Teaching Focus

Shelter Dog Learns Focus

Teaching your dog to make eye contact with you has lots of benefits. You can use focus to teach loose leash walking, to prevent your dog from getting distracted or to refocus your dog if he’s already distracted.    Plus, if your dog is making eye contact with you think of all the things he’s not looking at while out on a walk

To teach your dog to focus on cue you’re going to need to use CAPTURING.   Capturing is a way of training your dog. Wait for your dog to offer the correct behavior and when he does you Mark the behavior with a reward marker such as the word “yes” or a clicker.

For the first step your dog is going to be asking himself “How to I get the treats?”.

Step 1 Focus- face
  Put 3-4 treats in both your hands and touch the treats to your dog’s nose and slowly bring the treats up between 6-12 inches from your face.  Your going to watch your dog problem solve.  His eyes will go from one hand to the other eventually his will pause on your eyes.  When they do say “Yes” and pause for 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat.  Repeat this until your dog can do this five times in a row. 

If you need to ask for eye contact your dog probably isn’t looking at you which means that we have to have a verbal cue. 

Step 2 Focus- add cue
Put 3-4 treats in both your hands and touch the treats to your dog’s nose and slowly bring the treats up between 6-12 inches from your face.  Right after your hands come up say “Focus” just one time. As soon as his eyes meet your eyes say “Yes” and pause for 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat.  Repeat this until your dog can do this five times in a row.  

The cue word, “focus” is the question and the hint is your hands coming up next to your face.

Step 3 Focus- hands at shoulders
 For this next step put 3-4 treats in both your hands and this time only bring your hands up to just below your shoulders.  Keep your hands 6-12 inches wider then your shoulders. Right before your hands come up say “Focus” just one time. As soon as his eyes meet your eyes say “Yes” and pause for 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat.  Repeat this until your dog can do this five times in a row.   If your dog seems to be stuck go back to the last step.  Repeat this until your dog can get 5 right in a row.

Step 4 hands down

For this next step put 3-4 treats in both your hands and this time keep your hands down at your sides as you say focus. Give your dog a second or two to think about this and as soon as his eyes meet your eyes say “Yes” and pause for 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat.  Repeat this until your dog can do this five times in a row.   If your dog seems to be stuck go back to the last step.  Repeat this until your dog can get 5 right in a row.

Where to practice:

Start with low distraction then gradually take your dog new places to practice the skill. 

Once your dog can proficiently offer you a nice Focus when asked continue to practice with your hands down at your side for several days inside the house or in places that have low distraction. 

 Going straight from practicing in your house to practicing at a busy Festival maybe too much. It is very important to add distractions gradually.  Remember your goal is to help your dog be successful at this request so you can mark it and reward it.

If at any point in time you feel like your dog is ignoring you go back several steps until your dog has mastered it. If that doesn’t work you can also try using even more yummy treats such as boiled chicken or hot dog.

Have fun training!!! 

Teaching Dogs to Focus

Focusing Heel

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