Attention Training A Dog Around Distractions (Part 1 of 2)

Adam explains attention training a dog around distractions (demonstration in part ii).  Attention training is the foundation for all of your dog’s training, both for obedience and for problem solving.  Without first getting and keeping your dog’s attention, you’re just talking to a wall.  So, in order to make progress with almost any behavior we need to first get at least 51% of your dog’s attention on you rather than anything else he may be trying to focus on.

Attention Training A Dog Builds Trust And Leadership

attention training a dogI use an exercise called the “Attention Getter”.  It teaches the dog that he must pay attention to you because you are unpredictable, and if he doesn’t watch you, you may suddenly take off running in the opposite direction and he’ll be left at the end of the leash.  And that doesn’t feel good to the dog, whereas staying next to you wins him all of the love and praise in the world.  Your dog isn’t stupid, and he’ll quickly learn to choose between the two outcomes:  Feels great or feels uncomfortable (hitting the end of the leash when you’re no longer standing around like a tree in a predictable manner.

Soon, your dog will learn that the same lesson (outcome) applies to the world, even if you’re around distractions, such as other dogs, cats, kids, etc… He also learns that as long as he’s paying attention to you… nothing bad happens to him.  This is part of the social contract between you and your dog: Your dog pays attention to you and in exchange you do not allow other dogs or kids or anything that might threaten him get in a position where they can hurt him.  You do this by being a good, responsible dog owner.  There are a lot of dangerous things out there in the world, and the more you dog learns that you will keep him safe, the more he’ll trust you and you will build leadership.  With that leadership position, you’ll now be in a position to tell him to “do this” or “don’t do that” and your dog will respect you and respond to you.

Attention Training A Dog Around Distractions

After your dog understands the exercise, it’s time to introduce more and more distractions. This is where my approach to dog training differs from many others: I actively seek out things that might distract my dog, because that’s how you proof a dog to work around all type of environments and scenarios.  In the video below I talk more about the theory behind attention training a dog  (and in part II of attention training a dog you’ll see me actually attention training a dog around sitractions)

In sum, step one is to teach the dog the exercise in a low distraction environment.  Step two is to practice in a variety of different place while step 3 is to proof the dog around as many types of distractions as you can find.  Attention training a dog should be the first exercise you teach any dog four months of age or older.