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Madeleine Ross, CPDT-KA, November 8 2018

How To Use Your Dog's Distractions As Rewards

Many dog owners become frustrated with how their dog focuses on distractions rather than their humans. Rather than thinking of the things that your dog wants to get to as distractions try thinking of them as potential REINFORCERS.

For example, let’s say that you have trouble getting your dog to come when called around birds, because your dog loves to chase them. Most owners would say that their dog is distracted by birds, and try to train their dog to ignore the birds. If you understand reinforcers, however, you can use the birds to train a recall.

‍‍‍To do this, you would find a place that your dog can safely chase birds (like a big park far away from any roads) and attach your dog to a long training line. Start far enough away from the birds that your dog is under threshold and able to concentrate and follow the cues that they know. Call them to come, and when they do mark the behaviour with your marker signal of choice (e.g. the spoken marker "yes") and then release your dog to chase the birds as their reward for coming to you. Once they’ve finished chasing the birds reel them in with the long line and begin the exercise again. Gradually you can get closer and closer to the birds.

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Written by

Madeleine Ross, CPDT-KA


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