Dog Distraction Training or How to Cure Selective Deafness
The human brain is very good at identifying patterns. When something happens repeatedly it becomes part of our mental repertoire. For example when we see a person, we automatically start looking for their name and address because that’s what humans do naturally. If someone tells us they are going to be late, then we become anxious and try to anticipate when they will arrive.
Similarly, if someone says “come here” we instinctively respond by jumping up and down. And so on…
Distractions are like this: when something unexpected occurs, we tend to react in the same way. A dog barking at you may cause you to jump up and down or even run away from him. If your dog starts doing this every time he sees another dog, he would not only be annoying but dangerous too!
So why does your dog do it?
What causes selective deafness?
There are several possible reasons for this behavior. One possibility is that your dog has some sort of hearing problem which makes him unable to distinguish between different types of sounds. Another reason could be that your dog is simply over stimulated and responds to anything around him with excitement and enthusiasm. Finally, there might be other factors such as anxiety or fear. All these possibilities need to be investigated before any solution can be found.
The other possibility is that your dog is perfectly fine but suffers from selective hearing. This happens when your dog can’t decide which command to respond to and ignores all of them! This can be quite a frustrating experience for both you and your dog. It’s easy to get angry and either start repeating the command over and over again or worse, give up on training altogether.
Why does this happen?
There are several reasons why your dog may respond to some commands and not others. The first possibility is that you’ve just practiced one command more than another one. For example, if you always practice the sit command but never practice the stay command then you should not be surprised when your dog only responds to the sit command.
Another reason could be that your timing when commanding your dog is wrong. If you’ve been practicing a command and your dog hasn’t been responding, go back to square one and practice the commands in short bursts without the distractions around. Once your dog begins to respond positively, introduce the distraction slowly and increase its intensity until it becomes unbearable. At this point, your dog should be able to respond to the command.
A final reason why your dog may not respond when called is a health related problem. It is not unheard of for dogs to suddenly become deaf. If you suspect something like this then you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
How can I fix this?
The most common solution to this problem is repetition, repetition and more repetition. The more you train your dog, the better they will respond. Repetition in this sense doesn’t only mean practicing the same thing over and over again; it also means periodically changing what it is that you practice. Your dog will soon learn that no matter what you are going to make them obey your commands. This is especially important if you have a stubborn one!
Sources & references used in this article:
Hearing dogs: A longitudinal study of social and psychological effects on deaf and hard-of-hearing recipients by CM Guest, GM Collis… – … of Deaf Studies and Deaf …, 2006 – academic.oup.com
Assessing hearing loss in dogs by N Taylor – Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2006 – Taylor & Francis
Service dogs for (some) veterans: inequality in the treatment of disabilities by the Department of Veterans Affairs by N Dodman, NH Dodman – 2000 – Bantam
… multicenter evaluation of the “fly-catching syndrome” in 24 dogs: EEG, BAER, MRI, CSF findings and response to antiepileptic and antidepressant treatment by A Nunley – Quinnipiac Health LJ, 2013 – HeinOnline
Understanding and training your dog or puppy by M Wrzosek, M Płonek, J Nicpoń, S Cizinauskas… – Epilepsy & Behavior, 2015 – Elsevier
Lend Me an Ear: Temperament, Selection and Training of the Hearing Ear Dog by P Dennison – 2006 – Penguin
How vision matters for individuals with hearing loss by HE Whiteley – 2006 – books.google.com