- Kristen VanNess
Come 201: Avoiding Distractions
This is the second lesson in our Pup U series, Teaching Your Dog to Come.
Many people think that there are distractions or no distractions. However, most distractions are more like a dial that can be turned up or turned down rather than just an off or on switch.
Adding Distraction with the Come Command
Now that we’ve added in our come when called signal and practiced in various environments, we can work with distractions. Chasing a squirrel or a really great smell might be a level 10 distraction. We want to start with level 1 distractions, so a low-level sniff or maybe a bird far away.
When your dog is slightly distracted, call him back and then reward him with multiple treats. Again, we want to make a big impression. As he gains experience, we will be able to call him from higher and higher level distractions until he can handle anything you come across. Avoid calling him from situations that will be too challenging at the start.
Evaluating Distraction Levels
Your dog’s body language may be a helpful way to identify the level of distraction. For example, imagine a dog excited about a squirrel. The dog might freeze with his eyes on the squirrel, his body tense and still, every part of him attentive to the squirrel. This dog is very distracted, and this squirrel moment would not be a good time to call him away from the squirrel at his current level of training.
Some dogs might be barking or pulling if very distracted. It can be hard to get the dogs to turn away. These are high levels of distraction. While we will work up to this level - for now, we need mild levels of distraction.
Instead, we might wait until he saw the squirrel go up into the tree and out of sight. Then, after a few seconds, he may be ready to turn and move away. That might be the time to call him. Or we might practice with ducks on a pond as a starting point for “animal distractions” because ducks are not as exciting as squirrels for that dog, and the ducks are more predictable.
As your dog gets more practice, we will be able to move closer to distractions or work in the presence of more exciting distractions. This is a gradual and systematic process. Your dog’s behavior will tell us if we’re on track or if we may be progressing too fast.
Need to review? Check out Come 101: The Basics or get personalized help today!