As Trainers, something we often hear is;
"My dog is excellent at home but when we go to the park, all training goes out the window"
Perhaps one of the more common concerns owners have is their dog’s willingness to comply under different levels of distraction. Something that many owners do not realise is that despite your training efforts at home and the success you may find in your own backyard, it does not necessarily translate when away from familiar places or with certain levels of distraction.
Although you may get a reliable ‘stay’ at home, the same cannot be said for the park, especially when surrounded with new and exciting smells, sights, and of course possible playmates!
Dogs have terrible generalisation, so every time you expose your dog to a new area; training needs to be taken back to square one. Your dog needs to be trained how to follow each specific command in ALL locations.
Here are our top tips;
1. Train Your Dog In ALL Environments
While your dog may ace all commands at home, the same cannot be said for new environments especially with distractions (Dog beaches and off lead parks for example). In your training, it is important to build up to populated areas by increasing the level of distraction while training.
Once they nail their training at home, take them out and about and practice the same commands in various situations. It is okay to take a step back should they not be ready for busy parks.
Going from your backyard to an off-leash park would be like jumping from Kindy to High School. Start slow, a great option is the local café with foot traffic where you dog can learn to stay calmly by your side as people and other dogs walk past.
2. Always Use Your Lead
As we always say, your lead is your best tool.
Unless your dog can demonstrate a reliable recall regardless of the distraction around him, it may not be safe for your dog to be off lead. Further to this, chasing after an excitable dog or “calling and failing” can lead to another set of behavioural issues and naughty habits.
Long leads can be purchased to help you train commands at a distance and still maintain control.
Calling after your dog without a strong recall, only to be ignored, is not only frustrating but sets your dog up for failure and once rehearsed enough, will become a learned behaviour. Once your dog has learned that they can run away from you and not come back it is very difficult to un-learn this.
Rather than set you and your dog up for failure, set yourself up for success and use a lead to teach your and have them learn the right things from the start.
Chasing can also be perceived as a game.
3. Work On Strengthening Your Bond
Another way to get a response from your dog regardless of the distraction is to work on building and strengthening the bond you share with your dog. Although we want our dogs to be social, it is more important that your dog is far more interested in you no matter who or what is around.
If your dog wants to engage and interact with everyone at the park except for you, your bond needs to be worked on. This can be done by ensuring you dedicate time to plenty of interactive training and all important one on one play with your dog.
Often we find owners give their dog lots of time and attention at home but when out we behave differently. We don’t give treats, play and praise. We just allow them to get all their value from others and we don’t shower them with the same level of attention we do at home.
This change in our behaviour can lead to the change with your dogs perception of you out of the home. By doing training out and about you start to ensure you are giving treats, praise and play outside too, therefore becoming more valuable to your dog when you are at home but also out of the home.
If you and your four-legged friend need help on shaping better focus, contact the team at Found By The Hound.