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Focus, distraction, and motivators

877 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  TheAdventureK9
Hey guys!

I know I haven't been posting much lately. Things have been pretty busy! But! Ginny just finished up Puppy II (second class she's taken).

My biggest issue with her is that when we are out and about, especially anywhere there are lots of people and dogs, she does not want to focus on me. Puppy II was a bit of a nightmare. The first night of class, she wouldn't so much as look at me, even though I had hot dogs, chicken, and cheese. The second class was marginally better, but not much. It wasn't until the 5th/6th class that I could get her to focus on me, and after playtime (middle of class), it was usually quite difficult. We had times during playtime that we were supposed to get our dogs to focus on us instead of playing, then once we got them to do simple things, release them back to playing. I couldn't get her to focus on me at alll.

The funny thing is that at home, she is pretty much a velcro dog, so attention work is easy peasy. However, our house is right across the street from a popular neighborhood park, so even stepping outside raises the stakes quite a bit more than a normal neighborhood yard. Plus it's been ridiculously hot and bug-tastic, so it's been too difficult to try to work in the back yard =/ Anywhere else is just wayyyy too much distraction to do attention work.

If there's no one else around, we can get her to focus on us when we're walking (with name calling -- offered attention is really not a thing she does when walking. If we stand still, she will resolutely look at everything other than me or my husband). But the instant there's another dog or person in sight (or god forbid it be a kid, because she LOOOOVES kids), she's super focused on them. This makes it really hard to work on friendly greetings, because while we can distract her while they're far away, if they're two leash lengths away or any closer, she's jumping and pulling to see them. The funny thing is that she knows not to jump with me or my husband, and when people get right up close, she'll usually stop jumping, but at that mid distance, she's pulling and jumping to get closer and there's no way to distract her.

My real concern with this is now that she's decided bikes and certain vehicles must be herded, so she's taken to running after bikes and cars. Luckily, she's always on a leash when outside, but because the bike/car is infinitely more interesting than us, it's impossible to keep her attention. If we can see a bike coming from a distance, we'll get her in a sit and treat her for just watching while sitting (pretty much constant stream of treats). But as the bike gets closer, she starts refusing treats and then as it gets even closer she leaps up to intercept it.

What makes this even more difficult is that she's just not that food motivated. There are treats that she likes, but if she's not super hungry or more distracted by other things, even chicken and hot dogs are not enough to get her attention. Liver treats are booooring and anything else just won't even get her to pay attention even if there's no one else around unless we're at home, and sometimes she'll turn her nose up at them there, too. She is toy motivated to some extent, but again, if she's distracted, she won't pay attention to any toy, either.

I'm sure some of this is just puppy-ness. She just turned 5 months and her attention span definitely is not the longest. But guys, she is SO smart and she wants to learn so bad. But it's so hard to teach a lot of things if the only place she'll do them is in the house. And attention is the main ingredient for a solid recall, and that's the most important thing to me, and we're just not there at all. I'm planning on retaking Puppy II just because Ginny needs the socialization hour still (which isn't offered after Puppy II) and also because I'm hoping not working on new things will help to build attention.

SOooo, after all that babble, I'm just wondering if anyone has suggestions on how to make yourself the most awesome and wonderful and exciting thing in the world so that your dog likes to focus on you, especially if said dog is not super food motivated. ;P

Thank you for being awesome. <3

Oh! Here's a picture from Sunday!


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Sounds like Aayla at that age! At home she was near perfect for a puppy, focused and driven for most things asked. Then I go out to our training class and she found the fake grass to be more interesting than me. I tried every treat under the sun and she spit all of them like I was feeding her lemons. It looked like the treats repulsed her. I even tried Salmon crack and she didn't want anything to do with it. (I made such a huge batch and had to toss it)

At times I had to just stand there in class like I had a fish on the end of the line that was flopping around and running around like crazy. She was more toy motivated, but in class it just didn't work.

These lovely ladies have given you some great advice on other treats and motivators. So I'm just going to say that there is light at the end of the teenage puppy tunnel. I never thought Aayla was going to be food motivated, she is now food motivated for the right type of treats. She will take them in any and all situations. She has been in some crazy environments (dock diving competitions, dog shows, farmer markets, PACKED breweries, dog on) and still takes the treats from me and focuses. She is now has crazy toy drive, which I can use for some training depending on what I want.

She used to be crazy for greeting dogs/people and couldn't contain herself within a 15 foot radius of anything. Now she will wait for permission (giving me her focus first) 80% of the time within a 5 foot distance to say hello. We are still working on a polite hello and no jumping. She is still super excited to say hello to people and dogs.

For her (cause all dogs are different, which it may or may not happen like her) she got into a high focus level around 9-10 months of age. It was a gradual process of getting and rewarding little sessions of focus at a time.

Taking a Rally class actually really helped with her focus because she loved it. She loved the challenge of it. Maybe some type of fun class or training could help with her?

Another thing that helped was building her toy drive. Building that toy drive made little ol mom way more fun than anything else going on. Restrained recalls with a toy reward, down stay come (you run away) with toy reward, all that stuff made Aayla way more drivey than she naturally was.

The main thing, is to keep working on it and understand that puppy brains tend to fall out and they take a while to find them and put them back in so they can think. I wish you luck and she is super cute!
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