March 21st, 2021
2 min read

Encountering Everyday Distractions

Among all of the skills need, arguably the most crucial skill a guide dog puppy in training must learn is to avoid distractions when walking. Common distractions outdoors include sounds (firetrucks, police sirens, construction, birds), smells (plants, items on the ground, food), other people, and of course other dogs. Puppies must learn to ignore these to become success in their career as guide dogs.

Puppy raiser Kaiser and his black Lab puppy in training, Titan, waiting at a intersection. Kaiser is looking down at Titan who is right beside him and wearing his green jacket.

Dog distractions are always the hardest to train for because they are inherently curious and attracted to other dogs. It is difficult at first for puppies to avoid approaching and greeting other dogs, and often times will pull on the leash. However, with training techniques, food motivation, and repetition, they will understand the desired response of remaining next to their handler. The goal is for the puppy to maintain a “loose leash”, where there is no tension on the leash, and indicates the dog is not pulling towards another dog. Puppies also must not stop and stare at dogs nor bark.

Even more common are people distractions in different situations. Puppies on routine walks will encounter humans walking, running, on bicycles and skateboards, shopping, and eating, and therefore must avoid expressing interest. Puppy raisers are responsible for exposing these young dogs to many new distractions to familiarize them with their surroundings. Puppy raisers can accomplish this by going to shopping malls, outdoor parks, retail stores, sporting events, movie theaters, and other locations where puppies can experience these everyday sounds and learn not to become distracted.

Lastly, dogs must avoid items on the ground, including food and trash that have been dropped or not properly discarded. Also a distraction can be the natural smells of other dogs, whether on grass or other surfaces where previous dogs have visited or marked. Successful puppies must learn to ignore these situations and keep on task. Visits to parks, grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes are important to help puppies desensitize against all the wonderful sounds and smells.

Guide dogs are reliable partners for visually impaired/blind individuals and must learn to stay focused when working. Puppy raisers play a crucial role in the growth of these young puppies by exposing them to all the different environments they will encounter when they become working guide dogs.

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