Focus Fun July Week 1

Page LinksMonthly ChallengeSlow HandTransition GamesDIGRevv/Settle Check-Up PDF Files

This Month’s Challenge is ALL about staying OUT of the Exercise BOX!

Thinking outside the box is more than just a cliché.  In dog training, the phrase “think outside the box” means to see outside of the ordinary or traditional exercises. This means understanding and having the ability to see when you always start a skill in the same manner or repeatedly doing a skill way or doing an exercise in the same sequence or even training too many repetitions without breaks and rewards.  

Being able to think outside of the box enables a trainer to approach problems in new way.  Viewing problems differently and/or understanding a particular situation in a way you’d never thought of before opens up a wealth of ideas and solutions.  Best of all, is that thinking OUTSIDE of the box will improve your dog’s focus!

Train individual skills before integrating those skills into Exercises
Periodically , we get into what is called ‘the exercise box’. We want to train the exercises that are required when we enter the ring. In obedience that would be things like the Heeling on Leash, Figure-8, Recalls, etc. In Rally, people want to run COURSES rather than work on the various skills needed to perform each sign. In Agility, people also want to run COURSES and/or long sequences rather than working on independent skills such as pinwheels, serpentine, weave poles, etc.

The exercise box creates a dog that:
• May lose drive, attitude, and focus because he is not having fun.
• May become bored because he does the exact same thing over and over again.
• May do a particular skill just fabulous but does not receive any reinforcement until later in the exercise or the end of the exercise.

Your Challenge this week is to look at your training and see if you are training in a BOX? 

  • Are you always starting a skill in the same manner?
  • Repeatedly doing a skill in the same way, over and over?
  • Doing an exercise in the same sequence or training too many repetitions without breaks and rewards?

Post your findings in the FB group. 

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

Slow Hands in a down can be either a sphinx or hip rolled position or both.  This week we are starting to add angle of delivery. 

Your Task for July Week 1

Slow Hand – Down Different Angles  

  • Grab your dog and ask him to down (sphinx or roll) and move a few feet in front of your dog.
  • Start to slowly deliver a treat from in front of your dog.   Reminder to review BEFORE progressing.
  • Next, have your dog down and leave 4-6 feet from your dog.
  • Choose an angle and slowly walk toward as you move your treat hand at a NEW angle toward your dog.
  • Give verbal feedback to tell him if he is right or wrong.
  • Release your dog from the down position after delivering a treat, and play or engage with your dog.  This is his time for a mental break.
  • Repeat the sequence leaving your dog and delivering a treat from a different angle.
  • The sequence is – Down your dog, leave 4-6 feet and then slowly deliver a treat from a various angle.
  • Occasionally release with a Jump to Hand to keep your dog in an “active” state.

Remember this is where your dog learns that movement makes the treat go away!

Video Notes: Poe is getting more practice with Slow Hand while he is in a down position. We have just introduced the slow hand so, I am staying close and delivering rewards from angles I consider easier. Building on success is important since it will build confidence. Poe does break once before being released and starts to lean forward too. This is great because him being wrong actually will help him understand HOW to be correct.


Slow Hand – Down Different Angles

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

The THUMB TOUCH (TT) is another one of my SECRETS for keeping my dog’s attention.  This skill can be used when you want your dog to focus on you.  It is easily incorporated into heeling/flatwork or moving around while training.  Also, the TT can be used in the Obedience, Rally, Agility show rings.

WHY do I have my dog touch my thumb instead of my palm? Some of the skills used in Obedience and/or Rally are “stand” and “stay”.  When using a stand or stay hand signal, many handlers face the palm of their hand towards their dog’s face giving a signal to stay or stand.  When using your open hand for a hand touch, might be confusing to many dogs.  I.e. the visual cue for the hand touch, it resembles the signal for a stand and/or stay.  For this reason, I prefer to USE and DO the THUMB TOUCH.

What You Need

  • Soft treats that your dog loves.
  • Low distracting location.

Your Task for July Week 1

Transitions Games – Thumb Touch – Teach & Cue word

    • Hold a small high value treat in your LEFT hand.

  • Have your dog either facing you or on your left side.  Do NOT have your dog in a sit.
  • Small or toy dog?  This exercise is made easier if you are sitting in a chair or on the floor.
  • Put the back of your LEFT hand, with your thumb up close to and in front of your dog’s nose.
  • When your dog moves toward your LEFT hand and your thumb, “mark” his behavior with your reward mark word (“YES! BOOM!”).
  • Turn your hand over and give your dog a treat.
  • Once you have given the treat to your dog, load your hand with another treat and put your treat hand behind your back.  This way you can “PRESENT” your TT hand as a signal.
  • Repeat this sequence several times.
  • Present the back of your LEFT hand with your thumb out to your dog.
  • “Mark” the desirable behavior, then turn your hand over, and reward your dog.
  • In the beginning, keep your hand low to give your dog the opportunity to be correct.
  • After a few repetitions, play or interact with your dog.
  • Repeat with your dog on your left and right sides.
  • NOTE: my dog usually prefers to either touch my thumb or the back of my hand.  Either option is acceptable.

Introducing a “cue word.”

  • Once you are sure that your dog will touch your thumb as soon as it is presented, start adding your “cue word” (“Touch”, “thumb”, etc.).
  • As soon as he bumps your thumb with his nose, say your “reward mark”, and turn your hand over to reward your dog with a treat.
  • After your dog eats the treat, put your hand behind your back.  This way you can “present” your TT hand as a signal.
  • Wait a moment and present your thumb to your dog again.
  • Say your “cue word” as bumps your thumb.
  • Repeat this sequence until your dog is confident and consistent with touching your thumb.
  • From now on, only reward your dog for touches that you have asked for.
  • Once your dog touches your left thumb on cue, repeat with your right hand with your dog on your right side.

COMMON ERRORS – Handlers Make

  • Your dog shows no interest and will not touch the back of your hand.  Put a dab of peanut butter (PB) on the back of your hand.  Lower your hand so your dog can easily lick the PB off.  Test to see if your dog will touch your hand.  If so, continue with fundamentals above.  If not spend more time with the PB.  :>)
  • Your dog seems confused when you are training this game.  Make sure you are putting your signal hand behind your back or at your side BEFORE presenting the cue.  Wait a moment, and then present your thumb to your dog again, and say your “cue word” as bumps your thumb.

VIDEO NOTES: Poe is reviewing the teaching step for the Thumb Touch. He does a great job working on both my right and left side AND he has loads of desire built for the skill as well.


Transitions-Thumb Touch Teach and Cue Word

Questions? Ask DebbyQ


Often a distraction can cause your dog to lose focus, to worry, or even create a negative experience for your dog. However, distracting situations are a perfect time for you to turn a possible “negative” experience for your dog into a “positive” one. If trained appropriately, not only will your dog become more confident, but he will “try harder” and learn to focus more intensely on you no matter what the situation.

The first dog I taught this skill to was Solo, my Golden Retriever. I started training this concept to him when he was 6 months old. We trained this skill for a few minutes or repetitions in EVERY training session. At the same time I was training Solo, I also introduced the DIG concept to the dog I was campaigning in Obedience, my Border Collie, Easy. The results were so incredible on both dogs that this skill became a foundation for all my dogs and students. Please take your time when teaching and training DIG to your dog.

This skill cannot be rushed! Work on the DIG skill for a few minutes in every training session.


DIG is an introduction into proofing and can determine how your dog responds to pressure. It is teaching your dog how to be successful when faced with new locations, environments, and or people. In addition, it is teaching your dog that distractions both visual and auditory, are a rewarding cue to your dog.

Pay close attention to discover what your dog’s threshold is in a variety of environments and situations! The threshold or distance from a distraction your dog remains focused may vary. Some dogs work comfortably 10 feet from a distraction while others need more distance or space.

Working with distractions will help your dog become confident and will enable him to concentrate and successfully do his “job” and focus on you in many different situations or new locations. After all, the “ring” is a continually changing new environment.

Your Task for July Week 1

DIG ~ Introduce New distractions – finding threshold and teaching the skill

  • First, you must find your dog’s threshold.
  • Video your training session. The video will help you see changes in your dog that you can miss while training.
  • Heel/walk towards a barrier such as a ring gate or wall.
  • Reward and release your dog at or BEFORE your dog notices or looks at the barrier.
  • Check your video. Where did your dog falter or acknowledge the barrier?
  • In general, most dogs for the first session acknowledge 10-12 feet from the barrier/object.
  • Repeat this sequence toward the same barrier until your dog is confident. This may mean practicing repetitions during many training sessions. You are much better off spending too much time at a distance from an object than trying to move to fast in your training.

How do you know if your dog notices/looks at a barrier?

  • PRE signs can include: your dog dropping his head, changing his gait, ears going back, his mouth closed or opened, etc. Basically any sign that he knows you are approaching something.
  • Get your dog and plan on a barrier to test his threshold.
  • No visible treats on this test.
  • While heeling/walking toward a barrier, make a mental note of how far away from the barrier you were when your dog acknowledged it. Were you 5 feet away? 10 feet?
  • Make a note of the distance in your training notebook. This distance will likely be the same regardless of the barrier.
  • Reminder: your dog may not actually LOOK at the barrier. In most cases a dog gives “PRE” signs before actually looking. Your job is to be able to see the PRE signs!

Once you have established a distance.

  • Only repeat going towards the same barrier and release your dog up to a toy/treat at or BEFORE getting to places where your dog previously acknowledged the barrier. The treat/toy should remain out of sight and be presented in a quick fun manner.
  • Make the reward a surprise. DO NOT LURE.  Watch your body posture, SHOULDERS forward.
Remember that what might be a negative for your dog might not be anything to you. Examples: A person approaching your dog, a streak of light on the ground, the exam on a sit or a stand, etc. Take your time and recognize how your dog responds to different people, situations, and environments.

COMMON ERRORS – Handlers Make

  • Your dog is distracted or looking away. Always start further away when adding a new object or barrier or going to a new location. Over time and repetition will your dog start to generalize the DIG behavior and display confidence and focus.
  • You have trained for a few days and do not see any difference in focus. Proofing against distractions is a lengthy and time consuming process. This skill takes time and patience. Spend all the time required to create a confident focused dog.
  • Your dog seems stressed, confused, or is not focused. Simplify by moving further away and use really high value rewards. Many times handlers feel their dog can handle closer to the barrier than their dog actually can. If in doubt about the distance, opt for further away!
Rally signs in themselves are a distraction to your dog. Once your dog understands the “concept” of DIG, add any and all distractions you two might face when in the ring. Signs, tables, chairs, cones, etc. That way when you show, your dog will consider every sign a reward opportunity.

Video Notes: Here is Poe’s first session in DIG work. Overall I am very pleased with his effort. Once I find his threshold, I reward Poe BEFORE that spot numerous times. It is important to build the value in a successful distance BEFORE upping the pressure to get closer. I promise I will try to get better video in the future too.


DIG – Threshold and Teaching

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

How is your Revv/Settle going?

Are you going to new locations on a regular basis?   Have you tried revv/settle at a show site?  

Have you used this skill while waiting to go into the Agility, Nosework, Rally, or an Obedience show?

There are a few Consequences that may be added once my dog understands the Revv/Settle game if your dog doesn’t give you effort.   Most of the time, I will limit using consequences and rely on more reward and play.

The U-Missed It game makes a great consequence.   When your dog is not focused or looks away, break into a game.  I.e. say “get it” to a toy or treat.  As your dog is looking back to you, start to tease your dog with the treat/toy telling him that he MISSED IT.  Tease and taunt and do not let him have it.   Most of the time, your dog will offer much more effort and focus on the next repetition!


  • Revv your dog off the settle will create and active state.
  • If your dog goes inactive OR looks away from you, break into a game.
  • Visit new locations on a regular basis to continue building your dog’s focus.
  • Use a consequence if your dog doesn’t give effort.

POST on the Facebook group where you have been training and how it is going!

Questions? Ask DebbyQ