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Your dog will NEVER ignore distractions!

Distractions are the bane of everyone's life...particularly if you have a young dog!


A common goal is for the dog to IGNORE distractions and I want to encourage you to change that goal because unfortunately...


It's never going to happen!


To ignore something is to "refuse to take notice of, or acknowledge". Your dog is never going to make this choice about something they love, anymore than I'm going to walk past a buffet table and ignore that lonely slice of pizza that's longing to be eaten!


When distractions such as people, other dogs, food on the floor, birds, rabbits, etc., come onto your dog's radar, these distractions come with oodles of promise to your dog... affection, play time, eating, chasing, and hunting.


This is something we cannot change. We cannot change our dogs' desire to meet their own needs and make themselves feel good. It's what they live for, and why the hell shouldn't they? We do exactly the same.




We can change what these distractions signal to your dog.


With consistency, repetition, and the right reinforcement for YOUR dog, you can create new response patterns that will become automatically triggered by the sight of the distractions.


One of my dogs walks closer and more connected to me on lead as soon as she sees a distraction, than she does when there are no visual distractions about.


Why? Because visual distractions are a CUE for her to gain reinforcement from ME if she looks at me and walks close.


Here are the steps you need to follow to change what distractions mean to your dog...


1.     Teach a behaviour, e.g., look at you, walk at heel, etc., reward it generously and consistently in LOTS of different environments and contexts so it becomes an easy, default, habitual behaviour.


2.     Go out and find your dog's distractions at a distance where your dog is able to continue offering the new default behaviour. Have them attached to a lead so they don't have the option to run in towards the distraction.


3.     Gradually reduce the distance between your dog and the distraction over time as the distraction starts to trigger the new reinforced response. Don't remove the physical barrier of a lead / long line until your dog is completely reliable around the particular distraction they are going to come up against.

If your dog is in the midst of adolescence and being ruled by their hormones and their immature brains, where impulse control is at its lowest and social drive is at its highest...don't expect them not to make the choice to run to the other dog. Don't expect your hunting breed not to chase that rabbit when they see it. That's exactly what they're going to do until a new habitual response becomes established.


Reliability takes time, consistency, LOTS of repetition, good management practices during the training period, and the most underrated thing of all...maturity!


It's terrible to think that we are on the 20th February and this is my first blog of 2024!


Over the Christmas period I rewrote the content and lesson plans for the very popular Pet Gundog Life Skills and Obedience course.


In addition to the group classes, this course comes with an online programme of video tutorials and other helpful content for more comprehensive support over a 6-month period. This means the online programme has also been completely redone with new updated videos and content, so it's been a very busy few weeks, hence the radio silence!


Most people's biggest frustrations and challenges when it comes to Gundog breeds are related to walking and being outdoors with them. This is why classes are ran outdoors all year round, because this is where we need to learn how to work through the struggles.


The most significant change I've made to the course is increasing the emphasis on teaching people how to have fun and interact with their dog in a way that THEY want, including games and activities that are going to meet their breed-specific needs.


We've just finished our first group of the year, are halfway through another, and have another one just started, and so far the results have been really positive with a massive improvement on the level of engagement.


Even if you do absolutely no formal training with your dog, if you just focus on building a good level of engagement on your walks, many struggles would become much easier.


Your dog seeing you as a source of reinforcement and fun is the foundation that everything else is built upon. If you are nagging for their attention, it won't matter how much training you do, it will all fall apart around distractions.


There are a couple of spaces available in the next Pet Gundog Life Skills and Obedience group starting in March, click here for details!

Happy distractions training :-)


Liz Whelan GTA-AD 020 ABTC-ATI

Owner of DogScentric

Accredited Instructor with the Gundog Trainers Academy (GTA-AD 020)

Accredited Animal Training Instructor with the ABTC (ABTC-ATI)

FdSc Canine Behaviour and Training (Hull University)




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