lazy when it came to my dogs lately? Well that work I have been doing is totally paying off…
That is until I take her somewhere other than MY yard and MY training field.
Because I am usually working with other people’s dogs and running dog obedience classes, she doesn’t get much work with other dogs and distractions.
Some dog trainers want you to think they are perfect and they don’t deal with the same problems their clients have, I guess because they think that lessens their client’s respect for them. But I am all about honesty and admittance and I am here to admit…we all do! No one is perfect and we all have the same struggles.
So recently I have started training with another group of people; and let’s just say from the outward appearance of my dog’s struggles they might not even know I am a dog trainer.
It is as if my dogs become deaf when we hit that training field and they see other dogs.
They try to convince me they have never heard the word SIT and they will only heel if the vantage point of what everyone else is doing is conducive to the direction we are headed. Otherwise it is like I have swivel bobble head dogs with ADHD.
Sometimes as I want to crumple up into a ball and blubber. I think I can see them smirking or outright laughing (as long as their vantage point of what everyone else is doing is conducive to the direction I am crumpled into that ball; otherwise I just have a view of their furry butt cheeks).
But, in all honesty I expect it! I have been a dog trainer long enough to know that my credentials don’t spare me from the humility only a dog can deliver.
Working through distractions has to be TAUGHT. It does not matter how impeccable your training is if you can’t count on it in other environments or without a multitude of distractions; unless you will NEVER be taking your dog out of this particular environment.
So, although I KNOW my dog knows “Sit” I almost have to go back to square one, with patience (this is key) and TEACH her “Sit” again amongst distractions.
You see, dogs don’t think like we humans do. Sit means sit no matter where you are to us people. But in your little dog’s mind: “Sit” means “Sit in the backyard” or in the house. They need to be taught in all types of environment in order to begin to generalize that Sit means Sit EVERYWHERE.
Backing up and retraining your dog in a number of environments will be faster, because your dog already has the foundation of knowing the basics command. But, you must back up and be patient or this stage is liable to be frustrating for you both and take longer. This is often the point that a person “gives up” on his dog because of the social humiliation and thinking the dog is being belligerent.
I have used this comparison before but I will use it again; it would be like taking a 6 or 7 year old child to the zoo and having them do Math or English homework. Do they know how to do it? YES, but is that environment conducive to LEARNING? No.
Try to look at it from your dog’s point of view: they finally get some “social interaction” and you expect them to do something tedious and boring!
All you need to do is give yourself enough space in between people and other dogs and go back to learning and having fun! You must be more exciting and FUN than the distractions that are going on for your dog to give up the distraction and enjoy working with you. Eventually you can move closer and closer to the distractions and use the same principles.
Once you have conquered one new distraction or environment, it is time to add another environment or more distractions!
Move slowly, but by doing so with positive reinforcement and fun you are setting yourself up for that flawless, enviable obedience you so desire.
Cut Yourself a Break
We all struggle! Even National Dog Obedience competitors have set this same basic foundation!
And, understand there are sometimes uncontrollable distractions; like baby bunnies.
When I was at training on Sunday, there were probably 4 of us on the field, all with dogs at different stages in their obedience.
Now, no one really trains for this scenario (unless you are training assistance or working dogs) but one of the dogs broke his stay. He is about 2 and has good quality obedience but is still new and in the learning stages.
One of the obedience trainers chastised the owner, that her dog broke his stay and then that she wasn’t loud enough and he didn’t instantly come back. But in all reality, that is ridiculous. Even dogs at the highest level of titling and competition would likely brake to pursue a band of baby bunnies scuttled across the field. I was just lucky.
Sometimes things happen that you just can’t control, whereas you can try to set up more and more difficult scenarios and train for many situations you must remember your dog is a DOG and he will make mistakes no matter how many titles he has or how flawless his obedience is otherwise!
Just do your best to add as many distractions as possible and train in as many places as possible and you will reap the rewards of a well trained dog!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.