Ziva - Adding Distractions

The earlier you add disractions to your training, the better.

This video shows Ziva learning to ignore distractions while heeling.  At 11 months of age,  Ziva's heeling is pretty good but the reward schedule is quite high.  This is the best time to introduce distractions; while the work is still highly reinforcing and controlled.


Interesting notes:

When Ziva ignores a distraction, two things happen; she is rewarded by her trainer, AND I move the distraction away.  The distraction (in this case, food), should be identical to whatever the owner is using as a motivator.

Adding movement makes this exercise a good deal more difficult.  Ziva does quarter turns in heel position around me to practice adding movement.  The most difficult move in heeling would be to heel directly towards the distraction and then adding an about turn.

This video shows the mistakes too.  Food gets dropped.  Timing isn't always perfect.  That's ok.  Training involves less than perfect sessions more often than not.  Don't sweat it; dogs have a way of meeting us half way.

If you add corrections for looking away (even a verbal reminder), you're missing the point.  Ziva must learn to choose to watch her owner rather than the distraction.  It doesn't matter if it takes her five minutes to succeed; it must be her idea.

I think this is the second or third time we've worked on distractions with Ziva; it's time to start moving forward with regular distraction training.  Ideally, she'll practice for two or three minutes a few times a week, slowly increasing the intensity of the distractions over time.  Most dogs generalize this exercise fairly well, and soon you'll be throwing everything you have at the dog, and still they will maintain focus.

Try it.  Just remember, it's the dog's choice that drives this exercise.  If you can let go of control, the dog will take on that responsibility. I know; sometimes easier said than done.



Denise, hope it’s OK for me to answer Kathie’s question—if not, just don’t post.
Kathie, in clicker training you reward for ONLY one ctiterion at a time, defining it as precisely as possible. You might do a set of 10 reps of “looking at me in the presence of food distraction”, then perhaps you would do a set of 10 where you would click for “spine straight forward.” Heeling has a bazillion elements (at least),, & the further you can break them down in the learning stage the more precise your dog will become. A clicker-savvy dog will very quickly learn what they’re being reinforced for at any given point. You are building both muscle memory & a reinforcement history for each element of heeling.


I don’t’ think I’ve mentioned this in awhile but I don’t respond to questions here; not enough hours in the day!
What Margaret said is correct.


Only just saw this post. On Tuesday, Chimera and I attended our first lesson of a new agility class. Cai was understandably distracted here and there by the other dogs, especially when they moved. The instructor advised me to just continue walking if he stopped to look at the dogs during heeling/circle work. I was proud of myself for being able to stick to my own training plan, which was to allow him to look if he wanted to, making sure to keep slack in the leash but turn my body away to signal that I wanted to do something else. I rewarded him with more (fun, easy) work and then treats for refocusing on me. As you wrote here, I want him to choose to pay attention to me, and using the leash to force him along would have created conflict and frustration in him. It’s thanks to you, Professor Fenzi, that I was able to make this choice and follow through despite the authority figure’s advice. :)

Connie Kaplan

Really cool! I am trying and regularly failing to get no out of training and what goes along with it, squelching drive and desire to learn. Thanks for another reminder in the same arena!


Yes, I understand your point about rewarding for the frequent distractions here, but what about rewarding this dog frequently for ignoring this distraction while her rear was also consistently out of correct heel position? Wouldn’t that be rewarding one good thing of ignoring distractions while yet still re-enforcing a bad habit of incorrect heeling position at the same time? I only ask because I have a 13 month old puppy whom I’m trying to be lots more precise with my expectations of what heeling means because we are a competition type family here.

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