Everything you want to teach, regardless of what it is, uses this same sequence of steps. Using this sequence will help ensure your dog can be successful in any environment, under any level of distraction. This is all about practicing FOR a situation (long term), rather than practicing IN the situation immediately which is when the dog cant manage and it doesn’t work.

Basic rules
  • If you ask your dog for a particular behaviour you expect him to know and the dog cant do it – the dog either doesn’t understand as you haven’t taught it enough (using the steps below), is overwhelmed (anxious, afraid or excited) and cant do the behaviour, or you haven’t taught it in this environment (using the steps below)
  • Move the dog away from the distraction – don’t keep repeatably asking!
Teaching steps
  • Step 1 – teach the basic steps in a quiet room without anything present your dog finds distracting.
  • Step 2 – practice in lots of short sessions until your dog is getting good and offers the behaviour more quickly (known as fluency)
  • Step 3 – increase the difficulty A LITTLE BIT – move into a different room, work in a different part of the room (perhaps near a doorway), have someone else present but sitting down quietly….
  • Step 4 – increase the difficulty a little bit more ONCE your dog shows more fluency. Again, this could be practicing in different rooms, having different members of your household present (but sitting quietly), having the TV on, teaching the dog to hold a position for a little longer etc. Only once there is increase fluency, move on to the next step…
  • Step 5 – start to work outside in the garden – again with low levels of distraction. Keep building on the skill the dog is developing by SLOWLY increasing distractions. This could be going outside to practice when the children are playing outside but away from the dog, someone else is gardening, your neighbours are outside (but not being overly noisy) etc
  • Step 6 – start practicing inside next to the front door (or by the back door if you usually leave this way). Have the door closed initially. Once the dog has fluency, start working with the door opening a little bit at a time – have the dog on lead for safety!
  • Step 7 – work with the front door open and the dog on lead. This helps teach the dog that the open door is not an invite to leave!
  • Step 8 – start to work outside the front of the house, or in a quiet location with low distractions. Keep working slowly building up fluency
  • Step 9 – slowly increase distractions – this may be working in the park at the weekend when there are people playing sports, children in the park playing, other dog walkers etc. Work at a distance initially. Its all about building the distractions SLOWLY and building fluency in your dog.
  • Step 10 – over time you build distraction levels higher and higher so your dog remains focussed and can offer the behaviours you are teaching even under high level distractions, like people making a fuss of them (prevents jumping up!), loose dogs running over, children playing and running around, joggers running past, horses at the beach etc..

This looks like a long process – and it is – however slow and steady practice, only increasing difficulty when the dog is ready will lead to long term learning and help your dog really understand what you want.