One really big POSITIVE change that is happening with new puppy owners over the last year or two is that, many new puppy owners are coming to see me when they first get their puppy so they can get the puppy on the right track from the start, and if you distraction proof your pup through neustralisation, a lot of problems will be avoided.
Letting your pup learn undesirable behaviours and develop habits you later in life won’t appreciate is not going to leave you thinking this puppy is the greatest thing to come along. Every week I see pet owners, people in dog sports and working dog owners all looking for higher levels of obedience from their dogs around distraction. Most times, the problem they are trying to overcome when their dog is a year old are problems introduced when their dog was a 8 week old puppy.
It seems to be a way of life that we wait until something is broken before we get it fixed, but when you think about it, that is a really bad way to approach raising your next pup.
We published a blog post back in 2012 called “Puppy Schools, the good, the bad and the ugly” and the goal of that post was to highlight that not all puppy schools are going to be beneficial for your pup. Some can be damaging to the way that your puppy will interact with other dogs and some may just achieve nothing.
I wrote this article “Socialisation / Neutralisation, what is it exactly“, a while back and the feedback we have received by hundreds of people has been overwhelming. This is a great article for you to read now to better understand what Socialisation actually is.
Distraction Proof Your Pup
I believe to distraction proof your pup you need to have a firm understanding of what socialisation / neutralisation is, because if you can set the values to other dogs, people, children and environmental factors to neutral value, you will have a big head start when you want to distraction proof your pup to these forces.
Remember Distractions are elements within the dogs environment that are competing against your rewards and control. When a dog becomes distracted, this is because the dog has a strong positive or negative values for the distraction, or doesn’t know how to deal with it, so it goes almost without saying that if you have exposed your pup to the most common elements that would ordinarily distract a dog, but you set the values low, then these elements will not serve as distractions for your dog.
Here is a video we made to accompany this article, it shows one of the puppies I bred going through this process at 10 weeks old and the result at 6 months old.
The first section of the above video shows Agent at 10 weeks old, this is a small section of this video. You will see in the original video some of the exercises I have designed to Distraction proof your pup. We of course use no aversion on pups but we do heavily reward good choices and whilst it may just look like offering food to a pup, like everything there is quite a bit more to it.
I know that many people just allow their young pups to socialise freely with their older dogs and known dogs and just simply use corrections to overcome distraction later on. There is really nothing wrong with that but consider the benefit of never having to go through that correction phase or leaving corrections out of all of your training.
This can be an obvious huge benefit for people who wish to compete in Dog Sports, but lets not forget the family pet too. I see many people each week whose dogs live on the end of a leash simply because they can’t control them around other dogs or people.
Whilst “environment control” is achievable, it is a pretty sad life for a dog that only gets to experience the outside world 6 feet at a time. These dogs are often severe leash pullers too so there is no joy in taking them out as your arms get stretched for either the entire walk or whenever something of interest comes along.
When a dog is aggressive or reactive toward another dog, many of these dogs suffered an unexpected, perhaps frightening event at socialisation level. This has caused them later in life to be overly defensive and use aggression to drive other dogs or people away. Sometimes things go wrong when people are letting their young dogs play with others, this is another aspect that doesn’t happen in my programs as we don’t want the pups to learn a high level of play / interaction.
I see dog owners in my behaviour consultancy every week that believe their aggressive or reactive dog needs more socialisation, when in fact their dog already has a value for other dogs , it is just is a negative value. The reality is that their dog may need several programs now to overcome their “Cynophobia”.
I will often be working with dog owners to achieve better impulse control, desensitization and counter conditioning and then we can look at overcoming distraction. The harsh reality is that, although people report that I can make miraculous changes in their dogs, many are never truly “fixed”, but are under better management coupled with better impulse control and of course there are many that do make a full recovery.
I cannot urge people enough who are thinking about getting a puppy to seriously consider my socialisation plan, I feel it is the cornerstone of the adult dog you will have in the future. People who have raised their pups this way universally report how easy their dogs are to train and how little problems they have in training or with distraction.
Consider that I am aiming to develop you as the most valuable reward in your dogs life and everything a fairly bland alternative, so this can only be a good thing!
When things have not unfolded the way I suggest in this article, all is far from lost! People bring me dogs that start off with very out of control behaviours and my advanced programs can bring control back fast. Don’t give up even if you missed the mark with neutralisation, contact us and we CAN help, no matter how bad your dog is, I have seen it before.
If you have a pet dog that wants to kill other dogs, a sport dog that wont stay engaged with you or something totally different, come see me and EXPECT RESULTS!
We are happy to help no matter where you are starting, give our staff a call on the phone (02 45 789 789) or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.