• Kristen Renaud

Day 3 - 30 Days of Dr. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol

January 31, Day Three

Day three can be summarized in one word. Distraction! Kirby struggled through day three, not because of the tasks, but due to the distractions in her training environment.

I like to start each training session with as little distractions as possible. For us, that means the cats get tuna or toys in a different room. We train in one room away from everyone else in the apartment. The room is quiet, a comfortable temperature, and I am the only source of movement.

However, today did not go that way. I put the cats in a different room with toys. This did not work. Immediately Diggs, our orange cat, was scratching and meowing at the door to get out. Kirby kept diverting her attention to that noise. Next, as a result of the warm and sunny winter temperatures our apartment is full of hatching lady bugs. About five lady bugs crawled near Kirby during the 20 minute training session. Kirby loves bugs. I tried to toss treats away from the bugs. But it did not matter. She had to investigate the bugs. So I paused to clear the lady bugs out of the room. Once they were all moved to my indoor plants I tried to resume training. We made it through about 10 tasks before a squirrel showed up on the patio. A squirrel has not been spotted on our patio for a few weeks so it was a complete distraction.

It made me reflect on the initial training I did with Kirby as a puppy. Long before we started our distraction and impulse control training. Training a distracted dog takes a lot more work than a dog that is focused. So how do you train a distracted dog? With patience and some clever alternatives. Keeping your dog close to the distraction and hoping they will soon find you interesting is a losing battle.

While there are many ways to reduce your dog's distraction levels. One of the quickest and easiest solutions is to remove your dog from the distraction. This can be accomplished by creating distance. You can walk your dog away from the distraction, use your body to shield the distraction from view. Or if possible, you can cut off the visual distraction all together. With Kirby, I let her watch the squirrel for a bit and then closed the blinds to block out the view.

With all the distractions removed, we were able to finish the training session and keep Kirby on track. As a bonus, we finished with enough time to continue to watch the squirrel (pictured below).

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