Every dog owner wants a dog that listens in every situation, no matter the breed every dog can achieve this obedience level that is desired – it is important that when training your dog start off by setting them up to succeed as opposed to fail. This way you can continue to increase the distraction level until your dog IS obedient in every situation.
Where I see owners fall short many times is throwing their new puppy into a group training class right away, which is way too distracting for any dog to begin their training. If your dog is overly excited around people and dogs they will be too distracted by others in the class than the reward you brought for them. On the opposite side, if your dog is nervous around people and dogs by bringing them to a class to begin their training it can be very overwhelming and can shut down your dog. I believe that you should begin your training with very minimal distractions and once each level has been mastered then move to the next distraction phase.
Begin training the basics: come, sit, down, place, off (for any unwanted behavior) and a release command (we use “go play” or “ok”) inside your home with no distractions (when the kids are at school, TV off, etc…). Do not be afraid to use treats, toys and praise as rewards for your dog when training. They do not need a treat every single time, but a treat is equivalent to a paycheck to your dog. They should enjoy their training sessions and get paid too! If you loved your job but never got paid you probably wouldn’t keep working there. Same for your dog – he or she likes to be rewarded for their work as well. When using treats, only reward your dog if they do the command the first time. Still praise them if it takes them more than once, but if you reward for coming the third time then they will think “what’s the rush…I will get a reward regardless” thus hindering a solid recall and same goes for the rest of your commands. Once your dog can reliably perform all of these commands with no distractions, start asking for them to do these with your distractions inside (kids, TV on, doorbell…etc…).
Then move outside – to begin start in your backyard or if you live in an apartment complex use a gated tennis court so your dog can not run off. The outside world is full of distractions both visually and sense-oriented as well so be aware that your dog will not be perfect to begin with. The more practice you get, the better your dog’s obedience will be! Start slowly adding distractions by going out during higher traffic times (5-6pm when other people are out walking their dogs) or go to a park and work your dog on the outside.
Finally enroll your dog into an obedience class or meet-up with friends that have dogs to test your dog in a close setting with other dogs and owners. If at any stage your dog seems to back track, take a step back and spend a week at the previous distraction level, then try moving forward again. There is no need to rush or set your dog up to fail. Training your dog should be enjoyable for you both!
*It is easier to form bad habits but harder to live with them, good habits are harder to form but easier to live with*