I got my dog around 12 days ago, Max was born 26th sept.. so he is almost 4 month old. He has already been good with people, never bark around people, able to sit, stay, drop (occasionally), heel (sort of... when no distraction)
I am trying to teach focus.. but having a hard time...
My questions is:
1. is it too young to teach him focus?
2. What would be my expectation with how fast he is in picking things up?
3. The hardest thing to control is when we see another dog, he barks like he is crazy (my neighbour has a 10 year old yellow dog who never barks).. however, there is a house closeby has got huge dobberman, and Max never barks when in front of that house because the dobberman bark at him first.... At what age do I expect him to mature enough to ignore distraction? Cheers
Well, here's my 2 cents:
1. It depends on what you mean by focus. Is he too young to pay attention to you for more than a few seconds at a time? Probably yes. Every dog is different but 4 months is too young to expect much resistance to distractions. HOWEVER, it's not at all too young to start teaching him the basics of focusing on you momentarily, when you ask him too. That may not be quite what you're hoping for, but it's an excellent tool, and a great foundation for later training. If you teach him that looking at you when you ask is rewarding, he'll be easier to redirect from distractions when he gets more mature.
How do you train this? What I did was use a word, one I'd remember but wasn't his name or anything else I might "dilute" the meaning of by using it "accidentally" (when I didn't want his focus). Then, in a quiet place where there were minimal distractions, I'd say the word and give him a small treat. I'd do this over an over for a minute or so. The important thing is to say the word and pause just a second before giving (or even starting to reach for) the treat, so he learns that the word means that, even though there's no other indication *right now* that he's about to get fed, good things are going to happen in a second. After a bunch of repetitions, he'll start focusing on you for that second after the word, anticipating the treat. Once he OBVIOUSLY understands that the word is significant (reacting with excitement to the word, not just the treat or your reaching for it), I stretch out the time until he gets the treat to two seconds, three, etc. Now my dog will stare at me for several minutes if I say that word - but he's full grown. As a pup I'd have been happy working my way up to several seconds. But now, while he's paying attention, I've got his complete focus, and I can give him another command if I want.
2. How fast he picks things up depends on too many variables. His breed - but I'm assuming GSD. His "urge to please". His tendency to be distracted. His "motivators" (food vs play etc). His energy level. And the BIG one - how clear your training methods are. With him, right now, your training has to be short (less than 5 min), and tackling only one issue each session, but with several sessions a day, if you can. Too many things too close together will confuse him, though. If you've got a pretty "trainable" dog (most GSDs are), and you're clear in your methods, you should make slight progress every day - not complete understanding, but progress. If you go several sessions and your dog doesn't seem to be getting it at all, I'd say he doesn't understand what you're trying to teach, and it's time to ask the board here for help.
3. At his age and judging by your description of your behaviour, it sounds like your puppy is doing the typical "excited bark" of a dog wanting to get another dog to play. Dogs behind fences that bark are often doing it to tell you to stay out of their territory - if that's the case your puppy is likely smart enough to recognize that the Doberman isn't looking to play, but the Lab might. The more you try to "restrain" him from barking in this situation, the more his "angst" and desire to see the other dog will probably increase right now, because he's a puppy. But it's important to address because puppies that are never taught to control their excitement around other dogs can turn into dogs with socialization issues, and even aggression. As for when he'll "grow out of it", I'd say he likely won't, if you don't train him not to. Dogs, especially higher-energy dogs like GSDs, get excitement and fulfillment just out of the act of barking. So why would he choose to ignore the distraction of other dogs if it's fun? You need to make something else (preferably you) more interesting for him. If you do, when he gets older he'll learn that you're consistently more interesting than most other things, and he'll pay attention when you ask him to. And when he's older and understands what you are asking him to do, you can add corrections for disobedience if necessary. Now, as a pup, he won't likely understand a correction for being excited...
There are lots of different thoughts on how to handle this. First, I'd make sure your pup has an opportunity (once shots are done) to socialize with a variety of older, calmer dogs that you trust - ideally of all shapes and sizes. Find out if friends have a dog that they KNOW is good with puppies. Not all dogs are. Then let them interact in a safe place off leash (with a careful eye, of course). Being on leash, restrained, always makes the *desire* to go to the other dog worse. However puppy should have a chance to learn how to be polite to other dogs, and I believe that's something that has to be learned *with* other dogs. I DON'T, though, suggest you just turn him loose in a dog park. You don't know the other dogs/owners well enough, and the situation's too uncontrolled. Like I say, not all dogs are good with puppies, but not all dog owners know that about their dogs.
For when you take him past the yards of these two dogs, for now though, I'd do two things. I'd take treats, and do the "focus game" as you walk (saying the word and feeding as you walk, without stopping), before you get to these yards. Try to get him really interested in getting food from you before you get there. If he seems at all interested in you as you pass, reward him with treats in a big way - use food to distract him from the dogs. However *don't stop moving*. If he loses focus and wants to concentrate on the dogs, just keep moving as quickly as he's able, not giving him an option to stop. He may bark, but after a few times doing this he'll start to learn that he can't get you to stop so that he can try to play. Same goes for meeting dogs on the street. Unless you plan to let the dogs play (and you shouldn't unless you know the dog) just don't stop, and give treats if by magic you can convince him to pay attention to you, even for a second. He'll learn that you're more interesting in time. If you REALLY want to make these lessons stick, try to walk him just before you feed him, when he's most hungry.
Good luck, and let us know if anything you try works, or doesn't, so we all learn!