Julia Thomson is a regular contributor to That Mutt. She maintains the blog Home on 129 Acres where she blogs about country living and DIY renovating.
I am dealing with a case of distracted doggie syndrome. Are you familiar with the symptoms?
1. “I’m sniffing. I’m sniffing. I’m sniffing. Aaaaack, why are you strangling me? The sniffs go this way!”
2. “I’m going to stare fixedly into the distance, just in case there’s something more interesting than you out there.”
3. And the worst. “The sniffs are just too delicious. I’m going to sit here for a little while.”
I will admit that my husband and I let this happen. We both work full time, so Baxter spends a lot of time inside and alone. We feel guilty about this, so when we head out for his morning and afternoon walks we pretty much let him call the shots.
While the walks (or more accurately the sniffs) may be enjoyable for Baxter, they’re sometimes not the most enjoyable outings for us. And sniffs aside, these are not the most stimulating or challenging outings for Bax.
Recently, I’ve been trying to put myself more in the driver’s seat. Two of my techniques are a couple new commands.
How to increase your dog’s focus on walks
1. “With me.”
“With me” means, “No, we’re not stopping right now. Keep walking.”
I use it as soon as I see Baxter thinking about veering off course. I have to pay attention to catch him before he chooses his own adventure.
“With me” was relatively easy for him to learn. Even the sound of the command is enough to distract him from the scent and remind him, “Oh right, I’m walking with Julia. I’ll go with her.” It feels like a huge win when he comes back on course with me.
2. “Let’s go.”
“Let’s go” means, “Okay, we stopped to sniff, and it’s been long enough. Now we’re moving on.”
Sometimes I fall back into old habits of letting Baxter call the shots, or I don’t mind a sniff break, or I missed my chance for “with me.” The hardest thing about “let’s go” is I want it to be non-negotiable. Therefore, I say “let’s go” and start walking. If Bax doesn’t come along, he gets dragged a little bit.
Teaching “let’s go” hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as “with me” thanks to Baxter’s independent stubborn side—and our history of letting him sniff as much as he wants—but I still have wins where he starts walking along with me.
I’m seeing progress, and I feel like Bax and I are paying more attention to each other, which is a good thing for both of us. Spending time with Bax walking across our farm is one of my favourite parts of my day. Now, I’m enjoying them even more.
Have you ever dealt with Distracted Doggie Syndrome?
Any tips for keeping your dog focused during a walk?