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Puppy only interested in environment / extremely distracted

2878 Views 18 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  kontiki
I just got my standard poodle puppy 10 days ago at 8 weeks old. We are doing great with potty training and getting better on biting etc. We have enrolled in puppy class and so far have had one private session with the trainer and one regular puppy class (just yesterday). The breeder has advised strongly to only feed his kibble, no treats, as he has had trouble with dogs refusing food / almost starving themselves in the past (I think this concerned the mother and his sister from another litter).

I am worried about him being extremely distracted basically as soon as we leave the house, even for potty breaks in the yard. His nose is on the ground sniffing constantly and I am having a really hard time catching his attention at all. Obviously there was no chance of him focusing on me in puppy class. The trainer strongly advised to give higher value treats but had no other recommendations.

Do you have any recommendations on what I should try? This is my first dog, and I specifically wished for an easy to train puppy from the breeder :-(. I have read lots of books to prepare before he arrived, but none of them say what to do if the puppy refuses to pay any attention at all. I am trying my best but scared that he will grow up to be very badly behaved. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

PS: please excuse my english, it is not my first language :)
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Sounds like a perfectly normal puppy. I agree with your trainer, use a higher value treat (maybe something just slightly better than the kibble- but most puppies won’t give you the time of day outside without something very delicious), keep sessions very short and spread far apart (like 30 seconds- 3 minutes every 3 hours for example), and most importantly bond with your puppy through observing them without pressuring them and playing (try to teach them to enjoy toys, it will help you immensely with training). I really wouldn’t do much training on a walk or expect a baby to pay attention to me. In fact I don’t think I would be walking a 9 week old at all, since they’re not protected against parvo. If that wasn’ta factor though, I would put them on a harness and long lead and let them explore and learn to be comfortable outside. Meanwhile watch them, be very patient, when they look at you or walk back to you WITHOUT prompting, throw a party and rain treats on them, then leave them alone again and let them explore. Over time this is whats going to build that attention span and value for paying attention to you. During the day too, if you catch your puppy looking at you say “YES!!” and give them a cookie. Do this all the time and you’ll have a dog that never takes their eyes off you lol.
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Thank you all so much for your kind replies. I tend to worry a lot and really don’t want to make any mistakes. Puppy class did throw me off too, because he was so much more distracted than any of the other pups. I am so happy to hear you think he is acting like a normal puppy tough.

We do play outside, mostly on the porch as i have to have him on leash in the yard. But I will try and put him on a long line to play in the yard as well. He likes to play tug and will chase a ball too.
If I move away in the yard he does not care, mostly because he already knows his way around there I think. Out on walks he loosly follows me in that he keeps zooming around to the left and right of where I am walking and will catch up if I move too far away. He will usually not look at me though. Where I live it is generally recommended to take puppies out even before they have all their vaccinations. I did do fewer walks in the beginning, but then he had lots of extra energy he used for jumping and biting me...

I will try and work on generally being more exciting :).

Our schedule is still moving around a bit. Currently during the day mostly he will sleep for around 2 hours, have a potty break (5 mins), a short play session (5-10 mins), roam around a bit inside where I can see him, then back to sleep. Three times a day I do a short walk (~15 mins) instead of the potty break, plus we cuddle in between. We also take the car to go somewhere (puppy class, short visit to family, vet, socialization) instead of our evening walk some days.

Would you not be worried about him refusing his normal food, now or later? I am wary of ignoring the breeder's recommendation as they were very insistent on this point.

Thanks everyone for the reading recommenations, I will look into all of them. Ian Dunbar's books I have read already.
Re: food

tbh it sounds like the normal food might be a bore. If I only fed my dog kibble, he would probably go on a hunger strike. He eats a variety of freeze dried raw foods and healthy table scraps. I give him meats and cheeses for training treats, and yes sometimes he does turn his nose up at his regular food and tries to live purely off of cheddar cheese lol but hunger eventually strikes and he chows down. If you’re very worried though, try to make play his biggest reward and get him hooked on toys and then you won’t have to worry about treats.

Also my dog is brilliant but doesn’t act like a border collie, australian shepherd, or visla so in puppy class we were not necessarily the “strongest” looking group and he’s not a food hound, BUT training wise (and intelligence lol) mine was far more advanced than the other puppies, he’s just not into doing repetitive tasks once he understands something and is curious about the world so puppy class is a bore but grass is awesome. That’s actually why I ended up training him for nosework which he is intensely focused in, he is 5lbs and will DRAG me to a scent. All this is to say, is don’t compare yourself to others, only pay attention to the dog in front of you, and learn about what they love. When they develop a strong preference for something and you have that relationship, then incorporate that into training as a source of fun and reinforcement.

A book I highly recommend about puppy focus is Control Unleashed: Puppy Program

Another small note, sometimes excessive sniffing is a sign of stress, so make sure your puppy is feeling okay in those classes and calm, and don’t pressure him too much or you might push him into reactivity when he’s trying to learn how to be calm around other dogs by keeping his head down and nose busy.
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