Beginning in Low Distraction Environments

Training Your Dog with Distractions

Many dog owners struggle when it comes to training in distracting environments. It is best to begin training with fewer distractions rather than more.  Distractions can cause dogs to lose focus and ignore commands, making training sessions challenging. It is important to train the recall cue in a low distraction environment, so that your dog will learn the cue itself and assign value to it.  Then you may begin to add more distractions to your recall practice.  One effective technique to overcome this challenging hurdle is to use distance as a tool to gradually introduce distractions.

Common Problems when Training with Distractions:

  1. Lack of Focus
    Dogs are naturally curious and easily get distracted by their surroundings. When presented with new sights, sounds, or smells, they may struggle to pay attention to your cues. This can hinder their ability to learn and respond appropriately.

  2. Inability to Process Cues
    Dogs might exhibit unwanted behaviors such as pulling on the leash, jumping on people, or being oblivious to cues like “come”, “sit” or “stay.”

  3. Overstimulation/ Over Arousal
    Some dogs become overexcited or anxious in the face of distractions. This heightened arousal can make it challenging for them to remain calm and focused, making training sessions unproductive.

How to gradually increase distractions when training a Recall Cue:

Distance plays a crucial role in training your dog to overcome distractions. By gradually increasing or decreasing the proximity to the source of distraction, you can create a controlled environment that allows your dog to learn at their own pace.

1. Start with Minimal Distractions:
Begin training in a quiet and familiar environment where distractions are minimal. This will help your dog focus on you and understand the cues without being overwhelmed.

2. Gradually Introduce Distractions
Once your dog has mastered cues in a controlled setting, start adding distractions one at a time. For example, you can introduce toys, food, or other animals, gradually increasing the level of difficulty as your dog becomes more comfortable.

3. Maintain an Optimal Distance
Observe your dog’s behavior when distractions are present. If they show signs of overstimulation or become too focused on the distraction, increase the distance between them and the distraction. By finding the right balance, you can help your dog remain attentive while gradually building their resilience to distractions.

4. Use Positive Reinforcement
Reward your dog for staying focused and following cues, even in the presence of distractions. Positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, or play, motivates dogs and reinforces desired behaviors. It helps them associate distractions with positive outcomes, encouraging them to stay engaged.

5. Gradually Decrease Distance
As your dog becomes more proficient at handling distractions, start reducing the distance between them and the source of distraction. This step-by-step approach will gradually desensitize them and build their ability to concentrate, even in the face of tempting or stimulating elements.

*** Remember we are creating positive patterns with your dogs.  By consistent practice and using high value to reward the recalls, the pattern will become sustainable, and your dogs will automatically follow it.


Training your dog to cope with distractions with a recall cue is a process that requires patience, consistency, and the right techniques. By incorporating distance as a training tool, you can help your dog focus on you and your cues, gradually increasing their tolerance to distractions. Remember to take it one step at a time, reward positive behavior, and celebrate small victories along the way. With time and effort, your dog will become better equipped to handle distractions and be a well-behaved companion in any environment.

Happy training!