How to Teach Your Dog to Ignore Distractions
This is a problem for many people. Your dog is behaving just fine, and then spots a rabbit, another, or some other person and takes off. This can be frustrating and embarassing.
Distractions are stimuli that may entice a dog to break from command. “Proofing” is exposing your dog to distractions. The purpose is to teach the dog in a controlled setting that it must obey your commands despite whatever is happening nearby.
Taking every dog through every step isn’t mandatory, but do so with animals whose working environments are highly stressful. Always condition at the level of its real-world environment.
During initial exposures to distractions, begin with familiar basics. Using Stay as an example, start with brief, short-distance, on-leash Stays, not prolonged, Out-of-sight work. As conditioning implies higher-stress situations than those to which your dog is accustomed, start with work in which he’s confident. Complicated obedience can be added as you progress together.
No distraction should appear threatening. Your dog was born with a drive to protect himself as well as you, and to contrive a setting intended to counter that drive would be unsettling in the extreme. Lastly, recognize that during distraction training, you know what’s coming, distraction-wise – as well as what’s expected, but your dog doesn’t. As always, be persistent, gentle, and firm.