Does your dog suffer from selective hearing? Does their training go out the window when you come upon another dog or intriguing distraction? All dogs find it more difficult to be obedient in the presence of distractions. You may find that you have a completely different dog in your backyard than you do at the park. While frustrating, this is a completely normal step in training that all dogs experience. In fact, your dog being easily distracted is actually an opportunity in disguise. Your dog is interested in those things that distract them, and you can use the hardest distractions as rewards themselves. If new dog friends are your dog’s favorite thing, letting him play with one after you've worked on your stay or "leave it" is an excellent reward. This is known as the Premack Principle, and it teaches dogs that if they give you what you want, they'll get what they want in return. Working with distractions is one of the most difficult phases of dog training, but provides you with a dog who has solid focus and obedience in even the most challenging situations.
The “proofing” phase of dog training takes the obedience that you’ve learned at home or in class and applies it to different, “real world” scenarios. In order to best proof your dog for a variety of situations, you have to deliberately set those situations and distractions up and work through them. If you want your dog to reliably watch you or recall to you when there are distractions, you need to train specifically for these behaviors. When we start training with the 3 D’s (Duration, Distance, and Distraction) we try to keep the distractions at a minimum, and typically add in distractions as the final step.
Proofing is the process of training in a distracting environment. For it to be successful, an artificial training scenario is created where the trainer has control over the dog’s arousal, level of distraction, and of the dog’s response to it.
· Increase Distractions Slowly: Many dogs can focus while their environments are controlled and distractions are limited, but we can’t always control distractions in the outside world. When adding distractions, start small, leave the other D’s (Duration and Distance) alone, and work on building your dog’s focus on you.
Training Tip: If you have a dog who loves toys, start teaching focus by rewarding your dog for paying attention to you rather than the ball on the floor. Reward for focus and eye contact on you, not the toy. Gradually work up to picking the toy up, then to moving it between hands, and eventually to squeaking it. This training may take weeks to progress through, but building focus on the handler is an invaluable component of having a dog who will listen to you regardless of the environment you’re in.
· Manage the Environment: Try to keep your dog’s excitement to a minimum, and make sure you can control the distance and level of the distractions you’re working through. If your dog is excitable, even high-value treats or toys could make it difficult to focus on you. To set your dog up for success, try to minimize the environmental stimuli that might distract him.
· Bigger Stakes? Bigger Steaks. Match the reward to the level of distraction that you’re competing with. Your goal is to offer them a better choice, and choosing an appropriate reward will help you encourage they make the right one. After all, dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding. Make sure that your reward is good enough that they choose you ever time. Find your dog’s hierarchy of rewards, and be sure to increase the reward when the distractions get more difficult.
Proofing and training with distractions is something that you can do from home or the park. The difficult part of setting up your own training scenarios is controlling your environment and setting your dog up for success. If your dog’s favorite thing is a new person or a potential dog friend, you might find safe opportunities for training to be few and far between these days. Fewer doggy play dates and drop ins from visitors make it difficult to set up situations where your dog can be challenged in a controlled way.
Dogs! Dogs everywhere! It’s a dream come true for a dog who loves to meet new friends, but can be a nightmare for owners who aren’t expecting their dog to suddenly run toward an oncoming Poodle in the park. If the process of proofing your dog's training, controlling the environment, or finding safe, effective distractions to improve your training sounds daunting-- you aren't alone! For most dog owners, the guidance and structure of a group class is an important part of this training process.
Group training classes provide an opportunity for socialization as well as distraction training and impulse control. Before Covid, a group class would include both owners and their dogs. Now that we must be conscious of social distancing and limit the number of people in an indoor area, dog-only group classes are an excellent alternative for a dog who needs to learn to focus, improve impulse control, and learn to work around other dogs. These dog group classes provide even the most dog-friendly dog with an opportunity to socialize, learn dog manners, and learn to safely greet and play with other dogs.
Dogs in Harmony Group Classes
Our dog-only group classes are divided into groups according to age, temperament, play style, and training level. By matching dogs that are similar, we are able to better control the environment and set your dog up to be successful. The goal of these group classes is to take your dog’s training to the next level and begin the process of proofing their behavior in a variety of carefully set up and controlled training scenarios. As most dogs LOVE to meet new dogs, this environment provides an excellent opportunity to allow the dogs to be both the distraction and the reward. Using the hardest distractions as rewards themselves is an excellent way of teaching your dog that they get what they want when they give you what they want!
Early training and socialization makes for better puppies. If your dog is a young puppy, you have a window of time where you can socialize your puppy in a group class while they are learning. The Harmony School takes advantage of that critical socialization period to teach your puppy how to be the best possible family dog. During this critical time in a puppy’s development, having a good trainer by your side to help you make the best choices on how and when to expose your puppy to new things is tremendously beneficial. Most behavioral problems that arise in adult dogs are due to lack of socialization. At Harmony School we positively associate puppies to dogs, people, objects, sounds, textures and handling.
Dogs over the age of 4 months must be evaluated and approved to attend Harmony School. School Hours are Tuesday - Friday, 9 am - 2 pm. Our daily schedule will depend on the needs of the dogs in our care, but will always include the following: