A large Bloodhound distraction for Penny. 

Most trainers know and understand about distractions.  What a dog can do without distractions may be nearly impossible with distractions.  Of course there are vast differences in distractions.  Something can be a distraction to one dog, but not distract another.  This past weekend when our sitter arrived, Elsa became unglued.  She ADORES people.  Second to her ball I think people are ranked number 2.  So having a new person arrive at the house is a big distraction.  Once she did her initial greeting I considered her "chill" exercise.  We have a small rug that is placed near the front door for her to go to. I didn't know if she could do it with such a distraction.  I was armed with dried liver incase she did so I said "chill."  She stopped her crazy greeting process and looked at me.  I stood quiet, waiting.

I calmly asked her again and she enthusiastically ran to her rug and lay down.  I tossed her the liver that had been tucked into my top and praised her like crazy for this very big accomplishment.  Her sitter was thoroughly impressed as was I.  One was all we were getting right then, in her flurry of "new human" crazies.  Before moving into the living room I asked her for a "reverse" and she complied while barking excitedly. 

Knowing what your dog can handle as far as distractions when asked to do a particular behavior is important.  If you ask your dog to do something when the distractions around are just too exciting or distracting then you are setting them up for failure.  Many people call their dogs to them when there are huge distractions around.  There is no way that the dog is coming so what they learn is to ignore.  If you don't think your dog will be able to comply, don't ask.  If you need your dog by your side, go get them.  

What you can do is ask for really simple behaviors that you are sure can be accomplished.  This helps a dog to work under distractions.  But make sure that your dog fully understands what is being asked of them.  If you've only taught your dog to sit at home in a very quiet kitchen or living room then it is going to be very hard under big distraction surroundings.  Baby steps.

Work with small distractions and work your way up to the big ones.  The bigger the distraction, the bigger the reward must be for complying.