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Old 12-15-2013, 11:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Holding his attention

Gunnar is 15 months old and is well behaved at home and on the road and in Home Depot, but at the training facility I lose his attention. Granted I have not been there for 6 months until yesterday, but during group activities he barks, wines, stares at his brother, is constantly looking everywhere else but at me. The other dogs (both older and younger) seem to watch their handler for the next direction. Gunnar listens for the next direction while watching and staring at everyone else.

He wil down and stay in the midst of distraction, and while I walk away and talk with other dogs and handlers, but I could not give him a hand signal because he's not watching me.

Even on the leash he's not looking up at me despite me holding meat (high value treat, he never gets meat outside of training) next to my chest. I can't seem to hold his visual attention. Any thoughts or suggestions?
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:05 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Thorny View Post
Even on the leash he's not looking up at me despite me holding meat (high value treat, he never gets meat outside of training) next to my chest.
How much time have you spent working on this - reinforcing focus and attention - at home and in other environments?

Focus is something I start teaching immediately, as soon as I bring home a new puppy. I mark and reward whenever the puppy looks at me spontaneously, and the more I do that the more the more attention I get because the puppy learns what "makes" me give them the treat.

At that point I can put it on cue by naming it (I use "watch"), and I use attention in every way I can think of in our day to day life together, by making it work to get puppy what s/he wants.

I build it into a strong default behavior so even if I don't actually tell my dogs to "watch", they know that if they want to go outside, come inside, have the front door open so we can go for a walk or a ride in the car, before I'll throw the ball, or release them to eat a meal, or let them take the bully stick I'm holding, or grab the tug so we can play, or...... they have to look at me first.

I would expect a bit more excitement and less attention than usual in a new and very distracting environment such as training classes, especially with such a long break. Hopefully it will be better next week, and continue to improve as the novelty wears off.

But do as much focus work in your daily homework as possible too. What I want from my dogs is if I just stand there and do nothing, or if I have something they want, they will sit and look at me, every time. I control access to all the good stuff, and in order for the good stuff to happen, I require attention first.
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks Debbie. I wish I wold have started this earlier, but better now than never.
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Absolutely, it's definitely not too late!

BTW, I race Halo in flyball, and we have a couple of new people who took classes with our club during the year and have recently moved up to practicing with the club. One of them has potential, but he's very distracted by the environment and we're working on getting him to not chase other dogs. His owner has been working on attention stuff the past week or two at home between practices, and there was very clear improvement with Wallace this week. He's around 3 years old, and it's remarkable how much of a difference her work with him at home and when out and about has made to his ability to focus at flyball.
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