Teaching the Dog to Focus
By Michael Russell
A dog that can focus his attention completely on you is a dog that can truly learn and is a pleasure to train. When you embark on training your dog anything at all, first make sure that you can get his attention and hold his attention. There is a method to do this and if you follow this, you will find that all activities from that point on that you are training will be much easier to achieve. A dog that will focus completely on you is a dog that you can count on to pay attention when you speak to him. If he is distracted by a cat, or a car, or something in the environment and is not “listening” to you then it is always more difficult to train your dog to do anything.
To train your dog to focus on you, prepare yourself first with plenty of treats that are absolutely irresistible to the dog. The best treats are nuked hot dogs. To “nuke” a hot dog, slice it in thin slices and throw it in the microwave on high for two or three minutes until it is quite brown and curled and even slightly burnt. Let this cool and you have a dry crisp treat that will not get your pockets greasy and will always make your dog happy. If your dog is on a diet or even if he is not, one thing you must remember about treats is that is you over-do this your dog can easily become obese. To avoid this, don’t feed him as much at his regular mealtimes when you are training on a regular basis. If you are giving him a half a cup of treats, then take away a half cup of his regular ration of dog food.
Now, for training the dog to “watch”, here is what you do. You will start by getting the dog in front of you, either sitting or standing and say the dog’s name sharply and in a commanding but friendly tone. Immediately offer him a treat. Do this once or twice. Then the third time, bring the treat up quickly just in front of your own nose, tell the dog to “watch” and as soon as he looks at you (for his eyes will follow the movement of the treat), then tell him “good dog” and give him the treat. And of course, don’t forget the magic words: “what a good dog!!” Praise with your voice is more important than anything else! Repeat this several times. Later in the day, repeat this again. Add in movement of your hand with the treat…back to his face and up to your nose, again. Soon you will see that each time you say his name and the word “watch” he will look at you. Do this many times during the next few weeks often with a treat and often without a treat. He will get so that he watches the movement of your hand regardless of whether or not it has a treat within. Continue this exercise often throughout the next few weeks and in no time at all, you will have a dog that will immediately look towards you when you speak his name and when you tell him watch. When you see that he is consistently looking at you when you ask him to…you know that you have taught him how to focus.
Anything you teach after that point will be much easier to get through to your dog, for you will have his total attention.
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