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Getting focus and attention from your dog

Getting focus and attention from your dog is the first step to training. Without working on their attention to you first your dog will likely be distracted and more interested in other things which from the word go is setting your dog up to fail their training.

The majority of dogs are quite foodie and for training purposes this works in your favour. Even if your dog already knows their name I would still start at step 1 below - response to name.

Have you already mastered teaching your dog their name?

  1. We all get used to saying our dogs name 1,000,000 times a day, however it can sometimes mean nothing. So we want to strip that right back to basics and teach them that their name means looking at you and giving you attention.

    All we want to do is have 10 small, easily digestible, treats in our hand and get your dog in front of you. All you need to do is say your dogs name and then give them a treat super fast. (We don’t need our dogs to sit or do anything for this treat) What we are doing is teaching our dog that their name means paying attention to us and getting a treat. For a week or so I would do this twice a day at least.

    Avoid using their name unnecessarily over the next couple of weeks until we know that they fully understand that their name, means look at me.

  2. Once they are responding well to their name, we want to introduce a marker word. Now this is whatever comes naturally to you when praising your dog, most people use ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’ some people use ‘yes’, it can even be ‘carrot’ or ‘potato’ it really doesn’t matter as long as it is a word you use consistently.

    We introduce this word so that when we are training our dog and they do a nice behaviour that we like we want them to look at us so we can give them a reward (whether it be a treat, a fuss or anything else they enjoy). We do this in the exact same way that we teach their name. Get your dog in front of you and have ten or so treats in your hand, say your marker word then give your dog a treat straight away. Continue this until all the treats are gone and practice this a couple of times a day for a couple of weeks. You should notice that if they do something nice and you tell them their marker word that they look at you straight away expecting a treat – perfect!

    Dog ilooking at a coach  

    You should find that having done this focus work for a couple of weeks when you initially begin your training session your dog is fully focused on you. For the purpose of training sessions I would advise to use nice high value human food such as hot dog sausage or cheese, in super small pieces. As this food is quite unusual for the dog they are super eager to learn and will give you their attention.

    The dogs name should always mean ‘ Hey, look at me’. That is what we want when we say our dogs name, so as I said previously, avoid using their name unnecessarily to avoid de valuing their name and the work that you have put in.

    As you do your training with your dog your dogs name should be said, followed by your command. Eg; ‘Louie, come’, ‘Louie, sit’, ‘Louie, down’ then follow up with your marker word and reward.

    Shortened down the chain of words should be:

    Dog’s name – followed by command – followed by marker word – finished with a reward.

    Ask for your dog’s attention – ask them to do something – say well done - reward for this behaviour

    Hopefully by the end of the next week or two you should have a nice, well focused dog!