Tuesday Topics 3 - How to Deal with Dog Distraction

I like how Cabana's tail fur goes into a little spin at the end. Hey, is that what a tailspin is?

But wait, that's not my Tuesday Topic question. Here it is.

Cabana's biggest obstacle to good behavior is dog distraction. She is fairly good on the leash when no one else is around, but when there are other people, especially with their dogs--and especially with their dogs OFF-LEASH (my biggest pet peeve in the world)...then it's difficult to keep Cabana under control.

I do what I can to minimize distractions. I only walk the pretty, popular walking paths on rainy or overcast days and avoid them when it's sunny because I know everyone and their uncles will be there. On nice days, I walk on busier streets where people are less inclined to allow their dogs off-leash. Or on weekends, I try to go extra early, before the sleep-in types get their butts in gear.

When people/dogs are approaching, even at quite a distance away, Cabana goes into alert mode, walking briskly with her head and ears raised up, and the pulling begins. Then, when the person passes, she will often try to jump on them. Sometimes, after the person passes, she still has that residual excitement and keeps turning to look at them or jumps around or even tries to bite her leash. Sometimes, it makes her plain ornery, like she's telling me, "You always spoil my fun." As a mom, I've definitely heard THAT before!

I try to be ready when this is happening. To get Cabana focused on me, I talk to her, call her name, have a treat ready to give her, hold her leash/head collar down so she can't jump....It all helps, but it's a lot of effort. I guess that's why I'd rather avoid people than go through it a bazillion times each day.

Really, it comes down to the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing, doesn't it? What am I doing wrong? Exactly when should I give the treat? At what exact moment do I give a correction? And (insert whiney voice) when is it going to get better?!?

raiserally  – (March 17, 2009 at 11:08 AM)  

With the organization I raise for now we use a lot of treats for training and focus (never did with GDB unless a specific dog was on food protocol). If we see a dog coming up to us (Eclipse is also dog-distracted. Turned into distraction from a deep fear of other dogs in public) we have Eclipse sit in front of us and we use a "watch me" command and when he maintains eye contact he gets the treat. For organizations that don't use food as much it's mostly about praise and re-direction. A correction doesn't generally do much good as it tends to feed the excitement level. With GDB if I saw a dog coming and I was handling a dog-distracted pup I'd step to the side and have my dog in a "heel" position (although I didn't ask them to "heel" since that's not a GDB command) and have them sit. Then you can correct them for not maintaining that command if they pop out of it. It's a gradual process but avoiding the situations will eventually only make the obsession worse as it becomes a novelty, whereas if she's around it all the time it's just another thing that she's always around. Hope that helps!

Hobbes Dogs  – (March 17, 2009 at 2:22 PM)  

Several of my dogs have had similar tails - we call it their 'pom-pom' :)

Anna and Avani  – (March 17, 2009 at 4:05 PM)  

Yay - finally able to comment! I'm Anna and I'm raising female yellow lab Avani - who is Cabana's cousin (their dads are brothers)!

Dog distraction is always a fun one....not! One word of advice that I would like to give is before you give her the piece of kibble make sure she has your full, undivided attention on you. Make her remain in eye contact for at least a few seconds before giving her the kibble, too. Really, you just don't want to her try to give you a quick glance and get away with a piece of kibble! It sounds like you are trying a lot of good things, just keep plugging along and being persistent!

Anna and Avani  – (March 17, 2009 at 4:07 PM)  

Oops - make sure she has her full, undivided attention on you!

Lisa and Ellie  – (March 17, 2009 at 4:28 PM)  

Isn't Cabana still really young? Some of it might be a bit of her youth popping through. Everyone else has already given suggestions and advice that I'd have already said - so I won't repeat what they said. Sounds like you are working on it and that's the plus. She's lucky to have such a devoted puppy raiser.

Megan and Fullerton  – (March 17, 2009 at 5:00 PM)  

Sounds like you are doing a lot of good things for her. I would just repeat all the advice already given so, I won't. :D But, she is still young and she could get over it with age. The first 6-7ish months is a HUGE discovery phase where everything is still so new and exciting. Hopefully with age all that will become. . .not as exciting. Good luck!

Elizabeth and Peyton  – (March 17, 2009 at 9:02 PM)  

Yay for Tuesday Topics! :D Almost every dog is dog distracted to some degree. I think prevention is very helpful in the problem. Limit the time you allow your puppy to play with other dogs, and regularly pause the play with "that's enough". It can be frustrating, but don't sweat it too much. :)

Madison and Andros  – (March 18, 2009 at 10:19 AM)  

I really enjoy these topics! With my CCI puppies I have worked on the look at me command a lot. This command helps the puppies learn to focus no matter whether dog distraction, fear, or just plain distraction is the issue. I usually use his food bowl. Take the bowl tell him to SIT then give him the "Look at me" command and when he does is I give him a piece of kibble. I practice it in a variety of situation. Backyard, then road, then busier area. I don't know the rules for GDB but this is what I do!

Taelor, Franklin, and Pilaf  – (March 19, 2009 at 3:45 PM)  

Yay, I can finally post!!! =D

This is just a tidbit of advice from my experience and my leader's expertice.

As soon as she begins to show any sine of 'alert mode' emmediately(sp?) turn around and walk the other direction. This keeps the dog on it's toes, and teaches them that they need to keep an eye on you. If she is already not giving you any attention at all, accompany your turn with a correction. Once you have turned around and she has given you her full attention, you can give her a piece of kibble. If after you turn she is still not paying attention to you, walk at a very brisk pace for a few steps so that she has to almost jog to keep up, and is unable to turn around or she will trip. Then you would give her the kibble when she is walking at your (brisk) pace and not lagging/ looking behind.

I think you guys are doing really well with her so far, so don't be discauraged!!! =D

Feel free to email me with any questions, my email is tmichehl@surewest.net.

Taelor, Franklin, and Pilaf

Taelor, Franklin, and Pilaf  – (March 19, 2009 at 3:47 PM)  

Wow... *sign, sot sine. Someone needs sleep...

raiserally  – (March 19, 2009 at 9:55 PM)  

Good Joy Taelor! I use this method for teaching and enforcing the loose leash "heel" position and have used it before for redirecting a pup's attention as well! Good job for reminding me about it, I haven't been using with Eclipse although I think it could probably really help him! Thanks for the reminder!

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