what to do if I can't get focus in public - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 11:58 AM Thread Starter
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what to do if I can't get focus in public

Dooney is almost 8 months old. I am really working on her focusing on me more (read the sticky's focus thread ). This morning we went downtown to walk around a craft show and she did really well ignoring people and not barking at them. But as soon as she saw another dog NOTHING I did could get her to look at me and she kept pulling to go towards that dog barking a couple of times/hackles up (popping her chain {prong collar}, sticking treats in her face, flicking her ears) so I wound up just walking away with her.( i guess i should mention that she just wants to play with them) So my question is this: What should I do when that happens

- Just walk away with her, no treat/reward
- keep standing there waving a treat all over the place, eventually the other dog will get out of sight then I get her focus and reward?

I know I need to work on the focus more at home and that the problem with eventually be taken care of once I have more of her focus, just until i GET to that point I want to make sure I handle it better. We are coming into "festival" and "art show" season and with the cooler weather I want to get her out more and used to different environments.

Thanks for any help you can give me.

Wendy
Dooney Von Pell- GSD 01/25/2011
Karma's Wycked Revenge- GSD 05/16/2012
Skye- WGSD 1991-2007
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 12:11 PM
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I wouldn't associate her focus on another dog with a correction(flicking ear, popping the prong) that is just ramping her up and she could eventually see the correcting as coming from what she is looking at, so will become reactive. Keep your training upbeat and happy.
I would play the LAT game(have high value treats) and possibly redirect her BEFORE she focuses on another dog. Get her attention on you when you see another dog, or read her body language and stop her before she starts zoning in.
Work on focus w/ distractions before you bring her to these overwhelming venues. If you aren't in training class, that is a good place to proof her.
8 months is still young, so just keep on managing consistantly and as she matures her focus on you and not impulse will get better.
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 12:49 PM
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I'm not an expert by any means but here's what I've done that's helped me with getting Kendra to focus more. I have a bag of her leftover kibble that I stick in my pocket. Before I even leave the house I tell her to "look." If she doesn't look at me right away then I bring the kibble in front of her nose until she smells it, and then bring it up towards my face, this way she's looking at me. As soon as she gives me eye contact I praise her by saying "good look." We do this a few times until she looks at me right when I give her the "look" command.

When we go out on our walk and I see another dog coming, I move her across the street to a safe spot, put her in a down with her bum facing the dog across the road and give her the "look" command. When she looks I give her lots of praise and a treat every time she looks at me. If she's having a hard time focusing, then I move her farther away from the dog and we try the process again. Sometimes we have to be farther away, and sometimes it takes a little while, especially in the first couple of days...but we've only been doing it for the last four days and I've seen fantastic improvement. I've also started doing this method for squirrels and cats that we meet on our walk, and it's helped for that too.

The main thing to keep in mind is being consistent, praising right when she looks at you, and not getting frustrated. Also try not to overwhelm her by training in an area with tons of dogs until she starts to get the hang of leaving them alone and focusing on you. We practice this command on walks or in the house, with and without treats, basically any time she's distracted and I want her attention I tell her to "look."

I hope this helps, I've tried other methods before (including acting like other dogs are no big deal, relaxing my body posture, and just walking by the other dogs...all methods which were advised by my trainer) but they just haven't worked for my girl. She's so food motivated and eager to please that this has worked out great for her.


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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 01:01 PM
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Pop that prong collar if she's got one on. That's what they're for... to correct behavior like this. The correction should be able to snap her out of her focus on the dog. Once that happens, get it back on you with some kind of reward - treat, tug, whatever.

How is she with corrections? Does she recover quick?
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucy Dog View Post
Pop that prong collar if she's got one on. That's what they're for... to correct behavior like this. The correction should be able to snap her out of her focus on the dog. Once that happens, get it back on you with some kind of reward - treat, tug, whatever.

How is she with corrections? Does she recover quick?
I WAS popping the prong . as soon as the leash "relaxed" she was trying to drag me towards the other dog. she does recover very quickly, but in that instance it just doesn't seem to do anything with her. In any other environment (other than dogs) i can pop and get instant results, but you put another dog into the mix and I just don't exist. I will work on her focus much more and will play the LAT game before we try that again.

After I had posted the question, we were in the back yard and her Golden friend was out in his yard and she was barking at him (they play constantly with each other) and i still had treats in my pocket from our trip and I got her to look at me a couple of times and rewarded her for it quickly. She just is not a very food motivated dog. We did do an obedience class, but there were SOOOO many dogs in there, I had the same problem- no focus from her.

Thanks

Wendy
Dooney Von Pell- GSD 01/25/2011
Karma's Wycked Revenge- GSD 05/16/2012
Skye- WGSD 1991-2007
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 01:43 PM
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You need to make yourself more exciting....act like a fool! Bring a toy that she loves and use it for training only if she isn't motivated. Does she like to tug? Tugging is a great way to distract, I would give that a try too. I like the french linen(synthetic) two handle tug.
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 01:51 PM
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Wendy, I've been working on the same issue with Shasta. She is a "frustrated greeter." I don't believe her leash reactivity is at all fear based and accordingly, I don't believe it will morph into aggression.

I think that for the time being, you need to manage Dooney's interactions with other dogs, meaning that you need to make sure that you're not in situations where another dog can move into Dooney's red zone without you being aware of it and taking advance steps to avoid the undesirable behavior.

Do you have a good idea how much distance you need between Dooney and another dog so that she doesn't react? Take her places where you can maintain that distance and, over time, close the gap as you see her being able to maintain focus. I use the approach to PetSmart because there are a lot of dogs coming and going and I can see them approaching and move in or out accordingly to maintain the distance I want to work at.

You might also want to try a higher value treat. For Shasta, I mix freeze-dried liver, some crunchy blueberry treats that she really loves and a little bit of cooked bacon in the treat bag. As long as you're working on this, she will improve, especially as she gets older. Shasta is 17 months old now and she is really starting to settle down. The other night, she and I were outside for a potty break and the neighbors little yapper came running down the driveway, barking. Shasta looked at the dog, but didn't bark, lunge or hackle. That was a first. Just hang in there, it will get better.

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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 01:53 PM
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What I have learned is that dogs have thresholds. Set up a situation with a friend and a dog. Have the friend be a long ways away. Try to get your dog to focus with treats or food. If that goes well decrease the distance slightly, try for focus again and reward with treat or toy.
This will slowly increase your dogs threhold and the dog will be able to think and focus on you.

This approach I found very helpful and not stressful for the dog or the handler. I now make use of a boarding kennel near by and do this exercise. I now can walk
5 feet away from the kennel with barking dogs and I have the focus.

Laurel
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 02:59 PM
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1. Practice what you want starting somewhere easy and non-distracting like in the house.
2. Then find a ton of places where you can slowly increase the number and distance from the dogs (or other distractions). My favorite places to practice:
-Near a seldom used dog park close to my house. Surrounded by fields so I can stay very far away from the 1 or 2 dogs using the dog park.
-Obedience class. Even showing up before class and just sitting a distance away and watching the end of the previous class is so awesome- it has helped Dax be calm around other dogs SO MUCH. There are some extremely well behaved, calm dogs we can work around.
-Outside of Petsmart/Petco. Sometimes I just go stand near the door (but there is a ton of room around the entrance so we can be pretty far from the door and stay calm). I usually only actually go in if it is a weekday night and there are only a few other dogs there- the narrow isles and constantlyrunning into other dogs who are completely out of control mess up the training I have done.
3. Read Control Unleashed! So much helpful insight and so many helpful exercises.

So keep working on it and don't stress! Your dog is still young, lots of energy, pretty normal for them to be unable to focus on you. You just have to set up situation after situation where your dog *can* succeed.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-24-2011, 03:28 PM
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Dog reactivity, a case study, two dogs

Dog A, Rottweiler, 18 months old; handler: pet owner, owns pet sitting service; methods used: flooding from a distance, prong collar corrections.

Dog B, Doberman, 18 months old: handler: pet owner/experienced obedience trial handler; methods used: clicker, treats.

I have been in classes with Dog A, CGC last fall, flunked same issue; Basic classes this summer, same issue, started advanced classes timed after basic same night, came 1/2 through the basic time frame, keeping the dog back, using the prong collar and corrections. Dog is extremely reactive, has been on top of my dog once, particularly hates the Doberman. Focused on everything but the owner.

Dog B, went through advanced classes with me, when the owner notices that the dog starts looking at another dog, she calls his name, he looks, she clicks and gives him a treat. When the Rottweiler barks and lunges at her dog, she gets him to look at her, and treats. I never realized he was reactive at all, but heard the owner talking about it. You would never know. I have never seen her administer a leash correction.

I never saw any benefit to clickers, but it certainly worked in this case. Maybe I should wipe the dust off of one of the many I have somewhere, and figure out how to walk and chew gum at the same time.

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Last edited by selzer; 09-24-2011 at 03:31 PM.
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