Squirrels and Birds and Cats, Oh My!

puppy paying attention

Squirrels and Birds and Cats Oh My! is the final part of this 4-part series about dogs and human leadership. Read the previous three articles here.

Squirrels and birds and cats aren’t the only things competing with you for your dog’s attention. But please raise your hand if you’ve ever had to find a way to manage critter distraction! That would be true for most dog owners, I suspect.

Leadership is your ability to motivate your dog to offer attention. Motivating a dog to freely offer you his attention and to dismiss distractions is an art and a skill. It takes patience and practice.

Seasoned dog trainers, whether hobby or pro, know that successfully keeping a dog’s attention is proactive, and not reactive. They spend a lot of time purposefully preparing their dogs for distractions.

Purposeful Preparation in Dog Training

When a purposefully prepared dog spots a squirrel, it’s his cue to direct his attention to the human who prepared him. Because preparation has taught him that there’s more value for him in that choice than in the momentary excitement of lunging at a squirrel.

Obviously, proactive preparation that gets dogs ready to manage environmental distractions with steadiness and decorum, doesn’t happen overnight.

An unprepared dog will obey his impulses as a natural-born predator. But all dogs are perfectly capable of managing their impulses and choosing calmer, more social behaviors.

squirrel and dog

An unprepared human will attempt to manage an unprepared dog by reacting negatively (with lots of unfortunate drama!) after the dog has already become fully involved in following his impulses. That just won’t work. Never has. Never will.

I bet I know what you’re thinking. “It happens so fast so how can I stop it if I don’t see it coming?” That’s the wrong question. Honestly, you’re wasting your time if you think you can notice the distraction first (squirrel, bird, cat, whatever) and then do something on the spot to become more interesting to the dog. Think about it. Does that even sound remotely doable?

A better question to ask is how can you as the dog’s trainer proactively prepare your dog to manage his impulses when unexpected distractions happen.

A reactive approach to training a dog explains the frustration that so many dog owners experience. It’s unfair to blame your dog for not listening if you never actually taught him the language of your expectations.

Your language contains more than words. Dogs observe what they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You can prepare them with purposeful training on how to react to sensory details. Dogs can learn your language.

Your Dog At His Very Best

Chasing critters, barking or lunging at another dog, jumping on you or on others, pulling on the leash, peeing in the house, refusing to come when called, and nipping or biting when playing are just a few examples of how dogs act when human leadership is lacking or insufficient.

Bringing a dog into your life carries the responsibility to provide for the dog’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. As science intends it, training doesn’t squash a dog’s nature or personality. Training done purposefully expands a dog’s personality to become more of himself when he’s at his very best.

Envision your dog at his very best right now, today. If only one thing would be different, then what would that difference be? What purpose would that difference serve? How could you prepare your dog to be better? Purposeful preparation transforms ownership into leadership.

Know Your Dog’s Attentiveness Score

In case you’re wondering whether your dog is attentive, the answer is that you can easily find out!

Take a quick 8 question quiz to score your dog’s attentiveness. The quiz, “Assess Your Dog’s Attentiveness Preparation” is only available inside the Freebies for Members Unit in our Facebook Group. Head on over there now to take your quiz and also grab a bonus lesson, “3 Attention Skill Builders”. Click here to join the group and get your freebies.

See you there!

Marilyn  Mele

Marilyn Mele

Family Dog Training Coach, Dog Behavior Expert,  Dedicated to Positive Reinforcement Training
Dog Wisdom Workshop

1068 Keener Road
Seymour, TN 37865


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