Attention Creates Connection
Let’s start with the definition of Attention
Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important. (Oxford Languages Dictionary)
Attention is necessary for communication to take place between 2 people or a person and a dog. Attention and focus can start a dialogue of connection. It is the foundation of teaching of any behavior.
Focus and Attention are both important behaviors not only to teach but to continually reinforce to make your dog’s training successful. Once your dog is focused on you, the environment and its contents become less valuable to your dog.
Connection building games are wonderful opportunities for you to increase engagement and focus between you and your dog. These games are always important for warming up and beginning an exercise, getting your dog’s attention, and helping support your dog in challenging situations.
Goal: This game helps your dog learn to engage with you.
Step 1: Move around the space and don’t say anything. No coaxing. Use straight lines… front, back, left, right. Your dog needs to be an active learner.
Step 2– Click or yes the moment your dog takes a step to you. Present the food in your hand and move your hand slightly back.
Step 3– Let your dog move in to retrieve the food in your hand.
Step 4- Move around again and repeat the targeting of hand for food.
Step 5- add some follow the hand fun maneuvers too!
If you don’t have your dog’s attention, training is impossible. This is an easy way to establish a connection and develop communication between you and your dog. The lovely thing about this game is that we are going to use our dog’s most likely response to our advantage. We put food on the floor. They eat it and most likely they are going to look back at our face for more. Mark and reward. It’s that easy!
Goal: Teaching your dog that there is value in looking at you.
Lots of high value treats!
Step 1 Place food on the floor between your feet.
Step 2 When your dog eats it and looks up at you, mark, and place another treat on the ground. Repeat pattern several times for 2 minutes.
Try now tossing the treat 3-5 feet away from you and see if your dog can quickly focus back on you. Add some distance as your dog understands this conversation between you both.
As your dog becomes good at looking at you in a low distraction environment, try stretching your dog by adding a few distractions and see if your dog can still focus back on you. If you are working on distractions, keep the distance between you close.
Have fun with your dog!
Focus Pattern Game
It is a good idea to establish communication and attention before you begin training your dog. Think of it as a warm up for you and your dog. This is an easy game to play anywhere and is very engaging for both of you.
Goal: A game to teach your dog to look back at you. It is important to improve focus and interrupt unwanted behaviors.
You need treats and a little space to play.
Step 1 – Start this game in a very easy, low distraction environment where your dog is used to playing with you!
Step 2 – Throw a piece of your dog’s kibble (we recommend using a portion of your dog’s dinner) out (about 3-5 feet away).
Step 3 – After they finish eating it, of course, they are going to look back at you for more. At that moment of him or her orienting back to you, mark the movement with a “YES” or a CLICK (if you use a clicker).
Step 4 – Follow the marker with the reward of throwing another piece of food out to continue the game.
Step 5 – This is a great warm up for you and the dog!!
Once your dog learns the pattern, take it everywhere… outside, on a walk, on a cold day inside, etc. It is an engaging game and gives your dog exercise too!
Have your dog on a leash or long line when playing this game outside. Make sure you are tossing no further than the length of the leash. You may have to use higher value treats for your dog to engage with you outside. The more distractions, the more value you have to put into working with you. Enjoy your time together playing this game!