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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 05:11 AM Thread Starter
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Question Solid Focus?

Hey guys!

I haven't posted on here for a little while, but I just wanted to grab some straight-forward advice. Rollo and I have his advanced obedience trials next week, and he's fantastic at his heel work.

HOWEVER, over the last two weeks during his classes, I think he's hit his stubborn months. At 14 months, he's decided that every other dog is his favourite thing in the world and his focus has been absolutely stuffed. He'll just want to watch/play with every dog, even if it's 10+ metres away, and we're really struggling to get his focus back to me during the ring environment.

Does anyone have any tricks/tips on his focus remaining on me? He knows 'watch me' however this has been falling on deaf ears over the last two weeks of classes.

Any help is appreciated! Thank you wonderful people!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 08:27 AM
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Quote from my trainer
"If your dog is not looking at you, you are not rewarding enough"

What are you doing to reward the focus?




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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 09:52 AM
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This is were proofing comes in. You may not have much time to work on this before your trial, but to proof his focus, he needs to know that watch me is not a choice.

See if you can get someone with a dog to help you. Practice stationary focus with your helper walking around with their dog as a distraction. Demand uninterupted focus. Don't be afraid to give a leash correction if needed.

Be ready to react as soon as you see the eyes move off you. You may only need to go "Ah-ah!" and give the leash a slight tug to get his attention back. Praise lavishly, reward with treats.

When stationary focus is good, start heeling around with him. At first, have your helper stay in one area and you walk around. Be upbeat and excited when you heel, you want to be more interesting than the other dog. Same idea: be ready to correct, leash tug(s), Verbal correction, quick praise when the focus shifts back onto you.

Then both you and your helper can be walking around, your helper making noises, walking in closer, etc.

Then increase the difficulty by practicing in very distracting environments, like in front of a busy store with lots of people coming and going, for example.

Be upbeat and fun! Reward lots like Jax said.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 11:20 AM
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I agree with the posts above. "Watch me" or focus is an obedience command. You need to build up your dog's focus, praise and reward the focus. You will also need to enforce the "watch me" command as any other obedience command. If you told your dog to sit or stay and he disobeyed, you would have some means of enforcing that disobedience.

If you are planning on competing than focus work is another exercise to train and proof, just like a recall or a down stay. I would structure some obedience sessions as purely focus sessions. When I was getting ready to compete with my dogs, a session might be 10 minutes of the dog sitting at the heel position just focusing on my face. It needs to be built up to that, but I could heel my dog and people could pour water on his head and he would not look away. Complete attention to me, happy, high in drive and incredibly focused.
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Last edited by Slamdunc; 04-02-2017 at 11:23 AM.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 11:48 AM
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quoting Freyja
" At 14 months, he's decided that every other dog is his favourite thing in the world and his focus has been absolutely stuffed.
and
Does anyone have any tricks/tips on his focus remaining on me"

I come from an old school ethic in training and trialing.
I like reality not an illusion of something .
Originally those trials were a demonstration of competent and reliable obedience .
"Tricks" are the icing on the cake .

The dog isn't ready yet . He is still in learning phase

I agree with Castlemaid "This is were proofing comes in. You may not have much time to work on this before your trial, but to proof his focus, he needs to know that watch me is not a choice."

In obedience the dog doesn't have a choice ! That doesn't mean iron fisted training - it does mean a yielding to the handler to do his bidding and do it in a partnership. Team work .

train in every location that you can think of . Proofing.
The classes are great for the foundation of what you need to do and how it is supposed to look, however routine
settles in and the student starts to check out. He doens't have to think anymore .
Be keenly on top of the dog -- your attention has to be focused on his as intensely as you want his to you.

Change it up . Throw surprises at him.
Go to different environments and ask for obedience - no "oh wells" . You get what you ask for.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 11:48 AM
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Yes to all of the above. But in addition, I'd suggest suspending your "watch me" command for right now and concentrate on focus as a default behavior, and general engagement. If you're using it and he's blowing you off, it's not helping anyway. When my dogs were young I spent tons of time marking and rewarding attention without specifically asking for it. I did it with food rewards, I did it with play rewards (such as before I'll throw the ball), and I did it with real life rewards, for anything they valued. What happened from that foundation of heavy reinforcement for focus is that when I just stand there and don't do anything or cue anything, they automatically sit and look at me.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 03:37 PM
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Raff has been doing engagement work since the beginning. A club mate recommended a video from Leerburg University called Teaching Engagement Skills by Forrest Micke. I found it very helpful.

Raff has naturally good focus, but upon becoming a teenager, I stopped being the center of his universe. Fortunately, he has off the charts food and toy drives. The most helpful trick I got from my clubmates and video was to mark when the dog so much as gazes in your direction and follow it with explosive movement. I tell Raff "Yes!" and run backward away from him giving him a little chase game along with his treat.

I spend a lot of his training time on engagement.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 06:40 PM
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Another hint I got from my clubmates that has worked out well--you can use higher value treats for training time. I switched Raff up from Natural Balance to thinly cut sirloin pieces strictly for training time. It helped a lot with engagement.

Daddy is the cook in the house, so he lovingly prepares the treats.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-02-2017, 09:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the advice and videos to search. I forgot to add that he is definitely a food-oriented dog and I use food for praise, however this has also seemed to dwindle over the last couple of weeks? He used to go nuts over simple dried treats... Our last formal training session I brought along left-over pieces of lamb roast, but he still had his 'meh' moments.

It's just like he's switched off at the moment. I think, following the advice - I'll start trying to proof his focus in distracting environments. Luckily around our area we have a tonne of varying dog-friendly places so hopefully we'll be able to have some improvements before our trials.

As a side question, does anyone have a go-to treat they use for high appraisal? Thank you again guys!
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-09-2017, 06:46 AM Thread Starter
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Just wanted to check in and say a big THANK YOU! We didn't do perfectly, heel work was a tad sloppy but WE PASSED! Woohoo! I spent the last four days hanging out with him in high traffic areas and I honestly think this helped a tonne. Only four dogs passed (including Rollo) out of over a dozen, so I'm super chuffed.. Thank you again guys, the information helped a bunch!
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