I meet a lot of people that tell me that they want to to teach their dog to focus, but when I ask them what “focus” is, they seem to struggle to tell me what they actually mean.
I believe to teach your dog to focus you need to have a few things well under control.
I have a communication system that I develop in all my dogs, this allows me to tell them when to switch on and off, when they are offering the right behaviour and when they are offering the wrong, and of course when I am going to reward them.
I develop highly rewarding drive games with my dogs, games that really get them excited and they find these games of very high reward value. With some dogs it can takes only a few hours to get these games established where as with some other dogs it can take months. Nevertheless I put in what it takes to get them loving these games.
I think without these in place it is near impossible to teach solid focus.
Some of the things that people can do that is sort of counter productive to focus is to have food or a toy out when you are starting this work. This creates a problem because the dog really wants to look at the food or toys and you will not allow it. I don’t think that is the ind set I want my dog to have.
I want my dog to feel that looking at me is where he gets his information from, and I want him to think that he came up with this idea rather than me.
There are a lot of people who have taught their dog to focus on them successfully, but fail to be able to teach people to teach their dogs. I know that I was able to train dogs great when I was a bout 21, my dogs behaved well and I was confident I could train most any dog; but when I tried to explain to people what they needed to do, I found it hard to get the message across. It has taken me most of my life to become successful at teaching people to train dogs.
I have developed systems that I use to enable people to progress through the stages of focus training, it covers thing such as: –
- Teaching the dogs that eye contact is ok
- Teaching dogs to maintain eye contact under distraction and for a certain duration of time
- Teaching dogs to maintain eye contact throughout all the static and dynamic positions.
- Teaching dogs to offer eye contact in certain positions by default.
- Teaching dogs when eye contact is not desirable
I also think that to teach your dog focus you may also be teaching your dog impulse control, meaning your dog can focus on one task without becoming distracted. Most dogs will not initially see a benefit to losing interest in several things only to focus on one, but we can help them understand this is the best way.
A dog with true focus in interested in what I say and what I am doing, so we must make this very rewarding for the dog, in fact more rewarding than everything else…