Here’s how one trainer gets her dog to respond the way she wants — it’s a genius solution!

Young puppy standing patiently indoors next to a patio door, waiting to go outside into a back garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's no denying it — even armed with the very best dog treats, training your canine companion is no walk in the park!

Whether you're looking to avoid the most common loose leash walking mistakes, or you're trying to figure out how to stop a dog from jumping up, training can feel tough going some days. 

“He’s great in training sessions, but it all falls apart in real life” is something expert trainer Julianna DeWillems hears on a regular basis. 

After working with hundreds of dogs over the years, DeWillems says this problem all comes down to one thing — not training around common distractions.

"The best way to increase the chances your dog responds the way you want them to in a real life setting is to get as close to real life conditions as you can when training, AND make sure you systematically work up to those distractions."

In order to do this, DeWillems says you want to think about a real-life scenario that you're wanting to train for. Once you've done that, create a list of all the distractions your dog will need to be able to do this behavior around.

A great example would be doorbell barking. 

"Would you have guessed that talking to an imaginary person is an important training step that's often overlooked?," DeWillems asks.

In the video above, one of the trainer's that works with DeWillems can be seeing issuing the 'place' cue to her dog before going to answer the door.

There's actually nobody on the other side, but she pretends to talk to someone while her pup waits patiently on the floor. 

At the end, she walks back over to her dog and praises and rewards him. 

"Training steps like this are what help you prepare to use skills in every day life," explains DeWillems. 

So next time you're trying to teach your pup a new skill or behavior, practice training around all sorts of distractions — you'll might just be surprised at what a huge difference it makes! 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.