ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Keeping Your Dog's Attention

I find many things helpful for teaching a "following behavior." Always reward it whenever it occurs. 99.9% of my training efforts are spent rewarding attention and following. If you have your dog's attention you can teach anything... if you do not forget teaching the dog anything.

I think all dog owners need to learn to not try/work so hard...begging for their dog's attention or becoming more interesting only when you have lost your dog's attention. If you do this you are training your dog to be inattentive, after all their life does get more interesting, you get more animated when they are not paying attention to you.

You have your dogs attention throughout the day, you do...when you do be ready and reward!!

Never chase the dog teach the dog to chase you!

Be very interesting to your dog...on an off-leash romp, of course I have dogs out ahead of me. When they are out ahead of me, I will drop a cookie/delicious morsel on the ground they have just covered...I walk forward 5-6 feet forward as well. I call the dog, and when they arrive we run back together to the morsel I'll say something like "look at this, look what you ran right past." Frankly they find my abilities to discover treats quite a skill. They do not make the connection as far as I can tell that the treat smells like me. They seem to think I have amazing abilities that even exceed their scent/scouting work. They find I am a person worth paying attention to.

Often dogs will have better recalls and following behavior in new territory...not in their backyards, because in new territory they don't know where home is -- you do. That increases your importance/usefulness.

If one has "doggy friends" with dogs with impeccable recalls, by all means go on outings with these humans and their dogs. Dogs are, for the most part, extremely sociable's dog *might* wander away from them -- after all, you do always follow them or chase after them -- but most dogs will not independently leave a group of dogs and their humans enjoying a romp together. In other words a group of dogs and humans is often more fun than the scent of a few turkeys.

I will also when on a trail see tracks of deer, etc. Sometimes my dogs have missed these the dogs back...look at this! Deer! Again this makes me pretty darn interesting to the dogs. We might follow the deer tracks together, or maybe not. The idea is to never be predictable or bore the dog with treats they don't want. Hotdog bits may just not rate as interesting to your dog as turkey scents - so you use turkey scents to reward your dog with when you can.

Or recall to me...good dog! Let's go investigate this together. In other words use everything and a variety of things your dog wants as a reward for checking in and following.

My JRT learned that I don't ever wait for her, my other dogs never wait for her... If you want to do the exciting things we are doing, follow us! When she came here she was a very independent adolescent terrier but she learned...

I only call dogs for dinner once, any dogs not in the kitchen when bowls go down does not eat.

I only call dogs once to get in the car...all dogs not in the car stay home and do not go to training class.

I only call dogs once for a walkie...any dog not present stays home.

I only call dogs once to come out of the exercise yard and get into their ex-pens at school. Any dog not inside stays outside the entire time classes are conducted. Outside you are all alone...inside your owner comes over to rain treats on dogs lying down quietly in the pens.

I only call dogs once to come inside...any dog not inside stays outside.

No problems with Turkey scents, gopher scents or any other scents...we are all investigating these wonderful natural curiousities together or we are moving on.

Lucy chooses our group, everytime...not always as fast as the Tervurens but she choses us. My job is to make sure choosing us is always 100% rewarded and is more fun than wandering off.

Now don't lose your JRT ...use long lines, practice recall, recall, recall but think about what I've said and see if there are safe ways to integrate these lessons into your "attend and follow" lessons. A little "odor de turkey" is up your sleeve...if not get it there. <grin> You are smarter than a little rascal otherwise known as a JRT. Don't work harder, work smarter.

Janet A. Smith
copyright 2002 Janet Smith


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