Kids are easily distracted but we find ways to keep their attention and keep their interest by coming up with new ideas based on what we know they like. The same goes for puppies. Puppies are just simpler to work with. Really! Distractions can be used to your advantage when training your dog. Thinking of something more interesting doesn’t take a lot of imagination because anything different is more interesting to a puppy. When a young puppy just starts to explore the world around him, everything and anything is a distraction. I can hear you saying, “Ya think?”
Well, think about this. You go to a car dealership to look for a new car, you’re walking around the showroom, and you see the car you’re interested in, and then there it is, as though sent in by central casting, the reddest, shiniest, hottest looking sports car you’ve ever laid eyes on.
That familiar, fleeting, fickle moment is how your puppy will feel if you have a more attractive, interesting distraction to offer him than whatever it is that he was originally distracted by.
Here’s an example. You’re trying to get your puppy to walk down the street or even just the driveway without pulling in all directions trying to sniff the grass, eat a worm or pick up mulch. Call the puppy’s name and squeak his favorite toy to distract him away from the first distraction. Tell him how good he is and keep talking to him as you walk. Repeat this method when he is distracted again. Yes, treats are helpful, but too many treats are unhealthy, cause overweight issues, and your dog will focus strictly on the food.
Your goal is to distract his attention away from something else and focus his attention on you by saying his name. If using a squeak toy or ball or something you know will get his attention, try using it. I recently posted “Electronic-Ultrasonic” and discussed the downside of using those tools to train your dog. A squeaker is a gentler, more fun way to get your dog’s attention away from something else.
Training should always start at home, in your home, where there are the least number of distractions. Take puppy steps as you progress. Don’t expect your puppy to ignore distractions at the dog park on day one of practice.
Call your puppy away from whatever has his attention before every “good” thing you do for him. What I mean by that is, call him by name to come to you, before you give him his bowl of food. Do the same before you put his leash on to go out and before you give him a toy or treat. Call your dog to come to you even before you pick him up to snuggle. From the very moment you decide on a name for your puppy, you should use it to get your puppy’s attention and have him come to you and use something he likes as an aid when necessary. There is no other reason to use his name. Search for another post titled “Name Moves The Dog” for a detailed explanation.