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Finn
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As some of you may know, Finn and I are working on training for trick dog, scent work, and rally. He is always very excited to train, but has a short attention span and loses focus quickly. He is only 9 months old, so as @ArkansasGold says, he is still a turkey. Are there any exercises that I can do with him to help improve is focus?
 

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I like to reward voluntary eye contact in heel position and play the name game. Dogs are never too old for the name game! You can start very slowly delaying your rewards and extending how long he gives eye contact. Releases to big, fun rewards after exceptional performances will help build drive for attention as well. Does he like to tug? Tugging/retrieving I think can be a better motivator in the long run than food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I like to reward voluntary eye contact in heel position and play the name game. Dogs are never too old for the name game! You can start very slowly delaying your rewards and extending how long he gives eye contact. Releases to big, fun rewards after exceptional performances will help build drive for attention as well. Does he like to tug? Tugging/retrieving I think can be a better motivator in the long run than food.
We're still in the very beginning phases of heeling (with my next dog this will be started earlier, but I didn't know that I wanted him to compete until we had had him for like 2 months, and didn't know where to start until 3 months later), but name game sounds good! He does like to tug, but he does this weird thing when tugging where he just lays down?? and just....pulls on it in a laying down position?? and I'm never really sure what to do after he does that because we're both just holding it?? He does enjoy retrieving as well but seems to have decided that he's a 'golden chase the object, pick it up, and abandon it' instead of a 'golden retriever'. I plan to work on that some this weekend.
 

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That's great that you're working on attention! It's so important and something we are working on with our 10 month old too. Our training sessions generally only last 5-10 minutes, a few times a day if I have the time. Here's what's worked for us so far.

- Look away from treat to get reward: Hold treat in your hand away from your face and reward when he looks into your eyes. Once he gets good at that, work up to higher value treats, treats in both hands on opposite sides of your face, and ask for more sustained eye contact before treating.

- Always treat down from your eye area to encourage focus on your face (or shoulder if heeling).

- Make heel position fun, give big rewards for being there. Reward if you're walking and he spontaneously gets there on his own.

- Hold treats in your mouth like string cheese or hot dogs as you back away from your dog and reward eye contact

- Asking for a default Look - eg to be released to his dinner, to run out the back door, for petting or games

- Giving a command while tossing a toy or treat at the same time - surprisingly difficult for ours

- Physical play as rewards assuming the dog likes that - tugging, patting, pushing the dog, similar to how dogs play with their own kind

- Ping pong recall - you and another person stand on opposite sides of the yard and call the dog to you, treat when he arrives, repeat.

- Starting a training session with "ready" to cue to give attention and ending with "all done"+showing empty hands

- Reward toys: We use these-
nero ball
k9 tug
squishy face flirt pole - caution with a puppy to not overexert/encourage too much jumping. can tie real fur toys to the end to increase attention
star mark ball - works well if we throw a high value treat in

- Once good at home, practicing in new environments to encourage growth. I remember when I lived in the city and was puppy training, a little old man came up to me and shared his method. He methodically practiced every command in the living room, then by the front door, then outside the front door, then on the sidewalk outside, then outdoor environments.

- Train when the dog is being "annoying" - eg bored at night and is getting into things or trying to get your attention. Great to harness that attention seeking into training

Good luck!
 

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Finn
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That's great that you're working on attention! It's so important and something we are working on with our 10 month old too. Our training sessions generally only last 5-10 minutes, a few times a day if I have the time. Here's what's worked for us so far.

- Look away from treat to get reward: Hold treat in your hand away from your face and reward when he looks into your eyes. Once he gets good at that, work up to higher value treats, treats in both hands on opposite sides of your face, and ask for more sustained eye contact before treating.

- Always treat down from your eye area to encourage focus on your face (or shoulder if heeling).

- Make heel position fun, give big rewards for being there. Reward if you're walking and he spontaneously gets there on his own.

- Hold treats in your mouth like string cheese or hot dogs as you back away from your dog and reward eye contact

- Asking for a default Look - eg to be released to his dinner, to run out the back door, for petting or games

- Giving a command while tossing a toy or treat at the same time - surprisingly difficult for ours

- Physical play as rewards assuming the dog likes that - tugging, patting, pushing the dog, similar to how dogs play with their own kind

- Ping pong recall - you and another person stand on opposite sides of the yard and call the dog to you, treat when he arrives, repeat.

- Starting a training session with "ready" to cue to give attention and ending with "all done"+showing empty hands

- Reward toys: We use these-
nero ball
k9 tug
squishy face flirt pole - caution with a puppy to not overexert/encourage too much jumping. can tie real fur toys to the end to increase attention
star mark ball - works well if we throw a high value treat in

- Once good at home, practicing in new environments to encourage growth. I remember when I lived in the city and was puppy training, a little old man came up to me and shared his method. He methodically practiced every command in the living room, then by the front door, then outside the front door, then on the sidewalk outside, then outdoor environments.

- Train when the dog is being "annoying" - eg bored at night and is getting into things or trying to get your attention. Great to harness that attention seeking into training

Good luck!
Thank you!! I will try these!
 

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Are you familiar with the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy? Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - Home They have lots of great online training classes (their "bronze" level - essentially auditing - are about $60) as well as workshops and webinars that are fairly inexpensive (mostly around $20 for prerecorded sessions). Since their focus is on dogs who will actually be competing with their dogs (in a variety of venues), there are a lot of courses that focus on things like engagement and attention. It's worth checking out!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Are you familiar with the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy? Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - Home They have lots of great online training classes (their "bronze" level - essentially auditing - are about $60) as well as workshops and webinars that are fairly inexpensive (mostly around $20 for prerecorded sessions). Since their focus is on dogs who will actually be competing with their dogs (in a variety of venues), there are a lot of courses that focus on things like engagement and attention. It's worth checking out!
I am- I'm actually taking their intro to scent work class right now because I felt that I should have a more guided approach to training that stuff. (although, we are behind, because I've been super busy this week!) I'll check out their courses on engagement if it continues to be a challenge, but I'm going to try to work through it on our own first.
 

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Make your lessons short, quick-moving and engaging. Almost every newby trainer makes their lessons far too long.

With youngsters, I tend to have many lessons throughout the day, each taking between a few seconds and a minute, rather than one long lesson. I start with play, do up to half a dozen quick-moving repetitions of what I’m teaching, then end with play. Even with older dogs, most lessons are only a few minutes long.

I also try to make the lessons themselves as play-like as I can, and I harness the dog’s natural inclinations and instincts so that the lessons are intrinsically rewarding. If you can teach Flynn to retrieve and to enjoy retrieving, that will become an in-built reward throughout training.
 

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I guess my suggestions are -

Keep training sessions very short and train when he is "on". As mentioned above - that could be very early in the morning or late at night. And when you train, do not train everything at once. Maybe train for 10 minutes, or 5 minutes, or even 2 minutes. Depends on the dog, but you want to stop and "release" before he starts phasing out on you. Does not matter how old the dog is.

Train with somebody who will get after you if you are unconsciously doing something that's "pushing your dog back" or making him "tune you out".

I'm going to use my oldest sister (experienced trainer btw) as an example. :) She was training with somebody who I do not think was doing much to help her avoid some of the behaviors that she does unconsciously. Constant use of the leash to gain attention and whispering because she's uncomfortable about using her voice to motivate. That is "nagging".... :)

Train with somebody who can really teach you to understand "do it to get it", "nothing in life is free", and most importantly "clicker training" (hint, you don't need a clicker). Basically make your rewards and praise very special and hinged on rewarding the dog for DOING something.

Typical training session with my guys - usually is before bedtime after they have been napping or just hanging out for a couple hours. I have a little blue cooler that goes with me to dog shows or whatnot which I keep treats in + some training stuff. So I usually flip that lid open as a signal we are training - which makes the dogs go nuts. In their case, they know that even when I put one of them in my bedroom to keep him out of the way, they both will get their turn.

I work heeling, recalls, finishes, and position changes every night. Mine are novice dogs - but these are the most important behaviors to work on regardless of level.

Heeling - we go up and down the length of our rec room here 2-3 times with me working on maintaining heel position, constant focus - in addition to halts, about turns, and fast/slow pace changes.

Too much heeling may build up your dog's stamina and ability to maintain the same focus and enthusiasm at minute one or minute fifteen while heeling..... or it might make heeling very boring. This is why in training, I keep heeling short and fun.

After heeling, we do recalls - and currently am doing 2-4 reps each night. I'm using face masks as a training tool to draw the dogs focus to my face vs my hands. Currently, face masks are not just allowed in the ring, but they are required. As long as obedience clubs require face masks in the ring, I will use them as a training tool that I can take into the ring.

Note here on drawing focus to your face... during heeling whether you put food in your mouth or tuck it into your mask, it will cause the dog to wrap around out of heel position. For recalls, it gives the dogs a target that is right in the middle - which gives you straight recalls (straight sits) each time.

Position changes are required for open and utility levels in obedience. For open you can use both your voice and hand signal to get the dog to change position. Utility has to be silent with hand signal only, so hopefully in training you are working for that. And btw, people have been using this as a trick behavior as well.

And other than a random sit/stand for exam thrown in if I have somebody who can touch the dogs on their heads and backs.... that's it. Takes all of 5 minutes each dog. And usually when I'm done, they are amped up and ready for more.... which is OK. Aim to stop when the dogs want more vs them wanting less.
 

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Keep training short and varied, so he doesn't get bored. I use different rewards with different values (low value vs very high value food + toy etc). You can also save higher value treats towards the end of a session. End before they are bored so you end on a success.

Games can be a great way to introduce new tricks. If your dog likes to play tug, playing tug, interrupting the game to throw the toy, and calling him back to continue is a good way to reinforce retrieving because the game continues!

Teaching my dog to play tug (she just didn't get it) helped me train her to bark actually, because she never, ever, barked, no matter what I did to rile her up. So I started grring a little at her while we played tug and one day she grrred just a little bit back. In like 4 days she was barking.

Mine lays down sometimes too playing tug--I'm not sure if its a calming behavior, more comfortable, or its the best way to gain a weight advantage. You just want to be mindful of the height difference and make sure you only pull side to side and not up and down to avoid neck injuries.
 
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