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Working on Attention

Byrd
August 31st, 2006, 12:45 PM
What is the best way to get Willow to pay attention to me and what I'm telling her, instead of watching (and barking at) everything that's going on around her.

One of our major problems is when we are on the sidelines in a class, she is barking and lunging and pulling to try to get in on the action. If I try to get her to work on something else (like a trick) to get her mind off the other dogs running and jumping in front of her, she just doesn't focus, she glances, but that's about all I get.

We are going to have to start doing private agility lessons because having the other dogs there is driving her nuts and making her not able to work/learn.

We are going to also start other classes to try to build her focus on me! She's just startng to tic me off, I want to do so much with her and have her go far in competitions and shows, but it isn't going to happen if she keeps this up. :mad:

katy052480
August 31st, 2006, 07:22 PM
Hey:crazy: My lab has the same problem. Our trainer taught him to look for attention. Take a treat and hold it in one hand. Make sure that the dog can see it. Once the dog is focused on the treat, use the treat to draw his attention to your face by bringing your hand slowly to your face. After you do this and he starts to look faster at your face, add the command "look" and keep repeating, eventually removing the treat to your non pointing hand and rewarding look once it happens from your other hand. It works great for us in class. He gets so focused on the treat (I give him cut up meat left overs) that he forgets to harass the other dogs in class.

Hope it helps:troll:

Byrd
August 31st, 2006, 08:50 PM
We did something similar in obedience.... hold the treat in one hand, clicker in the other, and hold your arms straight out (scarecrow), when the dog looks at your face, click and treat. She also learned the 'watch me' command.

Main problem is, I can't even do these things on the side line, she won't focus on me... even for a second. It's all about the other dogs.

pitgrrl
August 31st, 2006, 09:55 PM
Main problem is, I can't even do these things on the side line, she won't focus on me... even for a second. It's all about the other dogs.

Then you've gone too fast. To teach this command reliably you need to work up to distractions like multiple other dogs in close proximity.
If she know the command in the house, for example, try working on it outside, with no distractions, then start using it one walks, but not while there is something interesting going on, then with dogs at far distance......you get the idea.

alanbl
September 1st, 2006, 03:59 PM
What is the best way to get Willow to pay attention to me and what I'm telling her, instead of watching (and barking at) everything that's going on around her.


I'm going through this same issue right now with our new addition, Buddy, who is a 2 year old Shepherd/Chow mix that we found with a rescue group. After 2 weeks of struggling with him to do anything, I took him up for a two hour training session with Doug Simpson of Tenderfoot Training. I also bought Doug & Elizabeth's video.

I thought that I'd take Buddy right to "college" which is walking on a leash and heeling, since Doug's techniques made sense and Buddy seemed to be responding. Big mistake. Three days at home and then a trip to Santa Fe led us to start calling him the Buddy Monster because he was still mostly impossible to handle. I could never get him to look at me for direction. He was constantly distracted by everything and anything. He pulled on his leash to the point of constand choking.

A desperate call to Doug (I tried NOT to sound desperate) has lead to a major change. We went back to kindergarten which was two fold:
1. Creating invisible barrier for Buddy and seeing that he stayed in it. Doug & Elizabeth call this the "out" drill. I use the term "fence" as in invisible fence because I use "out" as the word for potty breaks.
2. Buddy on a leash and walking next to me for 3-4 steps in any direction and then me changing direction. We also work on "stop,stay, lie down & come" during this time.

The "fence" is what has really gained us progress in Buddy paying attention. After 4 days of drill he will now stay (99% of the time) in his appointed area and will actually follow me with his eyes looking for a release. I started doing this all inside and practicing with distractions such as tossing toys and objects down.

We have now progressed to out on our deck where he is exposed to outside noises such as animals, birds and insects (we live in the mountains.) These did distract him but we are making serious progress in working to tune out the distractions so he pays attention to me. He still needs a lot of work, we have 2 years of freedom and neglect in his previous life to overcome, but I see light at the end of the tunnel.

No, I'm not Doug & Elizabeth's cousin!

Byrd
September 6th, 2006, 09:29 PM
Been working on 'watch me' for the past week now and it is starting to pay off. The trainer said that there has been a definite improvement in her focus.

Tonight, while the class was going on, as the other dogs were running we went off and worked on tricks and such. It was great, she did a wonderful job.

Lissa
September 6th, 2006, 09:44 PM
That's great, I hope things continue to improve!:thumbs up

Dodger had focus issues as a puppy. So long as I stayed patient and consistent he continued to improve...I did notice that when he reached 13 months a light went off and he focused more... The same thing happened again around 18 months where more of the puzzle pieces came together! Focus isn't going to happen overnight and even when you think they've got it, they will regress or have an off-day!

Do you exercise her before class? When Dodger was a puppy, he needed 2 hours at the dog park before any class. I would sometimes bring a kong with me so that while we waited our turn, he could occupy himself.

My friend's dog (2 years old) is like yours, constantly wants to play, watch or be with other dogs. He is not overly food or toy motivated so keeping his attention in class is difficult (he did get his CGN though). My dog has been bait for months - so she can train around just 1 dog at first and we still haven't seen much improvement (they had to drop out of agility because her dog would only run to other dogs). So sometimes, it does come down to your dogs maturity and motivation to work with YOU. I think you need to find ways to make yourself more exciting than other dogs. Does she work for your attention at home?

Cygnet
September 8th, 2006, 07:36 AM
I agree with Lissa that sometimes progress getting attention is slow or non-existent if the dog truly is more interested in the other dogs than food or toys or play or anything else you can offer.

How much obedience does this dog have? You mention doing tricks on the sidelines. When I think of tricks, I think of giving the dog a choice to do it or not to do it (usually for a treat). I don't like the notion of letting the dog choose to pay attention (when I am asking for attention) or not. I personally like some matter of fact obedience work to get the dog to realize attention is non-negotiable. Heeling among the other dogs requires the dog to pay attention to you in a way that just sitting there watching doesn't. Of course, some obedience trainers allow their dogs to choose not to heel if they don't find whatever is being offered as an incentive to heel sufficiently motivating. That would drive me crazy, so I am not a no-corrections trainer.

Byrd
September 8th, 2006, 04:36 PM
I mean doing things like 'down', 'sit pretty', etc, and a lot of 'watch me' exercises.

We started our Tricks Class last night... aka Focus Training, and she did really well, when we were working she was on me like a hawk, when we were listening to the instructor she was looking around and I would have to grab her attention, but she did give it to me.

This is going to be a long road, I know. She only upsets if other dogs are running around, or if she hears clapping or yelling, at the park or at home she is fine. I think I just need to give her something 'better' than the clapping and yelling.

I did exercise her before class one time... took her swimming for an hour, she was sooo cranky her focus and attention were actually worse that day and she even got into a little tiff with one of the other dogs.

Cygnet
September 8th, 2006, 06:06 PM
For a dog who is having trouble giving attention, I absolutely hate stationary exercises. ("Down" "sit pretty" "watch me" are all stationary) What is the consequence if the dog blows you off when you say "watch me," after all? If the only consequence is that the dog doesn't get the treat but the dog would rather watch (or lunge at) the other dogs than get the treat, he's perfectly happy with that result. He gets what he wanted all along--to watch the other dogs.

What I find people doing when they try to maintain attention during stationary exercises is all the time upping the ante. That is, they will get better and better treats and wave them closer and closer to the dog's nose to try to distract the dog from what the dog REALLY wants, which is to pay attention to the exciting stuff going on behind him. At some point, he might pay attention to the Arby's roast beef sandwich you are offering him, but then he goes right back to watching the other dogs. You are interesting only to the extent that you are a Giant Arby's Pez Machine.

If you won't do a correction, you won't do a correction, (and I wouldn't dream of telling you to do one, if you are uncomfortable doing them) but if a dog is heeling and stops paying attention and you make a sharp turn and the dog gets a collar pop as a consequence of not paying attention, the dog suddenly has a reason to pay attention. Oops. What happened? Better pay more attention next time. Dogs, especially high drive working dogs, quickly learn to love to pay attention and play the game. You can then use high attention heeling exercises (brisk pace, quick turns and about turns) to work the dog nearer and nearer other dogs. Your dog is happy because he is working and he knows he has to pay attention to you to do his job right. The relationship is enhanced in a way that I don't really see when the only reason the dog is paying attention is because the bribe you are offering is slightly more interesting than watching the other dogs.

Byrd
September 8th, 2006, 06:26 PM
Yeah, true, and the last thing I want to be is a pez machine.

We do use consequences too, she can watch, but once she starts barking or lunging (both in her case), off we go to work. We've established her 'comfort zone' too, there is a point we can get her to where she doesn't stare at them, but pays attention me instead, unfortunately it's about 50 feet from the action.

Cygnet
September 11th, 2006, 07:25 AM
Is the dog you are talking about the dog who is pictured in your avatar? Because, (at the risk of sounding like I think I am a doggie psychic or something) when I look at that face, I don't see a dog who is going to think that "going off to work" is much of a "consequence." At least not a negative one. I think you might, in fact, be reinforcing the barking and lunging, since she is bored and not getting to do much until she does barks and lunges, and then she gets to work!

If you force her (with moving obedience exercises, not stationary ones) to pay attention to you, I am betting you can get her "comfort zone" reduced in very short order.

Byrd
September 11th, 2006, 04:52 PM
Yeah, the doggy in my avatar is the doggy in question.

PetFriendly
September 11th, 2006, 08:23 PM
Is the dog you are talking about the dog who is pictured in your avatar? Because, (at the risk of sounding like I think I am a doggie psychic or something) when I look at that face, I don't see a dog who is going to think that "going off to work" is much of a "consequence." At least not a negative one. I think you might, in fact, be reinforcing the barking and lunging, since she is bored and not getting to do much until she does barks and lunges, and then she gets to work!

If you force her (with moving obedience exercises, not stationary ones) to pay attention to you, I am betting you can get her "comfort zone" reduced in very short order.

Ya know, that makes sense. Willow is a working breed...