Focus...or not...

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Postby JCleve86 » December 6th, 2006, 3:52 pm

Okay, so I'm sure some of you already read this in the "20 reasons" thread here, but I thought I'd start a new thread about my particular issue and see if anybody has any specific advice.

(About dogs being "ruined" by food rewards, basically:)
The food thing is so true...my dogs are BAD about that. I KNOW it's something I'm doing, but I can't figure it out...they will sit, stay, come...all that just on command with no reward other than a "good dog." But focus, forget about it unless I have food. It IS a newer command, and by nature is more difficult (the whole point of the command being to ignore distractions)...but aside from regressing to giving them high reward treats and weaning off...I've yet to get them to listen to more than few focus commands once they realize I'm not giving them treats. And yes, I have corrected them...but Molly particularly is so intense about other dogs, particularly small ones, that all the corrections in the world don't matter sometimes. I'd have to yank her off her feet and draw blood to get her to pay attention in some scenarios, and I'm just not willing to do that. In those cases, once I've established that they won't focus, I just put them in a sit-stay, which they WILL do.

I don't know what to do, truthfully. I know the answer is probably right there...I'm not willing to correct them to the level they should be, especially since they DO, from what I've observed, understand what focus means. But that's the long and short of it...I am not willing to seriously hurt my dogs. I've bought a good handful of training books so I'm essentially trying to train myself...but anybody got any advice for here and now?
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Postby julie k » December 6th, 2006, 8:42 pm

On December 06 2006, JCleve86 wrote:Okay, so I'm sure some of you already read this in the "20 reasons" thread here, but I thought I'd start a new thread about my particular issue and see if anybody has any specific advice.

(About dogs being "ruined" by food rewards, basically:)
The food thing is so true...my dogs are BAD about that. I KNOW it's something I'm doing, but I can't figure it out...they will sit, stay, come...all that just on command with no reward other than a "good dog." But focus, forget about it unless I have food. It IS a newer command, and by nature is more difficult (the whole point of the command being to ignore distractions)...but aside from regressing to giving them high reward treats and weaning off...I've yet to get them to listen to more than few focus commands once they realize I'm not giving them treats. And yes, I have corrected them...but Molly particularly is so intense about other dogs, particularly small ones, that all the corrections in the world don't matter sometimes. I'd have to yank her off her feet and draw blood to get her to pay attention in some scenarios, and I'm just not willing to do that. In those cases, once I've established that they won't focus, I just put them in a sit-stay, which they WILL do.

I don't know what to do, truthfully. I know the answer is probably right there...I'm not willing to correct them to the level they should be, especially since they DO, from what I've observed, understand what focus means. But that's the long and short of it...I am not willing to seriously hurt my dogs. I've bought a good handful of training books so I'm essentially trying to train myself...but anybody got any advice for here and now?


JCleve86,

Here are some thoughts on how to stop your dog from being a food burglar and you a food dispenser.

If you use food in training, you must insure the dog understands he is earning it, and how to go about doing that.
Get the food off your body first.
Take a tasty treat and throw it on the floor. Hang on to your dog's lead and don't let him snork it up. Don't correct him with the lead, just stop him from getting to it. Don't say anything---no verbal negatives(leave it) and no 'watch me's'. When he gives up, backs away, or looks at you, and figures out his attempts to get the treat on the floor end in failure, bridge and treat him.
If he doesn't look at you right away but quits trying to get the food, you can walk backwards until he turns toward you, which you can bridge.
The intermediate bridge in Kayce Cover's SATS Bridge and Target training is incredible for giving information during teaching and helping an animal gain duration. I have found them so valuable to the dogs that I really don't have that sinking feeling of wondering if the dog will pay attention to me if I don't have food any more because the bridges and the communication/enhanced relationship it provides take the place of food.
Do this until you can toss a treat by him and his response is to not break eye contact. Do it in heel position, front position, and any other position you can think of so the dog starts to generalize.
I'm not a pure positive trainer, so I'm not saying corrections aren't applicatble in certain areas, but----
you cannot force an animal to focus on you---you have to earn it because you are his best friend, teacher, and giver of all good things in life.

Good luck,

Julie K
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Postby JCleve86 » December 7th, 2006, 6:17 am

Oooo...that sounds like it just may work...thank you!
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Postby DemoDick » December 7th, 2006, 8:24 pm

you cannot force an animal to focus on you


Sure you can! You can force train ANYTHING, and unfortunately some people are hell-bent on proving it. However, it's certainly not the optimal way to get a dog's attention.

You can, however, use corrections to help build handler focus once the dog has been taught motivationally. If done properly, this will communicate that focus is not optional and good things happen when the dog performs correctly. So technically you can use "force" to help an animal learn to focus on you, but starting out that way without a motivational foundation is much more difficult for both the dog and the handler.

Oh, and most people who say you shouldn't "bribe" your dog with food or a toy need to look at the top competition dogs in agility, Sch., Ring, PSA and KNPV. Those dogs seem to work just fine despite being "bribed".

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Postby JCleve86 » December 15th, 2006, 12:30 am

Well today was the first opportunity I had to try Julie's suggestion out (my dogs live with my mom, and I don't). We went from tossing treats and them immediately jumping and yanking trying to get them (and then staring at them incessantly), to them visually tracking the treats but not moving to them, and making eye contact with me within a few seconds. Good progress, I'd say! (I decided to wait for eye contact rather than just giving up on getting the food since that's kind of where I'm going with the focus)

Now, I realize the point of this is in general to get the focus off the food and onto me, but a question...how do I bridge this onto the focus, or is it something that just comes naturally once they "get it?"
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Postby katiek0417 » December 15th, 2006, 7:53 am

Are you trying to get them just to look at you when you want them to...or heel with attention? If you are trying to get them to just look at you when you want, just teach the "watch me" or "look" command with the food. I typically start off by doing this with food and a silly sound. When they hear the silly sound and look at me, I praise them for "good watch me" and give them the treat. I teach them how to catch food that is dropping to them b/c eventually I tell them to "watch me" and when they look, I either drop or, in the case of hot dogs, spit the food out at them. Hot dog spitting is easier b/c they don't see your hand up at your face as a cue....They realize the food is coming from you, but b/c it's in your mouth, they don't know WHEN they're getting it...they're likely to hold the "watch me" longer.....Until they reliably focus on me when I give the command, though, I always use food. Like I said, though, by spitting it to them, they don't realize when it's coming....after they are doing it reliably, if I tell them to "watch me" and they do it, but then look away, I correct them for it....but I don't use corrections to teach, just enforce....
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Postby julie k » December 15th, 2006, 1:09 pm

On December 14 2006, JCleve86 wrote:Well today was the first opportunity I had to try Julie's suggestion out (my dogs live with my mom, and I don't). We went from tossing treats and them immediately jumping and yanking trying to get them (and then staring at them incessantly), to them visually tracking the treats but not moving to them, and making eye contact with me within a few seconds. Good progress, I'd say! (I decided to wait for eye contact rather than just giving up on getting the food since that's kind of where I'm going with the focus)

Now, I realize the point of this is in general to get the focus off the food and onto me, but a question...how do I bridge this onto the focus, or is it something that just comes naturally once they "get it?"


Well, there's a wonderful technique called an intermediate bridge which you apply in cycles. It is great at telling the animal they are right and extending duration of just about anything. It greatly improves the sensitivity and timing of the handler and once established, you can use the cessation of the bridge to inform the dog he's swayed off course. It makes incorporating distractions much easier when the animal can get this kind of information. It's long term effect is increased confidence for the dog, two way communication, and less dependency on food rewards for both dog and handler.
Not real sure I understand your question, pertaining to the exercise with the food on the floor. It may start out with the dog not scrambling to get the food, but ends up with the dog looking at you---that _is_ focus, unless I am misunderstanding your question. For me, and my students, this is a foundation exercise for attention which is used as a building block for others.

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Postby babyreba » December 15th, 2006, 3:13 pm

i just had a lesson in this stuff last night . . . we're going back to the building blocks on some of Doc's training, and one of the problems with his "focus" or "look" was that he's been rewarded for looking where the food is instead of making eye contact.

so instead of holding the food near my body, i held a treat at arms' length and asked for a "look." of course, he looked at the treat at first but when he didn't get it (and after he tried in vain to jump up and get it from my hand a few times) he finally looked at me like, "WTF?" and then he got a "GOOD DOG" and the treat. with a bunch of repetitions he finally realized he had to make eye contact to get the treat released. over time, i'm supposed to increase the duration of the eye contact before treating.

now for the next two weeks, before he can be released from a sit or a down, he's got to make eye contact with me first. the release will only come after he's looking right at me.
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Postby Nelson » December 18th, 2006, 10:20 am

Quote:
you cannot force an animal to focus on you


Sure you can! You can force train ANYTHING, and unfortunately some people are hell-bent on proving it. However, it's certainly not the optimal way to get a dog's attention.


Great point Demo D!
I agree wholeheartedly. The problem I see here is lack of experience combined with too much theory. An experienced person can read a book and figure most things out. But an inexperienced one will read books and articles and interpret them differently. You must have an equal balance of practice (under a qualified mentor) and theory (top quality info from qualified authors) to get to the point where you are "set free".

i just had a lesson in this stuff last night . . . we're going back to the building blocks on some of Doc's training, and one of the problems with his "focus" or "look" was that he's been rewarded for looking where the food is instead of making eye contact.


babyreba's quote is right on the money and the solution even more so. But sometimes you could be training and mis-training without knowing it. That's why you need a good mentor to help you get to the point of becoming a good trainer faster. The same as retraining a dog is 3 times more difficult, the same with us humans. It's hard to break a habit of training inapropriately if it was learned and set into you for some time.

Try joining a training club, go watch dog trials of different nature; obedience, agility, dog sports, etc. See different trainers work. Compare the different styles and broaden your horizons. This will be benficial to you and your dogs. Good luck in your endeavor!
Nelson Rodriguez

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Postby JCleve86 » December 19th, 2006, 6:19 pm

On December 15 2006, julie k wrote:
On December 14 2006, JCleve86 wrote:Well today was the first opportunity I had to try Julie's suggestion out (my dogs live with my mom, and I don't). We went from tossing treats and them immediately jumping and yanking trying to get them (and then staring at them incessantly), to them visually tracking the treats but not moving to them, and making eye contact with me within a few seconds. Good progress, I'd say! (I decided to wait for eye contact rather than just giving up on getting the food since that's kind of where I'm going with the focus)

Now, I realize the point of this is in general to get the focus off the food and onto me, but a question...how do I bridge this onto the focus, or is it something that just comes naturally once they "get it?"


Well, there's a wonderful technique called an intermediate bridge which you apply in cycles. It is great at telling the animal they are right and extending duration of just about anything. It greatly improves the sensitivity and timing of the handler and once established, you can use the cessation of the bridge to inform the dog he's swayed off course. It makes incorporating distractions much easier when the animal can get this kind of information. It's long term effect is increased confidence for the dog, two way communication, and less dependency on food rewards for both dog and handler.
Not real sure I understand your question, pertaining to the exercise with the food on the floor. It may start out with the dog not scrambling to get the food, but ends up with the dog looking at you---that _is_ focus, unless I am misunderstanding your question. For me, and my students, this is a foundation exercise for attention which is used as a building block for others.

Julie K


I guess my question is this...in the OP you advised not to say anything to get the dogs attention after tossing the treat, in other words, don't give the command...just wait for them to make eye contact. So, how do I incorporate the command back into it?

I don't expect nor do I *want* my dogs to stare at me when on walks. I want them to enjoy sniffing around and watching the birds and doing whatever they like doing, I just want them to be consistant with the "focus" when I give the command...
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Postby mnp13 » December 19th, 2006, 7:35 pm

On December 19 2006, 17:19, JCleve86 wrote:I don't expect nor do I *want* my dogs to stare at me when on walks. I want them to enjoy sniffing around and watching the birds and doing whatever they like doing, I just want them to be consistant with the "focus" when I give the command...


I use a release command. Tell them focus then tell them release, then tell them focus, then tell them release. They will pick up that there is a time to behave and a time to go act like dogs.
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Postby julie k » December 20th, 2006, 5:45 pm

On December 19 2006, mnp13 wrote:
On December 19 2006, 17:19, JCleve86 wrote:I don't expect nor do I *want* my dogs to stare at me when on walks. I want them to enjoy sniffing around and watching the birds and doing whatever they like doing, I just want them to be consistant with the "focus" when I give the command...


I use a release command. Tell them focus then tell them release, then tell them focus, then tell them release. They will pick up that there is a time to behave and a time to go act like dogs.


On walks, I only require that the lead be kept loose, which is still a communication between us; a shared responsibility. I don't expect them to stare at me either, just to be aware and stay in touch mentally. What I was trying to say is that focus reinforced becomes stronger and that I don't feel it should be commanded or corrected until a good foundation complete with appropriate distractions has been laid.

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