One challenge many dog owners face to teaching their dogs to walk nicely on leash is distractibility. Some dogs really want to investigate every sight, sound and smell. The following is a great approach to handling a highly distractible dog.
The first thing to do is to spend a little time teaching your dog that it really pays to stay close to and focused on you. Start off with a low number of distractions; inside your house is a great spot. Use your clicker or “yes!” when your dog looks at you and then give him a treat. Next, begin doing this while moving around. In this way, you encourage your dog to move with and maintain focus on you. If you’re careful to give treats frequently enough, this will become a really fun game and your dog will want to stay glued to you.
Next, begin to play this game in the presence of a few more distractions. If you have a big backyard in a fairly quiet neighborhood, that might be a good place. You might also ask a local dog trainer if you can use his or her training space while there are no other dogs there; or take your dog to an empty tennis court. Once your dog is able to stay focused on you in this environment, you can begin using the distractions as a reward for that focus. While walking around your (empty) tennis court, watch for your dog to make eye contact with you. At that moment, click or say “yes,” give him a treat, then tell him, ”okay, go sniff!” and encourage him to investigate the net or an abandoned tennis ball.
Repeat this procedure in increasingly distracting environments, keeping in mind that consistency is key. Before you know it, you will be able to help your dog transfer these skills to your daily walks.
Your dog encounters a lot of interesting things out in the world. While his darting this way and that can be frustrating, remember that he doesn’t know any other way to get to what he wants. It’s your job to teach him. So get to work!
Further Reading and Viewing
Dog Training Tutorial- Distractions- Part 1 by Tab289: YouTube
Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.