How Can I Manage Distractions with My Shih Tzu

by Sherry
(Louisville,Kentucky-USA)

Hello,
A week ago, I got a sweet girl (Shih Tzu). She turned one yr.old in June of this year.
I have taught her quite a lot in this period of time.

One thing that concerns me is how easily distracted she is when we are outside pottying.
If there is another person getting out of their car or another dog starts to bark, she immediately is out of control & wants to run over to whomever/whatever is in her view. I have her on a harness & can barely hold on to her! She just goes crazy!

I have had dogs in the past & haven't ever had this type of issue.

(The couple who had her originally had a senior dog & cat, so she should be able to harness some of the emotions. They took wonderful care of her, so it's not like she was in a pack of dogs).

Anyway, thank you for any kind of ideas that I can put in place.


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Hi, Janice here from Miracle Shih Tzu
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First, let me congratulate you on your new Shih Tzu dog. She sounds like a great dog and an excellent companion. I think you correctly labeled her behavior. Some dogs are just distractable, but it seems like she is trainable, so I'm guessing you can train her to behave even during distractable moments.

Training her to behave and ignore distractions is an advanced training task that takes some time. The goal is to keep her focused on you rather than responding to whatever action is taking place around her whether it is a car door, another dog's bark, or even a person walking nearby.

To practice this, you may need the help of another person to play the part of the distraction.

I am assuming that when you take her out to potty, she is wearing a harness attached to the leash in your hand?

The easiest way in my mind to teach a dog to focus even when faced with distraction is first to teach a few basic commands.

1. Look at Me or just Look or Watch-me
2. Stay, sit-stay or down-stay.

The Look at Me or Look command teaches a dog to make eye contact with you in exchange for a treat. You may want to check out this link on teaching, Watch Me Command.

Another useful training command is the sit-stay. During this task, the dog is expected to remain in a sit position for increasingly longer periods of time. Your dog will first need to sit on command.

1. Place the dog in the sit position and wait a couple of seconds, then give a treat.

2. Continue to do this by the next time, wait 3 or 4 seconds before giving a treat.

3. The next time you will want to wait a couple of seconds longer. As the dog gets the hang of it, vary the amount of time you expect her to sit, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.

4. Once you have gotten good success, continue to vary the time by adding a longer interval.

5. The next step is to place the dog in the sit-stay position and take a few steps away before giving the treat. Continue in this way taking one more step each time before you treat.

6. Add Distractions: Place your dog in the sit-stay position while expecting her to focus on you. Once in that position for a few seconds, give a treat.

7. Add a distraction. Here is where a second person comes in handy. If you don't have access to another person, you can start by placing a toy that has little value to your dog on the floor away from you. Wait and see she stays, give her a treat. Repeat as you move closer to the toy until she ignores the toy. Treat. Next place her favorite toy on the ground and repeat, treating when she ignores the toy.

8. This process can be repeated using any distraction, a person walking, a person singing or ringing a bell, a person squeezing your dog's favorite squeaker toy.

Eventually, you want to work up to the sound of other dogs barking or a car door closing. If you have practiced all of this inside without added distractions, it's time to take it outside and see how he does.

This is a fairly difficult training task to master, and some people often end up taking their dog to an obedience class for help with this one. But this is a very basic outline of how to train your dog to ignore distractions.

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