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Building focus and engagement

Discussion in 'Training & Behavior' started by Doberman Gang, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    How do I get more focus and engagement and keep my dogs attention?

    I get asked this question more than any other. My response is usually,
    “What do you possess that that your dog wants?”
    Food?, a special toy? High value treat?

    But are any of these things alone enough to maintain your dogs attention when highly distracted? The answer is probably No.
    So we must make ourselves more valuable. How?
    This must be done thru interactive play and the use of marker training to give the dog clear communication.

    First off, the use of markers, or clicker training. This is to isolate a moment in time to teach the dog that it is doing what we ask correctly, and a reward will be coming. Without a marker, the treat being presented will not be delivered at the precise time and most of the time the handler ends up rewarding something other than what they wanted. Example “Dog is heeling, head up, straight, perfectly in-line. Without a marker you start to reward with a treat, next the dog changes position, loses focus on you, possibly forges or jumps up.” Now you have rewarded that behavior, reinforcing that instead of the heeling.

    Now, how do we teach our dog to understand the marker system?
    We do this by using classical conditioning. (Mark then Reward, Mark then Reward, Mark then Reward ect... ect... ect...)
    So without me getting to in depth about all of this and the four quadrants of training I will just say the delivery of the reward now becomes the thing that builds focus and drive.
    Most people reward with little or no animation or excitement. This is boring, sure the dog loves the food but in an uncontrolled setting, distractions will be much more enticing. So we mark our training then use excitement and chasing games for the dog to access their reward. Sometimes even throwing the food for the dog to chase then calling them back to chase another piece of food in our hand. Some times doing this multiple times between training to create a short play session. Other times right back to work after just one reward. Keeping the training unbalanced will actually heighten you dogs attention and drive from anticipation of the next play session. This can all be done with simple food rewards, I recommend to my people that they use food rewards when teaching new behaviors then switch to a toy or tug once behavior has been learned. Typically drive and focus increase tremendously once a toy reward is being used, so new behaviors can be harder to teach with a dog in higher state if drive.

    If you build a routine or cue your dog everyone you go somewhere you will classically condition them to focus on you whenever you go out because they will believe play is inevitable.

    So when you go out in public, you get them out and have a short reward or play session. This is done closer and closer to people and dogs. But you do not let them greet or play with other people and dogs, just you, this is proper socializing. Strangers and their dogs are neutral and everything good now is with you. If your dog is never allowed to go on there own to met strangers they won’t try to leave you because they are expecting a play session with their favorite person, You!!!

    Good luck and make training a fun play session. Don’t be afraid to look silly, your dog won’t care and will have a fun time.

    • Informative Informative x 5
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  2. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    I know this and believe every word, but I need reminders ALL THE TIME!!! Thank you for the reminder. Too often I get caught up in "training" and even if it's a 5 minute session I sometimes forget to play until calling out the OK (end of session). :facepalm:

    Also, if you would entertain a question, Asha (5 1/2 months) is extremely independent - and possessive. She will run after a ball and bring it back, but stop a couple of feet away. She has yet to return it to my hands. If I reach out she wants to play dodge, and if she does this I turn around and quit. If I offer another toy, another ball, making it live and exciting she will not trade what she has for the "live" one. She just stares at it, sometimes jumps at it, but won't give up what she has in her mouth. If I throw the new toy/ball she will run after it, still holding the original in her mouth. Sometimes she drops the original & picks up the new, but most of the time she'll just run after the new one, discover she can't fit them both in her mouth and leave the newly thrown one on the ground. If I can get her collar she will drop the ball before I ask her to out it, so still not putting it in my hand. She will usually drop it for food treat, but again, dropping it, not giving it. She does want to play with me - we have a glass door to the back yard and she stands at it and stares to come in. I'll go to let her in and she runs to get a ball and bring it to me to play. I'll close the door and she drops the ball, I open the door and she picks it up. She wants me to come out and play, but she just wants to play keep away, which I refuse to engage in. Also, she will do a recall from 100 feet away at a dead run, but sometimes if she's 5 feet away and I call her to me she just stands there and blinks like "make me". :pullhair: I do silly antics, talk goofy, but if I walk toward her she does the dance backward thing. Of course if I run away she will come after me, but that wasn't what I was wanting.... Am I too easily frustrated? She most definitely wants to do things her way and call the shots, I'm trying to make it fun so she likes doing things my way, but feel like I'm missing something...

    Sorry, made this way longer than I intended.
    • Empathetic Empathetic x 1
  3. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    Great info! Tks!!:thumbsup2:
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  4. BamMoMoMommy

    BamMoMoMommy $ Premium Subscriber $ $ Forum Donor $

    @Doberman Gang , excellent information, thanks for taking the time to get it here.

    How much do you work with hand gestures and body language?

    This....has been a vital part of training we have always used(cripes the best work outs I GET..is when I am training the goofs..LOL). We look like cartoonish, screechy dorks around when we are training/praising.

    The other side of this...is staying calm, firm and un-animated when correcting.

    It really doesn't take long for the dog to figure out the difference between playing/learning/training and correction. If we aren't animated and goofy, sort of sing song silly in the way we talk to them.... when we are speaking to them...they know we mean business, and what they are doing is a no go.

    People tend to be animated and rowdy when playing with their dogs. If they correct in the same manner, screeching, yelling, being animated.......it confuses the day lights out of the dog. The dog ends up thinking it is being praised....while what they did isn't praise worthy....but they don't know that.....and the owner can't figure out why "the dog won't mind".
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  5. Gelcoater

    Gelcoater Expert ThreadCrapper $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    Agreed and posted at seemingly the perfect time!
    This new one has serious focus, just not where it needs to be pointed, lol.
    • Funny Funny x 3
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  6. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    I think the easiest answer for you is to teach her how to play the game. She understand the rules for play do makes things up. You have to show her what the rules are.
    I train with a drag line on the dog. This is a 10 to 15 foot leash with no loop or ring on the end. This allows the dog to drag it around and it won’t get caught on things as the dog runs around. When teaching play I keep the dog within this distance so I can use the leash to encourage the dog to come back to me for play. Similar in teaching the recall. I start teaching play with a tug. 3 things must happen in play 1) you possess the tug. 2) you both possess the tug. 3) your dog gets to possess the tug. This the game, I make the dog engage me to produce the toy. Then I play keep away from the dog for a few misses. Then we both have the tug. (Do not jerk the dog up and down with both hands when playing) instead just make small jerks like you are trying to get the tug out of their mouth. Similar to a rabbit try to escape. (If you win it, make more misses before letting them bite it again. Occasionally let them win and pretend to try to get it back, missing on purpose. Use the leash to encourage them to bring it to you while doing this. They will eventually start pushing the tug back at you to play. They want the interaction and once they learn this game you will have them. They will engage you because that is what they learn to do for you to produce the toy. This can’t really be taught by playing ball but if taught will help fix your ball playing.
    For Playing ball I have always taught 2 ball.
    Rules are simple;
    Must bring the ball straight back and fast.
    Must out the ball on command before I throw the next ball.

    Blaze was the first dog that I changed this on. He only gets one ball and must down then out the ball. Then let me pick it up, he must also remain down until I mark ok when throwing the ball again. Waine and I had to teach him this way due to his desire to want to fight vs. possessing a toy. I received many bloody injuries in the early stages of training him. Now he is the most obedient dog I have ever trained. But it is all from him now have a clear understanding of the rules of training and play.

    Your recall problem will also be fixed from play. I teach the exercise backwards. Meaning I teach the dog to sit in front close for a reward. Many reps, teaching this position to be extremely rewarding to be in. Do the same for basic position as well. All rewarded in stationary position multiple times. For the recall I move back 1 step at a time building distance. Eventually restrained recalls with someone holding the dog back to build frustration. Once the dog is let go a reminder at the end to sit in front is given then the picture is completed.
    • Informative Informative x 5
  7. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    I don’t really use hand gestures per-say. I teach things using food luring so that is kind of a hand gesture I guess, but the movement of the hand always precedes the verbal que. this way they learn the verbal and the movement. If you do them at the same time the dog will only learn the visual movement and not the vocal. If that makes sense.

    As for body language, yes, body language is always used for cueing my dog on what is coming next. The biggest cue is eye contact, I look at the dog give a command, the dog must continue doing what was asked until the next command, which is only given again when I look at them. There are some exceptions to this but true for most exercises. For instance, if I leave my dog in a down, walk away 30-40 paces. If I turn and face my dog my head will be turned as if I am looking to a judge for instruction. If I am recalling my dog I then turn to my dog and then count to anywhere from 3 to 5. Before giving the command to come. Counting must be random so the dog doesn’t anticipate the head turn as coming but only teaches a command will follow shortly. This will build drive so when the command is given I have speed on the recall.
    If I am picking the dog back up on a long down once I have looked to the judge I rerun to my dog not giving eye contact, once back to my dog in basic position I again look away as if to be looking to a judge for instruction. Then I look forward again counting then look down and give the command to sit. Again all these subtle cues put drive in the dog and the sit is done with speed. All head movements must be slow but consistent or the judge will consider it as handler help so I train it this way to my advantage and it puts drive in to each exercise.
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  8. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    Thanks for these helpful suggestions. I will work with these tips. Wish I was close to your club!
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  9. BamMoMoMommy

    BamMoMoMommy $ Premium Subscriber $ $ Forum Donor $

    Again...thank you. You have no idea how much your tips overall on site have helped me work with Bam.

    It makes sense...to the point it sent me to a light bulb moment with an issue I have with Bam.

    I have never distinguished motion from vocal.

    He is on spot with hand gestures.....the vocal....it's like it take him a bit to grasp what action goes with the word....what I am expecting from him...when it is just a word command...so if he isn't looking at me...the word...doesn't mean anything to him..unless he sees Mo reacting to the command word...or he is looking at me for the hand gesture.

    Big light bulb moment there. Any suggestion on how to re-work this? I would guess it is going to be about using the word command in repetition with no hand gesture?

    He's extremely food orientated...but also extremely motivated by praise...in fact may be more motivated by praise than food.
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  10. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    No just separate it, give command then the hand gesture. Reps then eventually givevthe command and wait if he follows thru big reward and play. Then you know he knows them both.
    • Appreciation Appreciation x 1
  11. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    In IGP are only verbal commands allowed, no obvious body language to give the dog instruction? Any exceptions to this or only in the obedience phase?
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    Everything must be subtle. 2018 Nationals the judge told me to watch my head cues but didn’t take points. Just let me know she saw what I was doing. So I have lessened them and added more of a pause when turning my head back to front or to my dog. Many of the competitors were giving commands while turning there head back to their dog and getting pointed for handler help. We would have scored a 90 out of 100 if we wouldn’t gave lost 10 for Blaze breaking his long down. But he had just turned 2 the week of Nationals and was the youngest dog there competing. Hoping to do better this year in Florida.
    Here was the live broadcast from 2018 DVG Nationals. Blaze was still pretty wild be so young. Feel free to laugh as he creeps and crawls his way back towards me in his long down. My wife laughed her ass off. It was t funny at the time but now I can enjoy his spiritedness.
    Eric West
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  13. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    That video is priceless!!! :thumbsup: plus a little :rofl:
  14. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    I had watched in a long time. Nice to see how far we have come since then.
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  15. Rits

    Rits Admin Administrative Staff Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Great post on focus and great video thank you for sharing! I loved Waine's commentary too...especially home depot calling :rofl:

    Blaze reminds me very much of younger Java and I don't mean that as an insult whatsoever since she is a lab (I know they are very different) but in terms of EAGERNESS and ANTICIPATION, he was so ready to do something! It makes me feel better knowing there are others out there that have a very eager dog. Like him elevating himself off his elbows in the down, that was something I had to watch and correct Java for because she thought it "still counted" lol! I love a dog thats very into what they are doing, easier to train a dog that wants to work but boy is it lots of work!:pullhair:
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  16. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    Oh wow. I'd never done this before because so much dirt here, no grass lawn or astro turf or asphalt or concrete. But I decided the short sidewalk would do. Asha got it in just a few tosses - very food motivated. @Doberman Gang - she couldn't see the tossing because she was coming Front, so I had her come around to heel so she was facing same direction and then see the toss. But then on her return she started coming to the side and wanting to turn to look instead of front. She figured it out SO fast, but again, making her own rules to benefit herself. Before I ruin my good front, I wanted to ask, should I have her come back to a good front, then come-around heel position, then toss the food? Or does that change the Fun break into more Training? She was Extremely enthusiastic about this game, and I want to keep doing it as she loved the fun, but I don't want her to bypass the good front because she wants to see where the next toss is going. Thank you so much for this tip, our day was great just because this one little thing! Sorry to pick your brain so much, hopefully my questions will help others here too.
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  17. Rits

    Rits Admin Administrative Staff Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    I would think once she understands the front consistently you can withold the reward and counting to varying numbers before marking "ok" so she doesn't anticipate the treat on her own. This will help lengthen the front until you mark it. So in theory she would front and look up at you until your next command as long as you wanted. Or you change it up and ask for a front, then byheel, then reward. Along the lines DG was saying for his head turn and waiting random times to give his cue so Blaze didn't recall based off his head turn. That would be my interpretation but I look forward to what DG says.
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  18. Doberman Gang

    Doberman Gang Hot Topics Subscriber

    I only front my dog if I use a here command, then it is every time. If I toss a piece of food and call them back for play I only use their name. This means come seem me, chase me ect... it is all play. If I say foos then I expect basic position with attention. It is to test to see if they are listening and know what I am asking. Typically if this is a break in training to play I just have them chase food in my hand and have them spin making it fun, so just use their name to call them.
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  19. luckybeemer

    luckybeemer Member

    @Doberman Gang awesome informative post. Thank you so much. Between work and living in a small town, opportunities are limited. However,I still try my best to take advantage of every moment that could be a "training" session. Also its nice to see information presented in different ways.
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  20. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    Ahhhhh! makes perfect sense. I was not using "here" so now I don't feel like it was unlearning. She does a beautiful front and after that play session, she was getting faster and faster but all over the place - like play ought to be - but I was afraid she might start doing this on a "here" command. No command, no misconduct! We will play this again today and I'll be mindful of my words.

    Yes, for training, you are right... I was trying to break up training and intersperse it with a fun game which would at the same time help her learn to come all the way back to me. DG's answer was spot on. I'm trying to make training more fun for her so I didn't want the treat toss & chase to become another training session, it was supposed to be a break. Hope that makes sense.
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