Tuesday Training Tip: One, Two, Three, FOCUS!

Mama Sally:

In talking to many, many dog owners over the years, one universal hindrance crops up over and over in living with their dogs.  It can be summed up in one small five letter word:  FOCUS!!

Dogs generally can focus well when distractions are light and then seem to lose their minds and forget everything they’ve been taught when distractions arise.  And trust me:  distractions will arise!  Over and over, when you expect them, and when you get blindsided by them.  They are a way of life, and there’s just no way to prevent them from happening.

However, a good handler can carefully craft their dog’s exposure to distractions little by little so that their dog can cope with things and learn what to do to focus on their handler in the midst of trying times!

Here are a few ways to help your dog’s focus on you:

  • Start with your dog on a leash
  • Use high value treats…the stinkier the better!
  • Start your training with zero distractions
  • Teach a good “Leave It” and “Watch me.”
  • When you do encounter distractions, your first thought needs to be:  Increase the distance between the dog and the distraction.
  • Start with minor distractions at a distance, and gradually work up to having them closer to your dog.
  • When your dog looks away from you, get the treat right up to his nose, as if it is stuck to his nose magnetically.  Keeping the treat to his nose, slowly pull your hand with the treat (and consequently your dog’s nose), back toward you to re-focus on you.

The bottom line is that if your dog isn’t paying the least bit of attention to his handler, he will revert to improper behavior.  I promise.  Focus on his handler IS the deal breaker in training.  It’s the means to get your dog’s head in the game, but the result is really fun for both of you!

Rugby James:

Focus!!  Pfft!!  Show me a skirrel or chippymunk and I’ll show you focus!!  I know how to watch stuff in the yard and pay close attention just in case those varmints try to steal my Hickory Nuts wifout asking me!

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The Mama does lotsa focus games wif me when I’m gonna get all wigged out over sumping what will make me over-react.  When I’m at home, she puts me on my placemat, on account of I get to has sum wiggle room what sumtimes is easier for me.  It’s really hard….really hard, to sit still when I’m wigging out.  So….the Mama puts me on my placemat, and I can wiggle and squiggle as long as I’m focused on the Mama.

The Mama always keeps my leash really loose sos I can relax and feel safe.  She stays really, really calm wif me, and uses simple words, like “Leave it” and “Watch me.”  And she uses her regular voice and doesn’t bark out commands at me, sos I can relax and know that I’m not in trubble.

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She uses really stinky bait:  my very favorite Salmon treats what I just lubs on account of they is so very tasty!!  When I loses my focus, the Mama gets that treat right under my nose to let me has a good smell again!  That always helps me remember what paycheck I will get if I remember to focus and pay attention to her.

Mostly I hasta has really tough distractions very far away.  Strangers and doggers trip my trigger, so the Mama sumtimes works wif me inside the house, where I fell really safe, and then works wif me being able to focus wif strangers walking past the house when I’m at the front door.  It’s so hard to look away from the strangers, and I wanna bark so bad I am almost ready to come out of my skin.  But the Mama is very patient wif me, and we work in baby steps, little by little.

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The worst fing that will happen is that I’ll make a mistake and we gotsa start all over.  The Mama makes sure I don’t feel pressured to always get it right, and that way I has learned to relax and not worry about being scolded when I mess up.  We just start over is all.  Because I’m always so high strung, the Mama really works so hard to make fings easy and relaxed for me.

Sumtimes we just practices to focus when nuffing is going on at all, and then it helps me remember how to do it when sumping hard is happening.  Lil work like this is how the Mama and me learned to be a team and work togedder.  It helped me learn to trust her and know that she has sumping good for me when I pay attention!!

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