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Distractions! It’s a big topic, and questions about distractions are frequent. I’ve blogged about this before, and today I’m sharing a formula that will help you strategically work through whatever is a distraction for your dog.

I call the formula the “Distraction Intensity Index” and covered it on a recent podcast. If you’ve not watched or listened to that episode yet, you’ll want to check out “Help for the Dog who Chases Chipmunks, Bicycles, and the Neighbour’s Cat”. It’s Episode 24 of Shaped By Dog.

Cats, squirrels, chipmunks, bicycles, kangaroos, children, birds, balls, food, lizards, butterflies, dogs, people …. the list of your dog’s distractions will depend on your dog, and while many can be used to your advantage some should be off limits. We still need to deal with our dog’s off limit distractions, but they can’t be used as rewards.

Tater was after a ball in the tree. A ball can be both a distraction and a reward.

Distraction Intensity Index (DII)

There are four things you need to determine to use the DII for the benefit of you and your dog.

Value:
The first is the value of the distraction to your dog. Use a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being lowest and 10 the highest. How much does your dog want whatever it is? And if you’ve not made a distraction list, you can start now, I’ve got tips on my blog post “How Do I Train My Dog to Come When Called”.

Distance:
You’ll need to know how far or how close the distraction is for your dog. When putting in a number, it’s arbitrary. Say the distraction is a bunny. If the bunny is one foot away, the number you put in might be 1000 or 10,000, whatever you decide. If the bunny is a mile away, then that value might be a 1. Choose a number based on your dog’s distractions. If you are consistent with your arbitrary number your DII calculation will always be relevant for you.

Senses Engaged:
What senses does the distraction engage for your dog? Sight, sound, smell. Depending on your dog, some senses will be higher rated than others.

Movement:
Is the distraction on the move? If so, the number you put in will likely be higher than if the distraction is not moving. You decide based on your dog. As long as you are consistent with how you put in the numbers, your DII is going to be an asset for you to make good training decisions.

The formula for the DII is Value x Distance x Senses Engaged x Movement. The higher the number you calculate, the higher the distraction intensity.

Help Your Dog by Reducing the DII

Your goal with your DII calculation is to get the number down so you can work through the distraction challenge with your dog. What do you need to do to reduce that number? Increasing your distance from the distraction is one of the first things to consider. Get success with one element of the DII and only then introduce others.

Rating your dog’s distractions will let you know what is fair to expect of your dog with the education you have given him in the environment he is in. Start where your dog can have success and grow that success. Only work on one element of the Distraction Intensity Index at one time.

The more education your dog has, the more he’ll be able to face by way of distractions without losing focus on you. The intensity of the distraction will reduce for your dog with your commitment to helping him. Remember to check out my podcast episode on video for the examples I gave.

Your DII Evaluation: What I’d like you do to is pick one of your dog’s distractions and calculate the DII. Let me know in the comments your dog’s name, the distraction you selected, the DII, and how you can reduce the DII to help your dog.

Today I am grateful for the joy that Stevie, David, Alexis and Moira bring (Momentum’s puppies). Below is a pic from yesterday at 3 weeks, eyes are open, and they are on the move.

For everyone who is not on Facebook, here’s a quick video posted on on my page a couple of days ago, starring Stevie Budd as “The Persistent Puppy”.