Maintaining FOCUS!

It is hard for your dog to learn and perform a skill or exercise correctly if you do not have his complete attention. Insist that your dog pay 100% attention to you. At the same time, you should give your dog 100% of your attention!

Once you begin a training session, be aware of any “down time” that may occur while you are working with your dog. Down time occurs when you are getting more treats, setting up jumps, putting out gloves/articles, etc.

If your dog has an opportunity for frequent sniff and gaze breaks, it is unlikely that his attention span will increase sufficiently enough to pay attention to you through an entire ring performance.

Rehearse good habits. First, make a training plan before you arrive at the new location. With a plan in mind, you will be able to set out everything that you need for your training session.  That will enable you to move quickly from one skill or exercise to the next. While you are working with your dog, convince him to give you his undivided attention and to stay engaged with you. Randomly reward your dog’s effort to pay attention to you by paying him with treats and toys.

Secondly, reassure your dog it is in his best interest to watch you closely!  While training, be unpredictable and spontaneous with your movements, or give unexpected commands to discourage him of taking even a single glance away from you! Your ability to praise and reward attention and to discourage inattentiveness will have a direct effect on your dog’s performance during training and also in a ring setting.

While training, maintain your dog’s focus in non-audible ways.

Here are a few ideas;
• Push and run, or push and play.
• Release up in heel position for treat or toy.
• Release with a toy, pocket, or treat thrown over your head down to heel position.
• Drop a toy, or pocket to your dog that is held underneath your left arm.

Attention and focus will make or break a performance in any sport.  Work to build and maintain your dog’s focus on you during all training sessions and you ensure your success when showing.

Look for my class “Crate2Gate” to learn more fun games and techniques to getting and maintaining focus while training OR showing!

DebbyQ’s Picks

Here are a few really great “dog” items I use in everyday life and in training.
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3 thoughts on “Maintaining FOCUS!”

  1. I have worked pretty hard to get Hannah to stop playing with her gloves. Hannah is a four-year old Sheltie bitch who loves her work, learned retrieves by clicker shaping, is a “retrieving fool,” but takes that expression to the next level with the gloves! In this last trial, she consistently DID bring the glove to me, but started playing with it just as she got to me, but still put in on the floor in front of me. Not dropped it, put it there-in play mode. To try to fix this, I have had her fetch her gloves out of a bowl to eliminate the pounce which precedes play, in my book and had her carry her glove to me like the dumbbell “carry” exercise in graduate novice. While this last weekend’s trial showed she is mostly over this glove play habit, it is still there when she has been in a few classes, and resistance to silliness is down. She did put the glove down in Graduate Open, but at least that didn’t keep us from qualifying. We got our second Q in Grad Open with a 185.5. Hannah’s first leg was a 195.5, and it was only because she forgot to be silly. I want her to be silly all she wants when she is at play, but not in the trial ring! I think my next effort will have Hannah doing glove retrieves using a flexi AND the bowl to prevent pouncing. Next trial is August 23rd in Topeka, KS where she has trialed many times, but not in utility, so I chose a day after which I know they are having a practice match. I have certain things I do with Hannah in a pre-trial match for utility exercises. Going for our title leg in GO in Topeka, WC Utility, and WC Open to maintain her open skills while we work on her GO and UD. BTW, I train/consult with Jan Fridge.

    1. hi …i hope you do get the playing with the glove fixed … things to look at .. does she play with toys? this might be a carry over … have you done all the foundation steps for the retrieve? many times dogs see our retrieve objects differently, so anything you will use in the ring needs to be separately trained and proofed … i do have a Utilty Problem Splving class starting soon … here is the link if you are interested …

  2. When Rex was competing he,was always,distracted at the fri. Night shows but paid attention sat am…now that he is “retired” I have a similar problem with Myla. She is not competing in the evening but did have a tdi evaluation one night and failed…more attention…anyway I figured out we never train at night! So I can start night training or find a daytime evaluator . Also she gets so excite she screams and can noy pay attention does not a toy or food…now to help her

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