Focus Fun November Week 4

Speak softly


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Speak softly

or better yet not at all!

Do you ever say “why doesn’t my dog listen to me?”

In order for a dog to work with you, he must be thinking about you. He can’t hear what you are saying if he’s not paying attention. So, how do you teach your dog attention?

Here are a few tips to help you on the road to attention.

Don’t over use your dog’s name
Many dog owners use their dog’s name any time they want their dog to do a command or skill. Let your dog hear the command rather than his name.  That way he will learn what the command word means.

Reward your Dog for Looking at You
Anytime your dog looks at you, reward him. That does not mean that you have to carry treats with you 24/7. Instead, smile or give him a pat on the head. Let him know you appreciate him looking at you.

Just Walk Away
Have a leash on your dog and go out for a walk.   Anytime he looks away from you switch directions without saying anything to him. Turn and walk away!  When your dog catches up, praise him enthusiastically, then turn away in another direction and praise him once again when he catches up. Vary how you walk. Examples might be, do right turn, left turn, go in the opposite direction, stop abruptly or do zig zags. Eventually he will learn to watch were you walk!

Attention While Heeling (for the competitive geared)
If your dog gets distracted, push, poke or tap to encourage him to look at you. Use NON-VERBAL ways to get his attention. Example, if I tap you on the shoulder, you will turn and look at me. Use the same technique and reward your dog when he does look.


Adding Distractions
If you’re teaching your dog to focus on you, at some point you’re going to have to add some distractions. With your dog on leash, go out in the front yard or go to the local park to practice. Gradually add distractions by getting in more locations that have bigger distractions like shopping malls or parks. If you build upon success and have a sound foundation, your dog knows that you are the best game in town.

Switching to Random Rewards
While treats and toys are effective training tools, you don’t want to have to have them on you all the time. When your dog is focusing on you well, and is able to pay attention with distraction, it is time to start randomizing rewards. Instead of giving the reward every time your dog looks at you, wait and give reinforcements when your dog looks at you immediately when a big distraction appears. Reward the best efforts rather than every time he looks at you.

Continue to Build These Skills
Teaching your dog to pay attention to you is not just a useful skill but also a very important one. When your dog is paying attention to you, he’s not sniffing the ground or running after another dog. In addition, when your dog is focused on you, you can tell him what you want to do next and he can successfully perform the skill.

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Monthly Drill Progression

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to and in the ring

Your Task for this Week



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The show is over – NOW WHAT!

Your Task for this Week

Published in the BCSA Borderlines Magazine

The show is over, so now what????? Now is the perfect time to evaluate your dog’s and your performances. Make some brief notes on the things that went well and those that need improvement. Once you have your list, think about possible solutions of the areas you feel need improvement. Then make a plan that incorporates those solutions for the things your want to improve.

Anyone who is committed to showing well can end up sabotaging their confidence by being too harsh about their dog’s and their performances. So take a serious look at things that worked well and things that need improvement.

When assessing your performance, do you:

· Only focus on your dog’s and/or your mistakes?

· Nit-pick your dog’s and/or your performance?

· Remember any improvements?

· Ignore any positive accomplishments?

· Feel dissatisfied even when you did well because you feel like you did not perform up to your expectations?

· Want to perform perfectly and consider anything less than perfect as a failure?

Instead of looking at the negative aspects of the show, turn your performance into a positive learning experience and start making a plan!

Making a plan

Here are a few questions to answer that will help you begin to improve your showing and planning your training:

  • What is your main reason for participating in your sport?
  • What do you consider the three biggest accomplishments your have had with your dog? (this could be learning a specific trick to a title to winning a show)
  • Name three of your psychological strengths that help you in your sport? (Mental toughness). These could be your stamina, your work ethic, your enthusiasm, etc.
  • Identify three areas of your mental game that you would like to improve and how to improve them. This could be increasing your focus during a run, improving concentration on your dog’s performance, learning to remain calm while showing, etc.
  • Name 3 areas of training you want to improve with your dog. These could be perfecting front and/or rear crosses, fine-tuning heeling or turns, etc.
  • List any goals you want to achieve.

Mental Training is a BIG part of showing

Here are a few mental game strategies to consider:

1. First, be objective about your performance. Avoid letting the emotions take over, such as frustration and anger.

2. Be your own best teacher. Always leave the show with two positive things about your performance. What would help you feel satisfied or more confident?

3. Instead of thinking about all the reasons you failed or messed up, think about what you want to improve in your next week’s training sessions. Be confident knowing that this work will improve areas and help you perform better in the next competition.

4. Stay positive. Do not ruin your confidence with criticism and regret after you compete.
Staying positive and in the right frame of mind will increase your confidence and enjoyment while showing.

How to plan and improve your training: There’s always more to learn.

Place a check next to the activities you do to improve your training and skills:
_______Consistent training and taking classes
_______Watch videos of yourself training and showing
_______Read magazines, articles, online group lists (educational learning)
_______Attend seminars and workshops
_______Log your training sessions and show results. Don’t rely solely on memory to evaluate your progress.
_______Pre-Plan your training sessions. Organize your thoughts and how you are going to train!

The more you practice and study the better you will become!

Here are a few really great “dog”  books my students and I have read. Click on the link or image and it will take you to affiliate DogWise.

DebbyQ’s Picks for mental toughness training

Establishing Goals can be a great motivator:
1. What are your goals for the next year?
2. What are your long term goals? 5+ years
3. What events or shows do you plan to attend in the next year?

While you set your goals keep in mind that they can be adjusted as needed. For example, you want to show at your breed nationals in 6 months. As the entry deadline approaches, you realize that your dog isn’t consistently performing a specific skill to your criteria. Rather than showing and possibly setting your training back, push your goal back to the next show or future nationals. That way both you and your dog will be ready.

After the show, take time and think about yourself, your dog and your performance. What did you do well? How can you improve the skills you feel are needed to help your showing become more what you would like. Developing training logs and goals as well as logging valuable skill information will help you organize your thoughts and improve your training. Showing after all is a great time to make an assessment of your training.  Show to Train!

Do you have a training question? AskDebbyQ




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PDF Files useful for this week

Focus Fun A-Z 2023-Training-Log

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