FAD3 - Day 4

FAD Day 4 -  Expect the Unexpected! 

Unexpected things happen in life, usually at times we’re not prepared for them. Cindy was walking Nick in the park, mid week, when they encountered a group dressed as Geisha. Another time, while out with Pau, she encountered someone holding a large boa constrictor. Since both Nick and Pau were prepared for odd things happening, there wasn’t an issue.

Uncontrollable Distractions 

While we can control many things in the world, we cannot control them all. Scent is one of the harder things to control, and even harder for us to figure out because a dog’s sense of smell is about 40 times greater than ours. They smell things we are unable to detect, and use scent much the way we use vision. They also find smells we don’t like enticing. This is handy when we want them to alert to medical situations, drugs, explosives, and an assortment of other things, it can be frustrating when they’re distracted by spring smells.

Sounds, especially sudden, loud sounds, like gun fire, fireworks, cars backfiring, items being dropped, can startle both human and dogs, as can on going high or low frequency sounds we may not hear.

Certain times of the year, or after a period of being cooped up will cause “spring fever” where sights, sounds, and scents are more arousing. Cindy reports this happens every spring with Nick. He starts sniffing more as feral kittens are around, trees blossom, and plants flower. Once, on a walk, Nick and Cindy had a Great Blue Heron land 20 ft in front of them. They patiently waited for the bird to take off before proceeding.

Public environments, like parks, pet stores, outdoor restaurants, outdoor malls, and other pet friendly places offer unique challenges. Dropped food, spilled drinks, other pets, children on bicycles, scooters and skateboards, ball games, and the scents associated with them are distracting in different ways.

Sudden Environmental Changes

Sudden environmental changes can be challenging to your dog. Spring fever, returning to the world after an illness, or returning to the world after sheltering in place from Covid, can make focusing around distractions even harder. This can be eased by returning slowly to usual activities, providing appropriate activities for your dog, and being aware of things you can control. Cindy was recently ill for about a month, preventing her from doing Nick’s usual activities with him. As a result, Nick has been extra fizzy. Adding back extra games that meet his needs has helped him settle back into his routine.

Exciting places can be challenging, especially when the dog really wants what it’s anticipating happening, like pulling to get to the dog park or training center with the trainer the dog loves. When Pau was a puppy, Cindy took her to the dog park near their house every day at 4 pm. Pau would anticipate this. She could tell the time of day based on scent and lighting. Every day at 3:30 Pau would start getting more active. On the way to the park, Pau would try to pull on the leash to make Cindy walk faster. Cindy would use this time to teach loose leash walking. The pay off for Pau, after struggling to contain her excitement, was playing in the park.

Changing from inside to outside, or outside to inside can be startling, with changes in temperature, scent, sound, flooring, and air pressure can be quite startling, especially in stores with an antechamber for inclement weather conditions. The mats can be soggy and smelly where people stomp snow off their boots, the air pressure changes, the flooring changes, there are doors opening and closing, and a mixture of indoor and outdoor scents. For some dogs, this can be extremely scary. Cindy had a client who’s dog was so terrified of the antechamber at a hardware store, the dog and handler had to use the garden entrance while working on acclimating the dog to the automatic doors and antechamber.

Working in New Environments

Going into new environments can be challenging, especially if the dog rarely goes in those places. This is why dogs often appear stressed out when at the pet store. For many dogs, it’s the only place, or the first place the owner has taken them, and they’re overwhelmed. Pet stores have the smell of lots of other dogs, cats, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects in addition to the smell of food, treats, and toys designed for pets. Cindy and Nick once took a class that had a crab, a bird, and a rat run through it. It was a challenging class. Fortunately Nick generally goes to that store at least twice a week.

Time of day can factor into behavior and focus as well. Objects and colors look different in low light than bright light, scent changes with temperature, so things will smell stronger in the heat of the day than at night, and activity of wildlife will be different during the day than at night. At Penny’s house it’s common to hear coyotes singing at night. At Cindy’s place, there is lots of car traffic during the day.

Resilience of the dog and handler is a factor when dealing with distractions. The more a dog sees of the world, and is able to function in it, the less it will be distracted by unexpected things. Because both Nick and Pau have seen so much of the world, taking either dog to new places and seeing new things is not a worry to Cindy. Recently Cindy took Nick to the local zoo, where Nick was exposed to all sorts of new animals, including their smells and sounds. Nick behaved perfectly all day.

Games: Look At That & LATTE

24 Hr Bowling

Please join us for the FAD3 Workshop Q&A Session

Time: Mar 26, 2024 06:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 878 1564 5121

Passcode: 037970

We will be sharing a sneak peak at the Building a Better self study class at the end of the Q&A for anyone who wants to learn more about force free, positive reinforcement, games based dog training.