Rewarding Focus

How can you get your dog to focus more on you?  Working on focus can be particularly difficult with certain individuals and certain breeds, but it is not impossible.  Patience and perseverance and rewards are the key!

  • Reward your dog for interaction When you’re not on the agility field – maybe just sitting on the couch watching your favorite show with your dog – say your dog’s name to get their attention and reward them with a treat.  Do it on walks, in quiet and noisy situations, any time you can think of
  • Rate of reward When you’re working on course, make sure you keep the reward rate – treats, toys, and praise – high!  If you are less rewarding than your surroundings, your dog may not pay attention to you and instead seek his reward elsewhere.  Don’t let them wander too far in search of rewards!
  • Tune in to your dog Pay attention to them.  When they’re not paying attention to you, request their attention again with their name and a treat.  If they’re wandering off, it may be that they’re done for the day and their doggie minds are frazzled!  Remember not to work your dog to that state if you can avoid it. Quit with the dog wanting more and paying attention.  If you’ve already gone too far, call them in a happy voice or go get them, happily, put on their leash and ask them to do something rote – like sit or a favorite trick – reward that, and then it is crate/ resting time.
  • Distraction factors I think it’s important to recognize valid distractions.  At times in my classes, dogs have wandered away in search of water.  Agility is thirsty work for dogs! It’s not fair to expect them to focus on you when they are searching for water or are physically uncomfortable.  Bring a water bowl with you to agility to ensure a well-hydrated worker.
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