Suddenly your dog sees something. His muscles stiffen, ears and tail go up, and he’s absolutely… not listening to you. What do you do? Well, usually, you end up looking around, trying to quickly figure out what’s distracting your dog!!
… Is it a bird? … A cat? … Is there another dog coming??? … Did he hear something??
It doesn’t matter what distracted your dog (or other animal, by the way), they still need to have the ability to stay calm and paying attention to you in any situation – no matter what. I know this might sound like a bold statement (“It’s easier said than done!”), but it’s true. I train working dogs and they can’t get distracted by anything – that would put their (blind) owner’s life in danger. When they hear a loud noise or see a cat run across the street, I don’t spin my head around and frantically wonder, “What could’ve possibly distracted him? What was that?”
Then I’m just doing exactly what my dog is doing. The point I want to bring across to my animals is that a distraction is a distraction no matter what caused it. I don’t want the distraction in general, that’s why the cause is irrelevant. They can look and check something out, but that’s it (looking, even quickly, is natural – almost an automatic reflex. If you see something fast move or hear a loud bang, you almost can’t look because your eyes would immediately dart there). They still have to be able to listen to me. So when they get distracted, I ignore the distraction (I’m being an example: “hey, see, we can just ignore that thing”) and continue to ask what I was asking for before this silly distraction came along. And I follow through. We want to be the best leaders for our animals. That means that they look to us to see whether they should be calm or worried or excited. If I’m calm and ignoring a distraction, they should, too.
Glancing over at, and trying to figure out, what’s distracting your dog, will send him the message that you’re following his lead and clearly not the other way around. Don’t do that. Let him look and then bring his attention back to you.