How to Train Your Small Dog to Come With Distractions

Medium
2-12 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Your little dog knows 'come'. And they are happy to perform the command because they want to please you. They've got the task down pat, along with all the other basics like 'down' and 'sit'. When you call, your little dog comes running like hearing their name is the best thing that could happen. You’re not worried about bringing your little dog to the beach for the first time. But when you get there, you quickly learn that your little tail-wagger loves the water and ignores your calls entirely. When you are ready to go home, you are so embarrassed to have to chase your very quick little dog all over. What happened to your ever-obedient dog?

Your training isn’t for naught, and although it seems like your little dog has forgotten everything, that isn't the case at all. It’s just that with distractions, even the best training is put to the test. Maybe your dog doesn’t understand your command in this new setting of a sandy beach, or it could be because your little companion is testing what they can get away with. Or, the simple explanation that the call of the waves is too strong! Worry not, there are solutions.

Defining Tasks

Little dogs that were bred to follow their nose or chase down game, like Dachshunds and Yorkshire terriers, will often have the innate trait to chase. They may have a harder time dealing with distractions than little dogs bred to be companions. It will take a lot of patience to train your little dog to come no matter what, and it will take perseverance and consistent training. Treats are always a good incentive as is playtime after a training session. Work gradually with your little dog while using external controls like barriers and long leashes to keep everyone safe.

Getting Started

Training your little dog to come with distractions is all about teaching them that the response to the command is just as natural and desired as the call to dinner time. And, as mentioned, you need something to motivate your little dog, like treats, toys, and of course, your affection. If your furry companion is already coming without distractions, you already know what your little pooch likes best. Bring these same tools to the distraction training.

Some additional tools are great in teaching your little dog to come even with distractions. A distinct attention-getter, like a whistle or horn, can cut through distractions. Long lines with some elasticity are useful both for having control of your small dog and for nudging them into focus. An elastic line is good because it prevents a sharp pull to your little dog’s delicate body. If your pup is really struggling, end on a positive note and begin the session the next day.

The Let's Go Method

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Step
1
Start at home
As with any training, it is often best to start at home, adding difficulty, before taking the task outside or in a new location.
Step
2
Teach let's go
The easiest way to teach the command let's go is to use it in many instances. Tell your small pooch "let's go" when you are heading out the door for a walk, and when you are leaving the living room for the kitchen and meal time. Teach your dog let's go when you are leaving the vet or groomer to go home.
Step
3
Test them
When in the back yard, use the let's go command to instruct your dog that you are going inside. Once indoors, praise them highly and offer a treat.
Step
4
To the beach
By now, your dog should associate the let's go command with good things. Remember though, that when teaching "let's go," there should never be a delay between the command and the action. Always follow through when saying the command so that your dog knows to come and see what fun is next without hesitation.
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The Line it Up Method

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Step
1
Choose the line
The line you use will need to be soft and elastic. This is to allow bouncing back gently as opposed to hard jolts. Have your mini mutt wearing a harness so there is no pulling on the neck, either.
Step
2
Range
Let your little dog range out from you. Follow them discreetly, being careful that the line doesn’t get hung up on anything. It may take your pooch some time to get used to the feel of the line following them around.
Step
3
Call your dog
When your eager pup has taken a good bit of the line, take up all slack without actually pulling on your little dog at all, and call them. If your pooch comes, reward them enthusiastically. If they don't, move on to the next step.
Step
4
Get your dog’s attention
If your little dog doesn’t come when you call, give one firm pull on the line while calling again. The pull should be just enough to gently jostle and get their attention. If your pupster still doesn’t come, call and pull a little harder, until they start coming to you.
Step
5
Praise the return
Praise your little dog enthusiastically as they return to you. Your pooch may be sheepish, knowing they should have come, or they may seem reluctant. No matter what, be enthusiastic and shower your little dog with praise all the way back to you and give rewards when they get to you.
Step
6
Practice
Keep practicing in different situations. When you feel confident, remove the line. If your little dog doesn’t respond, put the line back on. Soon they will have practiced enough to have built the self-control to come no matter the distractions.
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The Keep it Simple Method

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Step
1
Find a safe place
Start in the house, in a room that is spacious and quiet.
Step
2
Lose the distractions
Distractions don't provide anything useful at this point. Let your dog know that it 's all about them and they are important. Speak with an encouraging tone.
Step
3
Call your little dog
Call your dog and if they come, reward them with praise and let them wander off again.
Step
4
Make it worth it
The next time you call your pooch, offer them a treat when they arrive, such as a piece of their favorite kibble.
Step
5
Up the ante
If your pup has done well and you think it's the time to end the session, then do so. Otherwise try another shot or two at the command. This time, offer a liver treat or a piece of boiled chicken as the reward. Then end the session.
Step
6
Next time
Have another short and simple training session the next day. This time, move to a room with a few more distractions, such as a tennis ball in the corner. Work with a high value reward, like a piece of chicken. Practice makes perfect!
Step
7
Take it outside
Call your dog to you when in the yard, Offer a fabulous treat, a favorite game, or a new toy as the reward. Each time you add distractions you are training your pup to come for the high value treat even though the distractions are getting stronger. Always work with what your dog loves the best, whether it is food or a much loved toy.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Little Bee
Mixed breed
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Little Bee
Mixed breed
8 Years

If my dog is not on a leash outside, she runs extremely fast when she sees something she wants like a deer, squirrel, cat, or another dog. She is completely unresponsive to the command "come". She doesn't even slow down her running or briefly turn around to look at me. How do I train my dog to stop running away like this when there are triggers and to instead turn around and come to me? She already knows the command "come" very well when there are no distractions, like when we are inside or in a quiet area outside.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
132 Dog owners recommended

Hi there! I have two methods to help you with this. The first one is to practice her recall on a long leash, while in these distracting environments. You can pick up a 50 foot lead at any pet store and they are really inexpensive. Usually under $10. Bring treats and give her the "come" command. Give her a few seconds to come to you. If she doesn't, reel her in slowly, while luring her with the treat. Have her sit and give her the treat. Repeat this until she is less distracted. Another idea is to teach her the command leave it if she doesn't already know it, and apply it to these distractions before she has a change to become overly excited. Leave it is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone or not go after. Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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