How Can I Get My Distracted Dog to Pay Attention to Me?

Help Your Dog Manage Distractions

Once your dog is willingly and consistently following commands, gradually add distractions when you ask your dog to do a specific behavior, like sit or make eye contact. Ideally, this training should be done in low-distraction areas like your yard ordriveway, an alley or parking lot or on the sidewalk in front of your home. Then try these commands on walks during less populated times, such as early morning, later evening or midday.

Once your dog can pay attention to your commands with some distractions around her, you can gradually expand her walks to include parts of your neighborhood or times of the day with more distractions.

To increase your success, start slow and keep expectations low to begin with. Reward short duration, low-effort behaviors. For instance, even though your dog may be able to stay or make eye contact for 10 seconds (or more) at home, only a second or two should be necessary to earn a reward on beginning walks.

As your dog gains confidence, these reward-worthy moments can be gradually expanded. Making requests too difficult or the reward not significant enough can cause your dog to associate following your commands with a loss of freedom and fun.

Ultimately, success largely rests on ensuring that your dog’s attention is properly and consistently rewarded. A walk is a big chain of events that allows you to reinforce and build desired behavior using things your dog appreciates. Rewards for your dog don’t just have to be tangible treats or toys — forward movement, greeting people, sniffing desired areas and walking on a loose leash can all be useful rewards for good behavior.

You may also benefit from switching from a front clip harness to a head halter. Head halters can offer additional control over harder-to-manage dogs and may help you get a better handle on your dog during walks.

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