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Tips for Training Dogs Around Distractions | Pupford

November 7th, 2023

Filed under Training

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Has your dog ever mastered a behavior in training sessions or at home only to have it all go out the window in a real-world setting?

We’ve all been there.

Likely, distractions are to blame.

People walking by, squirrels darting across the road, the smell of a restaurant across the street – distractions are everywhere when your dog is out and about in the world. And they are super tempting for dogs, who tend to follow their impulses (and their noses!).

But for the sake of your peace of mind, and your dog’s safety, it’s important to teach your dog to focus on you even with distractions around.

If that sounds impossible to you, don’t stress! We have a few tips that can help you and your dog master training with distractions:

  1. Teach key behaviors
  2. Reward more frequently
  3. Reward with strategic timing
  4. Increase distractions gradually

Let’s dive more into each one →


improve your dogs recall to improve training around distractions

One of the most effective ways to deal with distractions during training is to teach behaviors that promote focus.

When their eyes and attention are on you, it’s much easier for your dog to either ignore distractions around them or manage their impulse to follow said distractions.

Behaviors that promote focus include:

Plus these skills will transfer over really well into other areas for your dog. For example, recall is a useful and potentially life-saving skill that every dog should know, while “touch” builds a foundation for advanced behaviors like potty bell training.

For more help in this area, and how to teach some of these key behaviors, check out our recent article How to Get Your Dog’s Attention on You.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for the 100% free class taught by Zak George, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶


reward your dog more frequently when working on challenging behaviors

The role of rewards in training is to show your dog what you want them to do and encourage them to keep doing it.

When your dog has to constantly work against the urge to get distracted, we want to consistently remind them they are doing a good job and make it worth their while.

Providing frequent, small rewards when a distraction enters your dog’s environment motivates them to continue their focus. In other words, it answers the question of “what’s in it for me?”

Over time you can gradually increase the time between rewards, but in the beginning, you’ll want to reward almost constantly. That’s why it’s important to choose treats that are high-value and motivating, yet are small and low-calorie.

Example → Pupford’s training treats are made with irresistible ingredients like chicken, salmon, sweet potato, and more, but are low in calories. Learn more and shop training treats here.


It’s not enough to just reward frequently on its own, there has to be intention behind when reinforcement starts and stops.

The trick here is to have your dog make specific associations when it comes to distractions. Mainly, we want them to learn that it’s a good thing to ignore the distractions even when they are at their most tempting.

A great way to do this is to introduce a positive interrupter:

Positive = adding something to the situation

Interrupter = breaking your dog’s attention from something

reward your dog correctly when training

You can positively interrupt your dog away from whatever is distracting them with a sound or a cue to get their attention. It can be a designated whistle or a loud word like “here” – as long as it’s distinct and distinguishable enough to get your dog’s attention while facing distractions.

With a positive interrupter, give your signal then reward your dog as soon as they turn their attention towards you.

Another approach you can take is to proactively keep your dog’s attention towards you by rewarding as soon as they’ve noticed the distraction, but before they have a chance to react.

With this approach, you're teaching your dog that when distractions are present, they should turn to you instead of reacting or losing focus.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for the 100% free class taught by Zak George, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶


how to increase distractions when training dog

Whenever you teach your dog something, you want to start in an environment with as few distractions as possible. But the goal is to get your dog to master skills and behaviors in any setting, especially those where potential dangers are present.

But jumping right from a controlled environment into a bustling neighborhood will only leave our dogs overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Instead, you’ll want to increase distractions gradually. Here’s what that can look like:

  • Week 1 of training is in a completely controlled environment with no distractions
  • Week 2 of training is around family members or other familiar people
  • Week 3 of training introduces unfamiliar people and/or animals, but in a controlled way – like having a friend come to your house and enter the room during training exercises
  • Week 4 of training can take place in a park or other public place, during a less crowded time
  • Week 5 of training could take place in a public place during peak times

This is just an example, but you get the idea – start with a quiet, controlled environment and gradually increase distractions while decreasing predictability.


Let’s be honest, we’re never going to be able to completely avoid distractions for our dogs – and we shouldn’t want to! Distractions are part of our everyday life and your dog knowing how to focus through them is SO important for your dog’s happiness and safety.

Here's a quick recap of tips for training your dog around distractions:

  • Teach key behaviors
  • Reward more frequently
  • Reward with strategic timing
  • Increase distractions gradually (this is vital)

How does your dog handle distractions during training? Were any of these tips able to help you? Let us know in the comments!

And if you're needing more in-depth training help, be sure to sign up for the 100% free online class 30 Day Perfect Pup, taught by Zak George. Sign up for free here!

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for the 100% free class taught by Zak George, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶


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