When we first started training our dogs, we made a lot of rookie mistakes.  One of the biggest was trying to make everything perfect for them.  We tried to find the perfect field, or make the perfect set up, or have perfect weather.  Probably our biggest mistake was making sure there were no distractions.  It was not until we started training with a professional trainer that we learned distractions can be very helpful to training.

How can training with distractions be helpful?

When you are at a test, or even out hunting, you cannot control the environment even if you try.  For example, we have been at many a test where there has been loud talking from the other participants.  However, our dogs are not distracted by it because when we train, there is often loud talking.  Loud talking is allowed so that at a test the dogs will be used to it and pay it no mind.  Distractions are going to happen so it is better to train with them so they are a non issue when they happen during a test.

You cannot predict when a distraction will happen, all you can do is hope your dog stays focused enough that they do not even notice.

This past weekend we went out to the local park to run a few marks.  We had a rainy weekend, but the dogs needed some exercise because they had energy to burn.  (I only had my phone camera due to the rain.)  The park was deserted except for a bunch of ducks…

Ducks Hanging Out In The Puddles At The Park

and a whole bunch of seagulls and geese.

Seagulls And Geese
Seagulls And Geese

The birds made a huge distraction for the dogs.  Live birds are always more interesting to our dogs than a plastic training bumper.

chesapeake bay retriever
Freighter Has The Bumper But Is More Interested In The Birds On The Hill

The dogs were distracted by the birds and their marking reflected this.  They had trouble marking a simple double.  Also, the field was saturated with puddles everywhere.  In addition to the scent of the nearby birds, there was a lot of scent left over in the field which added even more distraction.  Thank goodness we will be able to get out to the farm to train starting April 1 so we will be able to train with more smells than at the park.  I have no doubt that in short order, stray birds and smells will become less of an issue for them.

Over the years we have had some novel distractions while training at the park.

The farm where we train is private property and the only activity that happens there is dog training and testing.  The park is a different story.  The park is public and open for all to use.  This park is probably the only one near us where we can do a bit of training with dogs off lead.  The police and park workers seem to let everyone enjoy their hobby of choice as long as they are respectful of the park grounds and do not cause trouble.

So over the years we have shared the pond with miniature sail boats.

chesapeake bay retriever distractions
Thunder Ignores The Boats To Retrieve The Dokken

That photo is from 2012, but the guys and their little boats still show up to use the pond once the weather warms up.  The dogs have learned to ignore this distraction.

Lately, we have had to deal with the guys and their little airplanes.  These planes are rather loud, but the dogs did not pay them any mind.  I guess planes in the air are not equal to training bumpers in the air.

Miniture Airplane
Testing Out The Miniature Airplane
Minture Airplane
The Plane In The Air

I don’t know what it is about this park that attracts all the miniature hobby clubs, but it does.  For the most part, we share the space and are happy for the distraction.  In the case of the boats, the dogs have learned to ignore them.  In the case of the planes they were never really an issue which is why training with distractions is important.  Eventually you want the dog to take all distractions in stride.

Do you train with distractions?  I would love to hear about them in the comments.  What are they and how do they change or affect your training?

14 thoughts on “Training With Distractions-It’s Important

  1. Distractions are so important to work through! We constantly train in different places so we learn to focus on our work and not what is happening around us. Right now Madison is having a lot of trouble with her tracking because all the spring smells are distracting her, so Mom is working hard to try and get her back on track.

    1. I expect that our dogs will be very distracted for a bit once we get back on the farm training grounds. There are so many smells there. Madison would be in heaven….lol.

  2. I can imagine birds would be a pretty big distraction for a lot of dogs! Getting Luke to ignore outside distractions is definitely something we work on all the time.
    I used to close him in a room with me when we worked on some things, but now I leave the door open and let Cricket sit on the other side of the gate and watch. It’s one way to train him to ignore things (I can’t actually let her in the room, because she’s such a treat hog, and she distracts ME – LOL!).

    1. Storm was the same way when she was working on obedience outside–very distracted. It was a long tough road.

  3. Yes today max my 1 year chessie had lot’s of distraction as we went to a farm.he did well with the bumper and all the smells of cow pies.

  4. The joys of distractions, those weresome good ones you encountered

    1. I find the boats and planes funny…lol. I was just hoping the plane would not crash into me throwing the bumpers so I guess I was distracted as well.

  5. I so agree with you and your post gave me some ideas too ;o) To be prepared for things what maybe will happen at a test or a show is important….

    1. It is important. The trick is to duplicate distractions which is very hard.

  6. This is one thing vet and I have talked about over the years with Molly. We live on a farm with no distractions other than wildlife. I had every intention of taking out in the public to provide distractions for her. Horror stories of poor dog owners not having control of their dogs caused me to decide keeping her here on the farm was the safest way to go. My Dachshund I had before Molly was attacked by a much larger dog inside a Pet store many years ago… I’ve been a bit apprehensive ever since.

    1. I have to admit that we do not really take the dogs to pet stores. It is a cramped highly excitable environment which can cause problems. It can be difficult to find suitable places to socialize. We used to camp a lot. That was a great place to train and socialize, but we don’t really camp these days.

  7. In obedience training, we used to call it “proofing,” and it is incredibly important. A dog doing higher levels of obedience simply HAS to focus on their handler, otherwise they miss the cues.

    I did go to one show where a kid sat at ringside and dropped french fries in front of the dog. The judge asked the kid to leave and gave the distracted dogs a do-over because that one is hard to train for in advance!

    Thunder in front of the boats is a fabulous shot.

    1. Haha french fries. That would be a hard one. I have seen judges give do overs at tests when a flock of birds came into the back of the field just as marks were going off. No way a dog is going to watch a dead bird tossed in the air over a live bird. At least our hunting dogs would not. lol

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