And How to Fix It
So, you get yourself your first Weimaraner and right away sign up for obedience classes to make sure that your new pup will be a model canine citizen. And it goes really well, you diligently practice your training exercises at home and your star pupil loves to work for toys and treats and has a great recall.
But what happens to your A+ student when… he has spotted a bicycle whizzing by, a small white bouncy dog, a squirrel, plastic bag blowing in the wind, a seagull, another dog fetching sticks out of a river, a cat or the mailman? He appears to have never heard the words come, sit or down before!!! Sound familiar?
Here’s why. Most beginner dog obedience classes start by having you capture your dog’s attention with toys and treats. After you have your dog’s attention, THEN you ask your dog to perform a sit, down, or come. He’s already paying attention to you so these behaviors are pretty easily taught and progress is quick and smooth.
Out in the real world, at your front door and on the streets, beaches, dog parks and natural spaces of your community, your dog at times will absolutely be paying full attention to a bicycle whizzing by, a small white bouncy dog, a squirrel, plastic bag blowing in the wind, a seagull, another dog fetching sticks out of a river, a cat, or the mailman and, just when you need that obedience from your dog the most, your dog has no attention at all left for you!
Here’s a training tip I learned from Michael Ellis at his dog school in California, a mighty good place to take some training lessons I might add, and he has many wonderful training DVD’s available online.
You need to set up training sessions where you have your dog pay attention to something other than you on purpose and then ask for that sit, or down, or come. This will likely be quite difficult for your dog at first but with several lessons he will learn to pay attention to your commands even when he is really distracted by something out there in the real world.
This video shows Cindy training her dog Chili just that.
- Choose your distraction. Chili is very interested in toys so we chose that to ensure she would temporarily forget all about Cindy. You could also use a hot dog or length of string cheese if your dog was more interested in food than toys.
- Toss the distracting item out ahead and give the dog only a foot or two of length on the long line you ask for a sit. You may have to be patient, you may have to add a little pressure on the bum, you may have to repeat the command.
- But when your dog finally sits he will hear your praise and be released to get the tempting item. When your dog has mastered steps 1-3, then,
- add in a recall before giving permission to go as Cindy does on the second repetition of this drill.
- Take it on the road. Good places to start are outside the fence of a dog park, on a community green belt trail where there is a steady stream of all types of passers by and your front door when you know someone will be coming. Have your dog on a long line and when his attention is diverted to a forbidden pleasure, ask for a sit or down, then have him recall for a toy or cookie and repeat as necessary.
Now you really do have a model canine citizen!