Attention Please!

12 ways to train for focus and build a strong dog-owner bond.

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Successful dog training depends on attention,” says Dawn Jecs, of Puyallup, Wash., trainer and creator of the Choose-to-Heel training program. “If a dog is distracted or disengaged from the owner while training, its learning progress is slow.”

Some owners try to force their dogs to learn using any number of different training techniques. Jecs says that although the dogs might learn, an adversarial training technique can cause relationship issues, the most obvious being that neither the dog nor the owner enjoys the training. A much easier alternative is to teach the dog to pay attention to you and have fun at the same time.

Tip 1: The dog’s name is always positive.
Many people use their dog’s name any time they want to get the dog’s attention; they don’t differentiate between praising the dog and scolding it. If the dog is scolded a lot, it might begin to think its name is, “Fido, bad dog!” That negative connotation will spill into all aspects of the relationship, and the dog won’t cooperate.

To make your dog feel positive about its name, prepare some treats your dog normally doesn’t get, such as cheese or cooked chicken, and cut them into tiny pieces. With your dog on leash, ask it to sit in front of you, then say its name in a happy tone. As soon as your dog looks at you, mark the behavior with a clicker or verbal praise (“Yes!”), and pop a treat in its mouth.

Practice three or four times and then take a break; don’t let your dog become full of treats and bored. An hour later, practice three or four more times.

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