How to Capture Your Agility Dog’s Focus

capture dog's attentionLike it or not, your dog is a reflection of you. If your dog is having problems focusing, start with yourself and your focus. When you can give your dog your full attention, they will start to give you theirs. That is not to say that all dogs will automatically focus on you, in fact, some breeds are prone to short attention spans. So how can you get your dog to focus more on you? As we stated above, first comes your focus then your patience, consistency and timely rewards are the key!

  • Reward your dog for interaction Make your dog want to keep an eye, minds eye, on you whenever you are around, not just on the agility field. Randomly ask for their attention throughout the day like while you are sitting sitting on the couch watching your favorite show with your dog. When they look at you, give them a treat. Keep it spontaneous not just in training sessions, do it on walks, in quiet and noisy situations, under all kinds of distractions. Keep in mind to have high value rewards for high distractions. You want to be more enticing than the distraction.
  • Rate of reward To build your value on course you need to make sure you keep the reward rate high. It doesn’t matter if your dog loves treats, toys or praise keep it coming and even try mixing it up if your dog likes more than one type of praise. You need to make yourself more rewarding to your dog than your surroundings or your dog will seek his reward elsewhere. Don’t let them wander away in search of a better reward!
  • Tune in to your dog You need to know when your dog is bored with you or if they are losing interest in the game. You should have worked on the name game above, so ask for their attention with their name and a treat. If you are having trouble keeping your dog’s attention it may be they are done for the day and their little doggie head is full. You need to end your sessions with your dog still wanting more not when they are expired or they may come to dread “training” time. If you missed their signals and have gone over the limit, call them back to you in a cheerful way, leash them and then ask them for a simple task such as a sit or favorite trick. Reward them and be done.
  • Distraction factors Not all distractions are invalid. It’s important to recognize the valid ones such as a dog wondering off to find water. It is unfair to expect your dog to maintain focus when they are physically uncomfortable. You are responsible for keeping your dog hydrated, pottied, and otherwise comfortable during training sessions. Be sure to go to classes prepared with rewards as well as amenities for your dog.