Teach your dog to listen, even when distractions are high.
A dog who’s been taught to listen well, even in the presence of distractions seems like an amazing feat. Impossible? No way! It’s simply a matter of planning and learning about your dog, then using the things they find valuable to build reinforcement and value in distracting situations. To teach your dog good listening skills in the face of distraction: Make a list of your dog’s 5 favorite reinforcers and rank them in order from highest value to lowest, for example:
Squeaky tennis ball
Whatever you picked up at the market
Now if you always train in a sterile environment your dog will never be able to work around or through those distractions! WHY? Because you haven’t trained for it!! Now how to do that in a training situation. For example, if you are headed off to dog school, you wouldn’t bring the “whatever you picked up at the market” as it is your dog’s least favorite reinforcer. The value of another dog will trump the value of the tennis ball etc. Arm yourself with squeaky tennis ball or toy(1) when you are headed into a situation where you will have to deal with your dog’s toughest distraction, other dogs (1). If you are going to pick up your child from school where there will be other kids, this still requires a strong reinforcer, but number 2 on your lists should be a good match for each other. Arm yourself with hotdog or cheese/ liver to help build reinforcement value for focusing on you despite the presence of a strong distraction like kids. Remember that every dog is different. But you have to train for those things. Your not going to not run into them or your not going to run into the SAME 8 dogs or SAME 8 people out walking. So working your dog from the beginning builds that respect and value of YOU! Repetition builds success, so practice often and have fun!