08 October 2019

3 Tips for getting your service dog to focus around distractions

Tips for building focus around distractions! To take part in our free four-part focus building workshop (which starts on October 16th), make sure to join our ...

hi everybody today we are covering a few

of my top tips for teaching your service dog in training to work around distractions now this is something we get tons and tons of questions about last week I shared with you the top mistakes owner trainers make when teaching their service dogs to work around distractions and I promised you that I would bring you some tangible tips this week so this week in our live we are talking about my three top tips for teaching your service dog in training to work around distractions and focus around distractions now of course Before we jump into this I want to cover really quickly what it is when or what is I mean when I say focus around distractions because I think that it's always really important to first define what it is that we're actually looking for because I see a lot of variability when people start to talk about distractions and about focus and what it is that they're looking for so when I'm teaching and I'm telling you we're going to build your dog's focus around distractions I mean primarily that your dog is capable of ignoring a distraction when you ask so responding to a leave it or

responding to his name for example I would like dogs I'm you know I would like Leo to look at me when I say his name even if distractions are present so if we go to the mall and I say Leo he should still look at me and then I would like my service dogs and training to respond to known to you so I'd like them to do the things that I asked right sit sit or lay down and of course once we get into that we have to make sure that our dogs actually know those behaviors that's like a whole separate topic so that's what we're kind of talking about when I say focus around distractions I don't actually mean a dog who stares at you like this and does nothing else and completely ignores his environment because our service dogs are going to notice their environment and that has to be okay with us but we'd really like our service dogs to disengage from you from the environment and from distractions and look at us when we ask them to write and I think that that's what a lot of us struggle with is we have dogs who are pulling towards distractions staring at distractions dogs who won't look at us or respond to known hues in the presence of distractions so my first tip for

today is distance is your best friend when it comes to working around distractions this is huge distance is absolutely your best friend and what I mean by distance is literally how far away you are from the distraction so if the distraction is squirrels were other dogs or other people how far away you are is huge so when we're starting to teach our service dogs to work around distractions we really want to start as far away as we can get from the distraction as far away as possible that are as necessary so that our dogs are capable of being successful meaning I'm far enough away from distraction that when I say Leo's name he does look at me I want to start in that distance and then slowly work closely or closer only as my dog is showing me he's ready so what we see a lot of people do instead is bring their dogs right into the mall or right into the dog park or right into some very distracting environment without working at a distance first so I like to start my service dog from training as far away from the distraction as they need in order to be successful and then slowly move closer now of course if you're here

live and you have any questions about this stuff as we go through please feel free to ask questions there's always a delay between when I say that and then when your questions pop up but feel free to ask questions while we're here live now on the topic of distance so I'm saying distance is your best friend there are of course going to be some things that are hard to get distance from squirrels for example don't tend to sit still in one place long enough for us to work around them but something like other people something like other dogs something like traffic these are things that we can get distance from and then slowly move closer now my next big tip for you is understand what motivates your dog and this is really really important so what I actually recommend is everybody does is have two lists one list of all the things your dog reinforcing and one another list of all the things your dog finds distracting and then rate everything on those lists on a scale of one to ten so you have something like a low-level distraction in a high medium low distraction high level distraction you have a low level reinforcer a medium level reinforcer and

a high level reinforcement but if you're going to teach your dog to work around distractions you have to really understand what your dog actually finds distracting and what your dog actually finds reinforcing so what motivates your dog um some dogs if you're lucky you have a dog with a super high reinforcer um so I have a Retriever at home who I'd have a tennis ball there is nothing on the planet that he will even notice there's no distraction on the planet that trumps a tennis ball but not every dog has that and that's okay some dogs have level 10 distractions some dogs have level 10 reinforcers my point is you really have to understand what motivates your individual individual dog and and more than just having the list is understand that your dog is an individual so let me give you a quick example my Toller I have two toler's in my house to Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and one of them is very easily motivated by attention if you can see what a good girl and you scratch her face and you scratch she loves that she like practically crawls out of her skin she's so excited that you're scratching her and telling her how great she is she

loves it and it works beautifully as a reinforcer either on its own or in combination with food so I might give her a treat and then tell her how great she is that kind of thing my other Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever striker hates that okay he wants the food he wants the toy that's it he does not want to be scratched behind the ears he doesn't want to be touched he doesn't want me to tell him how great he is he wants his paycheck and that's it and so with striker if I actually if he does something all in the presence of a distraction and I go I'm so proud of you good job oh that's so great and I start scratching him and and you know loving on him I'm not reinforcing the behavior I want okay I'm not motivating stryker to work for me around distractions because I'm not using something that actually motivates him so what I recommend people do is of course keep these lists so you have um you know your list of distractions your list of reinforcers and vimeo video yourself training your dog video yourself and your dog when you give him a treat video yourself playing

together video yourself playing with him without toys video all these things so you can go back and watch it and see oh ok so my time really loves it when I scratch them behind the ear if it doesn't like to be touched on the chest how your dog likes to be reinforced how your dog likes to engage it was really important when it comes to working around distractions the trainer's and I see the owner trainers that I meet that competi competitors I've know I've known in the agility and competition sports the ones that excel across all of these disciplines whether we're talking about training a service dog or a pet dog or a search-and-rescue dog or an agility dog the ones who really excel are the ones who truly know how to motivate each individual dog that they train with when you watch me train I have seven dogs in my house I've got Leo and I have six of my own when I trained each of them I interact with them differently so how do you interact with your dog what motivates him is something you really have to be an expert on if you're going to teach your dog to listen to you around distractions now my third tip and of course if you have questions about

anything and we go through this go ahead and throw them in my third tip is to balance your teeter totter now this was something that was explained to me by actually our very own Kristina's husband when he was talking to me about some photography stuff because that's what he does is I adapted it to dog training is this I want you guys to think about training their dogs around distractions like a teeter totter okay on this side we have distractions and on this side we have you and your reinforcer we want this to stay we want this to stay nice and balanced right nice and level so that my distractions don't outweigh me and my reinforcers so if I have a really heavy distraction if I have a big distraction that's really heavy I have to balance it back out somehow with something on this end that might be better treats so if I'm going to the mall for the first time and the distractions are really heavy I might get out the hot dogs okay or this steak or the leftover chicken something really good to help balance my teeter totter back out if I might on the other hand I might if I'm going to the mall for the first time I might use more

treats so if my distraction starts to get heavy I might use more treats per minute so instead of giving my dog one treat every you know thirty seconds or something I might give him treat treat treat I make to a very high what we call rate of reinforcement so that he's being reinforced very very often for doing the things that I want for focusing on me for responding to known behaviors right if my distractions get really heavy I might offset that by creating more distance distance is a really which we talked about that was my first tip remember that the further away we get from a distraction the easier it is for our dogs so if my distractions get really heavy I might offset that by getting further away from them so I might move further away until my teeter-totter balance is back out and then slowly move closer again okay but when my distractions get heavy if my distractions get heavy I have to do something to balance that so I see a lot of people who is teeter totters are leaning like this and they're still trying to train their dog if you're teeter totters leaning you have to

balance it back out before you can do anything else and once it's balanced then we can start to train again then we can start to teach our dogs to ignore distractions and do all that stuff right so my first tip was distance start as far away from the distraction as you need to and slowly get closer my second tip was to really truly understand what motivates your dog okay what is it that your - distracting what is it that he finds reinforcing really understand your dog and how how you can best motivate him what reinforcers he likes how he prefers for you to interact with him and then make sure your teeter-totter is nice and balanced okay if one thing gets harder we have to make something else easier to balance it back out so we have to use better treats a higher rate of reinforcement more distance from the distraction we also tend to think about our criteria in this one so what is it that you expect from your dog if we use healing as an example um when I'm healing at home I might expect my dog to have a perfect heal he's perfectly in position we walk you know 20 steps at a time with only one treat you know I

might have a really high high criteria for that but once I go to a new location I might relax my criteria so I might decide all right instead of being a perfect heel position nice and tight up to my left side it's okay if my dog is just a little bit out of position okay or it's okay if I have to reinforce my dog every few steps instead of every 20 steps so when that teeter-totter starts to get heavy and it starts to to lean towards the distractions we have to balance it back out so those are my top tips for working around three of them because it was actually very hard to narrow this down so those are three of my top tips for working around distractions and teaching your dog to focus in new places and around new environments if you guys have any questions the best place to ask them unless you're here now and you can throw them into the comments real quick is going to be in our Facebook group train your service dog with confidence which is also where our free focus building and working around distractions workshop is going to be held and that is starting on the 16th of October so is that um that is next week if you're watching

today on the 8th that is about a week and a half away so we're going to be doing a big live on four part focus building and working around distractions web or excuse me workshop inside that free Facebook group train your service dog with confidence I will make sure that the link to that is in the description of this video once I get off of here if you guys have any questions at all that that Facebook group is the best place to ask and I really hope to see you guys in that workshop cuz we're gonna cover a lot of things so these last couple of weeks where we've been talking about working around distractions and focus building on these lives has just barely bend the tip of the iceberg okay we're gonna really dive into a few of these things much much deeper starting on the 16th so I hope to see you guys all there if you have any questions let us know and make sure that you join us inside that Facebook group train your service dogs with confidence and I will add the link to the description of this video otherwise I will see you guys next week and then on the 16th so have a great day