Focus Training

Food treat/or other positive reinforcement is the way to go with developing a consistent focus. Be sure that the reward is given instantly only when the dog is looking in your eyes (for whatever period of time you demand), NOT when the dog is watching wherever the food/reward may be coming from. This stops the problem of the dog looking at the location of the reward source. Be really consistent about this - then you wouldn't have to spit, or do other fancy tricks getting the treat into the dog's mouth. Make: look in my eyes X however long = instantaneous reward. Start with some word of command: look, watch, whatever. Stand still, do not combine heeling with focus teaching in the very beginning - otherwise you may get into coordination problems with the multitasking which result in the dog not looking consistently (looking away to see where it's going). Do not reward if the dog looks at your hand or the place where reward is hidden. If your dog is focusing and then its eyes dart to your hand because it is anticipating the reward, do not offer the reward then. Repeat the command, make it focus for a few more seconds first. In training I would make the pup look me in the eye while moving my hands to and from my pocket, treat bag, put my hands behind my back, etc. The dog learns quickly that the reward comes from looking in my eyes, not from my hand or my mouth (the spit trick) - and that looking away, looking at my hands, my pockets, the treat bag, etc. actually prolongs the giving of the reward. The next step is to get the dog to re-focus after receiving its reward. This is why I don't like the spit reward, if the dog misses the catch, it goes to the ground to look for it, and that's an unnecessary break in focus. Ideally the dog should remain looking in your eyes while receiving the reward, not watching the reward in order to catch it in the mouth - so this part of the exercise is actually for focusing while receiving reward. In the beginning though, it is an exercise to learn re-focus after receiving reward. When you can get the dog to look at you for longer and longer periods before you give it a reward, then you can start combining the focus with the heeling. One step at a time. Literally. In the beginning you may get into a lot of sits, because of anticipation that you are stopping fter one step. Don't fret about it, that will go away. One step, two steps, three steps. But every single step the dog must be focused. This is the stage you don't want to rush if you want to develop consistent focus in a dog who doesn't do it naturally (border collies and shelties excel at this!). It is not just demanding compliance, there is also an issue of coordination wherein the dog is required to multitask when it looks in your eye and tries to move all 4 legs at the same time in some direction. Some dogs multitask better than others, but it is a coordination which has to be learned correctly or you will get crabbing. You will be amazed how much concentration it requires from YOU, not just the dog! Plus, your relationship with your teammate is enhanced! Mimi Cary Drake ecollar since 1978

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Thanks. Mimi Cary Drake