Does your dog constantly get distracted? Hope is on the Horizon! We have a few tips to keep your dog engaged with you!
Set them up for success
Make a list of potential distractions for your dog and rank each on a 1–5 scale. Let 1 be a very mild distraction and 5 a more serious distraction. Work your dog starting at level one, as your dog is responding reliably at level 1, move onto level two, as they are responding reliably at level two, move to level three, etc. Rinse and Repeat!
If your dog is unable to respond to a cue in a new environment, temporarily lower your criteria. For example if you are wanting to teach your dog to respond to their name, start by rewarding your dog for simply checking in with you, as they become more focused, raise the criteria to eye contact before rewarding them. Your dog will soon start to give you more focus reliably. Then you can start to use your cue.
Higher Rate of Reinforcement/ Higher Value of Reinforcement
Pair up the situation and distractions with the value of the reward you are giving. Use regular kibble around small distractions and freeze dried liver or hot dogs for higher distractions. This will vary with each individual dog, depending on what they actually find reinforcing.
By increasing the rate of reinforcement when faced with distractions you are making it easier for your dog to make the right choice. Be sure to temporarily lower other criteria. For instance, if you are working on eye contact in a new environment and you dog is able to maintain eye contact around lower distractions for about 15 seconds, then you will need to temporarily reduce your criteria to reinforcing your dog with quick glances of eye contact, then re build the amount of time they can stay focused as they are successful at previous steps.
By creating distance between the distraction and your dog, you are making it easier for them to make better choices. If your dog is easily distracted by other dogs, loud noises, cars, etc. add desensitization to your training. Desensitization is exposing your dog to a distraction or a trigger (something that causes them to react) or stimulus at a level of intensity that is not concerning to them at all. As your dog becomes more comfortable, slowly increase the level of intensity. For instance, If you dog has a hard time responding to a cue from 15 ft away from a stimulus, increase the distance to 30 ft away. Always start where your dog is successful and move closer only when he is reliably responding to you at least 80% of the time.