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Distraction Training

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This is nine minutes of unedited video with a focus on distraction training.  The rate of reinforcement (ROR) is quite high here because success is “marked” with a reward.  I try to isolate specific behaviors that have clear criteria; either he does them or he does not.  You can see how I handle failure to respond to cues.  Not a big deal.

I start with a minute of engagement training so he can adapt to the space.  Soon enough he comes to visit and we play.  Not a lot of play, but enough to make sure that we’re fully engaged with each other.

I move on to retrieve distraction training.  My criteria for success are eye contact for a solid second regardless of the location of the treat.  If he follows the treat hand instead of making eye contact, I simply wait.  I’m also looking for a quiet hold. Fortunately, I find he almost always holds well if he is making eye contact with a distraction present.

Next, we work on positions.  I place the cookie in front of his nose and ask for positions.  Note that he often has to move away from the treat in order to be successful.  “Wait” (stand) is new for him within the context of distraction, so this is the first session where I have incorporated it into his lessons  This is approximately his third session working with sit and down under this form of distraction.

This is hard!  The treat in front of his nose keeps him in the game even when he’s failing to respond.

After a few minutes, we switch to pivots in heel position so that he can move his body and relax his brain.  I feed from behind my back to offset his tendency to forge.

After his mental break, we go back to distraction work.

Note that I recognize success after failure with an increase in verbal praise and genuine appreciation for a job well done, and throughout the session I use play and personal interaction to keep the focus on our shared activity rather than the food.

The following video is our entire session, unedited, so you can note my reaction to errors and also the overall pace of the session.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

7 responses »

  1. It might be me, I am old or it might be my device although I listen to many videos but I have so much trouble hearing you. Is it just me?

  2. How about something for people who simply cannot sit on the floor?

  3. Have to admit I am now a bit confused about the words from various people about distraction training. What I want to do is to work with a working dog (kelpie) to improve her capacity to control her agility ring arousal, particularly in relation to contacts. People have suggested various strategies to incrementally increase arousal in training. People also suggest distraction work – competing motivators to break stays and so on. On the other hand there seems to be is a line of thinking that suggests that distraction work/the use of competing motivators (‘setting up to fail’) is, or can be, unethical.

    I remember that earlier in 2016 something appeared on my facebook feed which involved a European video of two dogs, one a BC, that seemed to be being ‘teased’ very strongly to break focus during their work. The discussion that followed was long and extremely interesting, and I recall that you commented very particularly in a way I completely agreed with. I cannot, for the life of me, find that post anymore. I wondered if you knew how to find it, or if, alternatively, you could re-state your position about what is OK and not-ok (ethically) in distraction work.

    With thank, Maree.

    (PSI can see that Brito is not visibly stressed at all and that the rate of reinforcement is high. There must be some stress however – how do you decide how far to push?)

    • My next post should possibly answer your question about stress and how to proceed ethically.

      I’m not sure if you’ve read my book, Train the Dog in Front of You – but to your first paragraph, you may want to pick up a copy and look for the chapter on Movement. The fact is, how you should proceed depends on why the dog is struggling so it’s critical that you understand where the root cause of the challenges are coming from. You may also wish to look at Sarah Stremming’s upcoming class at FDSA in February,, she will certainly tease apart the variables involved in overarousal as well as presenting answers.
      Your question is really quite complex and does not lend itself to a simple answer.


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