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Building a Dogs Focus and Attention Span

Building a Dogs Focus and Attention Span

Conquering the Goldfish Syndrome

You know the feeling – you’ve got your furry best friend out on a walk, and suddenly they’re completely fixated on a squirrel or another dog, with no hope of regaining their attention. It’s like they have the attention span of a goldfish! As the proud owner of an 80% border collie pup, I’ve certainly been there.

When I first brought my little guy home as a puppy, I worked really hard on teaching him to focus on me during our walks – no lunging towards other dogs or chasing squirrels. And it was going great, for a while. But somewhere along the line, that hard-earned attention just seemed to vanish into thin air. Now, it’s a constant battle to keep him from getting completely distracted by every little thing that catches his eye.

Food rewards? Forget about it. As soon as he spots something remotely interesting, it’s like I don’t even exist anymore. I’ve tried the “stand back and reward when he looks at me” method, but even if the trigger is miles away, he’s still laser-focused on it and won’t give me the time of day. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out sometimes!

Laying the Groundwork

But fear not, my fellow dog owners! With a little time and dedication, it is possible to build up your pup’s attention span and teach them to focus on you, even in the face of the most distracting environments. The key is to start with the fundamentals and gradually work your way up.

First things first – you’ve got to make sure your dog has positive associations with their name. As the folks at All Dogs Unleashed point out, it’s crucial not to use your dog’s name when you’re correcting them. That way, when you call their name during training, they’ll come running with excitement instead of dread.

Start by having some extra-special treats on hand – we’re talking dried liver, smelly fish jerky, the works. With your pup on a leash and focused on the treat in your hand, say their name in a happy, upbeat tone. As soon as they look up at you, reward them with that delicious morsel. Repeat this a few times, but don’t let them get bored or too full.

Mastering the “Watch Me” Command

Once your dog is reliably responding to their name, it’s time to move on to the “watch me” command. This is one of the most important things you can teach your pup, as it lays the foundation for keeping their attention in all sorts of situations.

Start by holding a high-value treat right next to your eyes and saying “Watch me!” When your dog’s gaze meets yours, reward them immediately. Over time, you can gradually increase the duration they’re expected to hold that eye contact, even if you move around or turn your back.

And don’t just practice this at home – take it on the road! As you’re out on your morning walk and approach a spot that usually catches your dog’s attention, give the “watch me” command. When they choose to look at you instead of that exciting tree trunk or fire hydrant, shower them with praise and treats.

Overcoming Distractions

Of course, the real test comes when you start introducing some serious distractions into the mix. That’s where the “watch me” command really shines.

Start small, with a friend or family member tossing a ball or squeaky toy near your pup. When they manage to keep their focus on you despite the enticing distraction, reward them big time. Then, gradually up the ante – take them to the park, the schoolyard, or anywhere else with lots of exciting things going on.

Remember, this is tough work for a young dog, so keep the sessions short and upbeat. And don’t forget to praise and treat your pup anytime you notice them making a positive choice, even if it’s not in direct response to a command. That way, they’ll start to understand that checking in with you is the key to good things happening.

Putting it All Together

Before you know it, that “watch me” command is going to be your dog’s most valuable tool, both in training and out in the real world. Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you can recall your pup at the dog park, or how much easier walks will be when they’re laser-focused on you instead of every squirrel and passerby.

Of course, building a dog’s attention span doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and consistency. But trust me, it’s so worth it. Not only will it make training a breeze, but it’ll also strengthen the bond between you and your furry companion. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll even be able to take them to and find them a forever home where they can show off their newfound focus and attention skills.

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