Got Focus?

By Deborah Jones, Ph.D.

As a dog trainer there often comes a point in your work with any particular dog where you realize that focus is a real thing and you don’t have it.  You have behaviors on cue and you have a dog that will work for food and/or toys, but you still have a problem.  A BIG problem.  It feels like you are doing 90% of the work to keep your dog in the game with you.  You may resort to bribing and begging and cajoling and cheerleading and acting like a clown on crack to keep your dog interested in training.  At this point you need an intervention.  A focus intervention.  You’ve neglected a key component of your working relationship with your dog, and now you are seeing the fallout.  Luckily, it’s never too late to develop focus.  

Focus is one of the cornerstones of good foundation training.  The problem is that trainers often don’t realize that something really important is missing until they try to work in less than optimal conditions.  That’s when your carefully constructed training house of cards collapses.  Your dog suddenly becomes a stranger to you.  His beautifully trained responses under perfect conditions crumble under the weight of distraction and reduced reinforcers.  What you thought you had was an illusion because you didn’t have focus.  

A focused dog always meets you halfway; often even more than halfway.  He wants to do what you want to do when you want to do it.  He is eager and enthusiastic and becomes resilient against distraction.  He can work with reduced reinforcers because you have built in a tolerance for long chains of complex work.  He doesn’t just tolerate training; he insists on it.  So, how do you train for this mythical focused creature?  Carefully, thoughtfully, and systematically of course!  We have developed a series of exercises and games designed to help you teach your dog how to focus.  


There is, however, one magic bullet solution to gaining a focused training partner.  Are you ready?  It’s simple, and incredibly difficult at the same time.  The number one rule to get focus is this:  Never train an unfocused dog.  Early on in the focus training process we introduce this rule.  It’s not complicated.  Never train an unfocused dog.  It’s an absolute.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Never train an unfocused dog.  There will never ever be a situation in which it is okay to break this rule.  It is the most important focus training commandment.  Never train an unfocused dog.  If you can stick to this rule, we can show you how to get all the rest.  

Want to know more?  Join me on Thursday December 21 at 9 pm Eastern time for a Let’s Get Focused! webinar.  I’m going to talk about both the general concept of focus as well as present specific focus exercises to help you get started.  There will be plenty of time for questions at the end of the presentation.  If you can’t make the live version a recording will be placed in your Library to watch any time.  

Click the link below for information on how to sign up: