When you select a new
training space, remember that the change should be gradual. If your
regular training has always taken place in your kitchen, try moving to
the living room. Work through the entire lesson plan in that room, then
change locations again. How about the bedroom? The bathroom?
Once you've exhausted the options in your house, take a look at the next
most gradual change that you can make. How about your porch? Backyard?
Front yard? In front of your neighbor's house?
In each new
training space, first test that your dog can perform with a cookie in
your hand. This is important because the total number of additional
distractions (beyond what you are deliberately introducing) is going to
increase simply by changing locations. You will continue to create
controlled distractions for your dog, and you want them to hold his
attention more than the stuff in the environment. This might sound
counter intuitive, but the truth is, if the dog is paying more attention
to the smells in the neighborhood than to the training exercises, you
have a problem! You need to start with a distraction (and a reward) that
is MORE interesting than the rest of the world.
introduce new places thoughtfully, they should be dull enough that your
dog can work off leash or with a loose leash with his total attention on
either you or on the distraction that you have provided. Realistically,
though, sometimes you'll overestimate the draw of a new place.
Therefore, your location needs to be safe as well. Your dog needs to be
contained in some way, which means that for some locations, you may need
to use a leash during all ten steps. You don't want to put your dog in
danger in the name of training! It is much better to work on leash with
a focused dog than to work off leash with a dog who is not the least bit
interested in doing anything for you.
You should also think
about the type of places you eventually want to take your dog. If your
goal is to bring your dog to the pet store, to pick your children up
from school, to attend local soccer games with your kids, and to walk
through your neighborhood on a loose leash, then those are the places
you should be using for the training! Consider each of these possible
locations and rank them from least distracting to most. Start with the
easiest ones and work your way up.
There's a huge advantage to
using places for training that you already go to: it's efficient! You're
already going there, so you won't need to spend a lot of time making
special trips for the dog's training. When you head to the local school
to pick up your kids, arrive ten minutes early so you can practice your
skills while it's still relatively quiet. Work your way up to practicing
when the kids are being released from their classrooms! Or, if you need
to purchase groceries, bring your dog along for a few minutes of
training outside the doors. It is much easier to stick to a training
plan if it doesn't take a lot of extra time.
At first it will
feel strange to be carrying a baggie with distraction treats while you
work with your dog in public, but you'll soon find that people will
enjoy watching you, and might even want to know more about what you are
Make a point of using friends and strangers for your
distraction babysitters - we want your dog to believe that all people
are willing to help you! Handle failure quietly and cheerfully; simply
show your dog the delicious morsels that he won't be getting, put them
back, and try again.
Most dogs will make tremendous progress
working this way. After ten minutes a day for a few weeks, you will
likely find that your dog is ignoring a variety of distractions that you
provide in all sorts of locations. If you add this to the three or so
hours you've already spent, you'll have invested around six hours, and
with excellent results!
Don't despair if your dog needs a
slower route. Remember that training is a process where you are
developing a deeper bond with your dog. Stay focused on the journey!
For more advice on training your dog to listen anytime,
Beyond the Back Yard from Whole Dog