Focus: 5 Fundamental things to consider
1. Don’t put up a fight!
Fighting for your dog’s focus is never going to lead to a dog who truly values giving you attention. We like to set our dogs up for success by allowing them to make the choice we are looking for, for which we mark and reward.
Of course, we start this training at home and just adore the orientate back to me game to build TRUE focus. This is done away from those distractions our dogs LOVE (at first)! Practise what you do want lots! Set your dog up for success!
Sniffing is a big distraction, and we get it, it’s hard once you take your training outside as your dog has the opportunity to get distracted by a good smell EVERYWHERE!! If your dog loves to sniff, consider putting this on cue so that it becomes permission based and the awesome thing is, you can then use the cue to sniff as a reward for your dog! How cool is that! The ‘go sniff’ cue is a big hit with our spaniel owning students!
2. Work in realistic environments when your dog is ready. Take time to build natural focus from your dog by setting him up for success.
We can’t say this enough! Setting your dog up for success is key. Play focus games in different rooms in the house, then by the back/front door, then just outside the house, and so on….Work within your dog’s capabilities until you see awesome success, then move it on to the next level. But don’t forget, it’s a good idea to ping pong back to those easy environments your dog has already nailed from time to time to keep the motivation and enthusiasm high!
If you have a dog that gets easily distracted you really have to make every effort to break down your training into really manageable bit sized pieces. No lumping together! It may take a little bit longer to get there, but it’s so worth it in the end! Don’t give up!
3. The three 3’s
We get that it can be overwhelming when you have lots to train, this is why we always suggest picking 3 games and practise them over 3 weeks. Don’t worry about all the other stuff, just focus on those 3 things! Really nail it! You’ll find that you’ll chip away at your training goals with motivation and momentum.
Keep a training diary and during and straight after each session, write down; how it went, what could be improved and if you’re at the stage where your dog is ready for an increase of difficulty at the next training session, make a plan and write down what you’re going to do.
We are massive advocates of giving our dogs downtime. Time to chew, to find food in a snuffle mat, to investigate a stuffed kong, to find scattered food in the garden and of course, time to rest properly. Our dog’s lives shouldn’t be all about go go go, high arousal games and activities!
Mix in these calming activities and you’ll find your dog is able to perform and think better. These kinds of activities are so super for your dog’s head space.
5. Get help!
If you feel that you’re treading treacle and you’re at a loss as to how to move forward, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional. Attending a 121, training class or camp could be just what you need to give your momentum a boost and you are guaranteed to come away with new and fresh ideas.
Lots of our students often say they wish they’d asked for help earlier! Is this you? If you’re looking for something to really immerse yourself in, our Dash2Devon Camp could be just the thing!
About the Author: Lauren Langman is responsible for the design and development of all Devon Dogs classes, events and workshops. She competes in Agility at Grade 7, the highest rank of competition in the British agility arena. She regularly competes and wins at top agility events in the UK including Crufts and Olympia, and has represented the UK at World Agility Championship level on many occasions.