Outsmarting Distractions: How To Use Environmental Reinforcement in Dog Training #197 #podcast

Welcome to our latest blog post where we’ll dive into the topic of “Outsmarting Distractions: How To Use Environmental Reinforcement in Dog Training”. If you’re a dog owner or a professional dog trainer, you know how challenging it can be to keep dogs focused amidst various distractions. In this blog post, we’ll uncover some of the most effective ways to use environmental reinforcement in dog training to help your furry friend stay on track and reach their full potential. And if you prefer to listen rather than read, stay tuned till the end as we’ll also provide a podcast episode on the same topic. Let’s get started!

Outsmarting Distractions: How to Use Environmental Reinforcement in Dog Training

As a dog owner, you might have experienced your furry friend’s inability to focus or follow your commands effectively, especially when there are distractions around like toys or other pets. Training them in such an environment can be a challenging task. But with the right techniques and tips, you can become an expert in outsmarting distractions and use environmental reinforcements to train your dog effectively.


Environmental reinforcement refers to the use of the surrounding environment to encourage or discourage a dog from a specific behavior. It can be an effective way of training your dog without using force or fear. In a recent episode of the “Say Yes Dog Training Podcast,” Susan Garrett, an animal behavior expert and successful dog trainer and competitor, discussed techniques and tips for using environmental reinforcement to train dogs.

Understanding Reinforcement in Dog Training

Before discussing environmental reinforcement, it’s essential to understand the concept of reinforcement. Reinforcement involves rewarding your dog either positively or negatively for desirable behavior. Positive reinforcement includes giving treats, verbal praises, or petting when the dog does something good, while negative reinforcement is removing something unpleasant from a dog’s environment to encourage good behavior.

Mastering reinforcement in dog training means understanding what the dog values most. It could be a particular toy, treat, or even a friendly pat. Understanding your dog’s preference and incorporating it into training can be effective.

According to Garrett, dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and reward, plays a significant role in reinforcement training. Dopamine creates value for dogs in reinforcement training.

Overcoming Distractions in Dog Training

As the saying goes, “The house always wins,” in Vegas casinos, meaning, casinos always come out on top. Similarly, distractions can often win when it comes to dog training. It is essential to tackle and outsmart distractions while training your dog.

Negative prediction errors can encourage dogs to repeat and escalate behavior. If your dog is consistently receiving a positive response, they are more likely to continue that behavior. Therefore, the training environment should be neutralized, and every instance of outsmarting distractions reinforced.

Dog owners also need to be aware of the “thing before the thing” triggering their dogs. For instance, if your dog tends to bark incessantly at a cat on the street, the cat is the “thing” that distracts your dog. But the “thing before the thing” could be a particular type of bark or movement that alerts your dog to the presence of the cat. Identifying this “thing” can help you address the underlying behavior of your dog.

Neutralizing distracting environments helps win a dog’s focus. You can separate training spaces with barriers or work in a calm environment, like a closed room or an outdoor enclosed space to eliminate distractions. Once your dog has mastered the behavior, gradually reintroduce distractions.

Tips for training puppies and dogs in the beginning

Training your dog early in their life can be beneficial. As puppies, they are like a blank canvas, and you can train them right from scratch. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Begin with basic commands like sit, stay, and come, and gradually move to more advanced tricks.

  • Set goals and consistency in your training approach.

  • Understand your dog’s body language and use it to gauge their mood and attention.

  • Keep the training sessions short and fun.

  • Be patient and persistent, and don’t give up on your furry friend.

You are the Reinforcement

You can build yourself as reinforcement for your dog. The bond between dogs and their owners is fundamental to successful training. By using positive reinforcement, you build trust and motivate your dog to learn.

Surprise high value rewards are sometimes necessary to keep the dog engaged and motivated. Garrett recommended using “jackpot rewards” like extra treats or playtime for an outstanding performance.

Resources and Tools

The episode presents tips and techniques for successful dog training using environmental reinforcement. There are multiple resources available, including podcast episodes and YouTube videos on the subject.

Say Yes Dog Training Team offers many tools and opportunities to dog owners to enrich their training experience. Follow “Dogs That” on various social media platforms to stay updated on dog training news and resources.


Training your dog using environmental reinforcement can be a game-changer for you and your furry friend. The right techniques and tips can help your furry friend stay focused, motivated, and happy while learning. With patience, consistency, and a bit of creativity, you can outsmart any distraction and train your dog effectively.