top of page
  • Kristen VanNess

Walking 301: Managing Distractions on a Walk

This is lesson 3 in our Loose Leash Walking series.

Distractions are the biggest challenge for most dogs. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to turn a distraction into a learning opportunity. You will be ready to seek out distractions, and your dog will soon learn to look toward you all on his own when he notices a distraction.

While this young dog is only a few feet from the piece of litter on the floor, your dog may need to be 10’ or even 30’ away to be successful. Work at the distance your dog needs for success. If you have trouble finding a starting place, reach out - we’re here to help!

Leash Walking While Managing Distractions

You might use a distraction you encounter while walking or a distraction you place out for your dog.

Choose a starting distance where you think your dog can pass without pulling. Walk past or arc around at that distance. If your dog is walking well, praise and reward them with a treat. After one or two passes at that distance, then move your path slightly closer. Continue to decrease the distance.

If your dog lunges or pulls, we know we’re too close. Stop and wait for your dog to look at you or you can turn and move away. Then, alter your path so that the next pass is farther away.

For now, reward your dog when he comes with you after you turn around or move away. We want to recognize his decision to come with you. However, in the later stages of training, he will not get a reward for pulling and refocusing.

We are looking for the distances where your dog can notice the distraction and then easily move away with you.

Choose your Challenges

Some situations might not be an ideal learning environment. For example, if you get to the park and find out there’s a disc dog tournament; then you might leave and walk somewhere else today. Seeing dogs run to catch discs might just be too much for him today. But it is something you may be ready for in the future.

You want your dog to be slightly challenged but not overwhelmed. It’s ok if you occasionally misjudge what he is ready for. Adjust your plans and find appropriate distractions.

Seek Opportunities

Rather than avoiding all distractions, find opportunities for your dog to work with distractions. If you know your dog is distracted by joggers, find a walking path next to a grassy space. You and your dog can walk back and forth along the trail, about 30’ away. Once your dog is walking well at that distance, move 27’ from the path. Continue to gradually move closer to the track. It may take multiple outings to get close to the trail.

Every new distraction is a chance to build on the skills you and your dog have developed. If you want to learn more or need extra help, schedule personalized training today.

Need to review? Check out Walking 101: Walking Basics and Walking 201: Tackling New Environments.