Is your dog hyperactive and can easily get distracted by certain stimuli? Most dogs get really excited around something, maybe a pool of water or even a rabbit. Whenever they see one, they just go crazy and won’t listen. It’s difficult, right? That is why you have to train your dog to calm down even in the presence of the things that distract them.
Clicker training is one of the more effective methods of training. This is mainly attributed to the fact that the sound of a clicker is a very unique sound which when positively associated with a reward, can be used to recognize a dog’s good behavior.
Below are the steps on how to train your dog to stay calm using clicker training.
1. Know your dog
First, you have to know your dog. Specifically, know what triggers his excitement. Use these things in the training. If your dog is mainly super excited playing with other dogs in a pool of water, exploit it for the training. It is more recommended to use something that already distracts your dog rather than experiment for a new one.
2. Settle your dog in front of a distraction
Ready your clicker and bag of treats. Set up the distraction in an open area but closed enough to not let other potential distractions appear at the vicinity. Use a leash for your dog and make him settle near the distraction.
The tricky part is, you should be near enough to make your dog distracted, but far enough to make him think and snap out of it. If you are too far that your dog does not get distracted, it’s useless. The same thing goes when you are close enough to the distraction that your dog doesn’t want to listen to you.
If he manages to stay calm, reward him with a click then a treat. You can also reinforce him to settle by gently caressing him at the back.
3. Slowly add distractions
Adding distractions slowly and making him settle down is a good way to exercise his training. If he manages to settle down after adding a distraction, click then give a treat. Try to do this repeatedly to keep desensitizing your dog to the distraction.
4. Recall train your dog
Recall your dog in the vicinity of the distraction that you previously set up. Approach it then do a recall. If he manages to recall successfully, click and give out a reward. Some dogs recall at only one command, while some do not. Be patient and do not force your dog to recall.
5. Keep increasing the difficulty
Slowly add more distractions and let your dog approach them. Do recalls on all of them, to practice your dog to pay attention while at the same time desensitizing them to the distractions around them. It helps if you make it seem random. Nevertheless, every good behavior should be rewarded with a click and a treat.
6. Go back to a step if failing
If your dog is not recalling to some extent, go back a step. Slowly remove some of the distractions. It is recommended not to proceed with the training since it could be counterproductive and would no go well if you continued even if your dog is fully distracted. No improvements and progress will be attained if your dog is not paying attention to you during the training.
7. Rinse and repeat
Repetition is the key if you want your dog to get completely desensitized with these distractions. Although complex and somewhat time-consuming, try to be patient as your dog learns how to handle his own even with the presence of distractions.
Proceed well with the training. If he manages to control his excitement on a leash, try using a long leash and go far for a recall. Continue to give out rewards as you did before and improve the training until he recalls at the presence of distraction even when he’s off the leash.
That’s it! Follow the steps above and you would be able to notice that your dog is slowly desensitizing to the distraction. Below are some additional tips that you may use during training.
· Use a gentle pressure on the leash
Some trainers are making the mistake of jerking hard on the leash if their dog is not following them. Try not to do this as much as possible. Be patient with your dog and do not let any negative association come in your training. This will make your dog improve poorly and it will make it seem like a form of punishment for them, which is counterproductive.
· Be creative with rewards
As you move along with your training, there may be times that you have to increase the training reward. Better yet, to be creative with the rewards. If you know your dog already, you also know what he loves. Does he like toys? A tennis ball, perhaps? Use these as a form of reward instead of just using treats.
You may do this especially during off-leash training, where your dog will have more freedom to run about. When properly recalled, click and allow him to fetch and the ball from far away. Once he gets back, let him go to the distraction again.
· Keep training short
Technically, clicker training should be continued in a manner that every good behavior is rewarded. However, training your dog to desensitize him to a distraction should be kept short. It is ideal to let him process first rather than rushing through the whole training regimen.
· Take time desensitizing your dog to a distraction
It may take days, a week, or even a month for your dog. Be patient as much as possible, since your dog might not be able to learn them fast. The key is consistency. It helps if you would stick to the training schedule for your dog. If he recognizes the training as a form of playing and exercise, the better. He would even look forward to it.