Week 1 - When You’re Ready, Come Find Me…
Hi Students! So I’m guessing if you are taking this class you want to improve your dog’s attention and engagement with you. I give you huge props for this. It is so much easier to write off your dog and I am proud of you for choosing the other road. The world changes for you and your dog once we break through to engagement and attention. It is really powerful!
There is a misconception that because you have a primitive dog, they can’t focus on you - especially while ignore environmental distractions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason for this myth is that it isn’t innate. We have to put in some work to get there, but once we do, it’s life changing.
So what does attention and engagement look like?
In the above video, Saga is only 1 year old and she is practicing attention and off leash heeling. There are about 50 people in the room, dozens of dogs and a dog working right behind her. But she won’t take her eyes off me. And, sure, I am going to reinforce her, but she is so used to this kind of engagement that she watches me when I simply walk around the house. She knows that paying attention to me is worthwhile.
For this week I only have one assignment for you. It is extremely important foundation work for getting you to the point where you dog doesn’t take their eyes off of you. Next week, you will have 3 assignments to make up for the slow start so don’t worry. We’re just taking off slow, thing will ramp up quickly.
Way too often we accidentally teach our dogs to ignore us. When their interactions with us are ignored, or worse scolded, they will tune us out. If we have a tendency to nag, say their name 100 times or grab, jerk or touch them to get their attention, we may have poisoned attention. Also, some dogs are really uncomfortable giving attention or don’t know how to engage. This week we are going to fix that.
When You’re Ready, Come Find Me…
For this exercise you will need…
A yard, a deck, a quiet parking lot, area at a park, or a tennis court.
A lawn chair
A long leash around 20 feet in length
The most amazing treats in the world!
*A quick word on treats. Use human food for this work unless you have been instructed not to by a vet.
This won’t make them beg.
We need to make a big impact.
I recommend turkey hotdogs, meatballs, cheese sticks, chicken, liver pate, etc. Cut them into pencil eraser size pieces and have them on you.
Take your lawn chair out the the location you are going to practice. You can also just sit on the ground.
Bring your dog over on the long leash
Let your dog wander. Keep a strong steady grip on the leash, we don’t want your dog getting away.
When your dog finally gets bored and comes over, give them lots of yummy treats!
Note that at first this can take a long time. If this is a new environment for the dog it can take a really long time! Be patient. If you run out of training time and get no engagement, pack it up and try again tomorrow. Some dogs need a couple of times to tune out the sights, sounds and smells at a particular location.
When your dog comes over do not touch them. Just give them food and praise. When they are busy checking things out and not engaging with you, do not call their name or make noises to try and get their attention. This exercise is on their terms.
Every dog will progress with this at a different pace. Do not get frustrated if your dog does not come to you at all during the week. Also, do not get frustrated if they won’t leave you alone after some repetitions. If they get very focused on you, try a new location.
Just practice this. At least 3-5 times this week.
Bonus! Post about your progress in the comments and your instructors will respond!