Focus & Control
week 2 homework

Review

Continue practicing the skills from the prior week - try them out in new locations and slowly increase difficulty level (think about duration, distraction level, and/or distance from distractions):​

  • Engagement with you

    • Name Game​

    • Rewarding eye contact or looking at you

    • Capturing the "good" behaviors you like

  • Continue to maintain management of your dog's reactive behavior

New behaviors / exercises this week

  • Creating and encouraging relaxation and calm

  • Hand Target

  • Find it!

  • 1-2-3 Walking Pattern Game

  • Whiplash Turn

2) Hand Target​

A hand target cue for your dog can be a valuable tool: you can use it in greetings with strangers; it can become part of your Recall (eventually); it can help to maneuver your dog away from distractions (turning the head or changing directions altogether); it's an easy way to get your dog from Point A to Point B. It’s simply a fun, easy behavior that builds both your dog’s confidence and yours!


Step One (with a lure)

  • With a high-value, stinky treat tucked in between a couple of your fingers, offer your hand to your dog just a couple inches away from their nose (I like to use a flat hand with the fingers pointing toward the floor).

  • When your dog reached forward to investigate the treat, click/treat the moment your dog touches your hand with their nose.

  • Repeat a few times, switching hands and keeping it pretty easy (just a couple inches from the nose).

Step Two (physical cue - without a lure)

  • When your dog is quickly and easily reaching toward your hand to touch it, you’re ready to remove the lure from your hand for Step Two! This may take just a few tries - the hand target is a quick one to learn!

  • With no treat in your hand, offer your flat hand to your dog (still just a couple inches away to keep it easy).

  • Click/treat the moment your dog touches your hand with their nose.

  • Repeat!

 

Practice sitting down, standing, with your right hand and your left hand; practice moving your hand a little further away and moving it to the side and in various positions - have fun with it!

Step Three (adding the verbal cue)

  • When your dog is easily and consistently (8 out of 10 times) reaching forward to touch your hand (physical cue) with their nose when it’s offered, you’re ready to add a verbal cue to the behavior!

  • Say your dog’s name.

  • Once you have your dog’s attention, say the verbal cue you’ve chosen: Touch, Here, Hand, Target, Umbrella, it can be anything!

  • Pause for a second, then offer your hand to your dog as you have in Steps One and Two and close to your dog's nose, so it's easy to be successful.

  • Click/treat the moment your dog touches your hand with their nose.

  • Keep practicing with your dog with both hands and in various positions and distances!

Homework Items

1) Create and encourage relaxation and calm behavior!

In class (and anywhere, really), we'll utilize a mat, bed, blanket, or towel as your dog's "home base" - a place they can go to chill out and relax during class or a visual reminder of something to do when they're not sure what they should be doing during class. Our overall goal is to slow down – and learn that slowing down can be really rewarding!

 

Additionally, we’re working to promote calm behavior or a calmer state in general. Since it is difficult to learn things and to think critically about the next moves when in an agitated or excited state, working on and teaching your dog to start out in, return to, or choose calm behavior can help both of you!
 

Tips

  • Work on keeping your own movements slow and relaxed.

  • “Preload” the mat with a small scattering of treats at home or throughout class - drop a small handful of the tiny treats on the mat, so that it’s there and ready for your dog to find when they return to the mat!

  • As humans, it’s really hard for us to be quiet and patient; we can be tempted to give instructions and talk to your dogs, but I encourage you to practice being quiet, letting your dog figure some things out, and using your movements, rather than your words to provide small guidance (if it’s needed).

What are we looking for?
There are a variety of different behaviors we’d like to see your dog doing while working with our mat; if you see anything you like, feel free to place a tiny, tasty treat down! Below are some examples of what you may reward:

  • Calm, quiet behavior - standing, sitting, laying down, etc.

  • The ability to observe the surroundings (while remaining calm and quiet), offering the “look of acknowledgment” and be able to re-focus on you, the mat, or something else

  • Returning to the mat

  • Sniffing the mat or surrounding areas

  • General exploration (in a calm manner)

  • Checking in with you (with a glance/eye contact or by stopping by you and offering a Sit, etc.)

  • (If on leash) A loose leash with even a small amount of slack in it or, at the very least, a lack of tension in the leash

In addition to dropping or placing treats on your dog's mat, feel free to incorporate massage to encourage relaxation!

  • Long, slow strokes

  • Looking for slow breathing

  • Light to medium pressure

  • Ideally laying

Come to class next week with your dog already associating the mat / bed / blanket with calm and relaxed behavior!

4) Find It!

Feel free to get creative and call this behavior / exercise whatever you like - Find It, Scatter, Seek, What's this?, etc.

 

This exercise or game is designed to distract and, ideally, keep your dog’s nose busy looking for treats on the ground – instead of occupied with a trigger nearby or searching for a trigger.

  • As you’re walking (or even as you’re hanging out at home), say, “Find It!” (or whatever you’d like) in an excited voice.

  • Scatter a handful of delicious treats on the floor or ground in front of your dog or in front of you.

  • As you continue this exercise, practice scattering the treats in a variety of spots: off to your left, your right, in front of your dog, off to the side of your dog, behind your dog, etc. This is helping to teach your dog to find the treats in a variety of locations.

 

Note: in an effort to keep your dog’s focus on you, the ground, the activity at hand (instead of something else), you may even participate in the game yourself by pointing out pieces of treats that scattered further away or that your dog hasn’t noticed yet.

5) Whiplash Turns

This can be an extension of the Name Game we introduced last week or, if you or family members are inclined to use the name a lot without necessarily rewarding, choose a different word or cue (a nickname, a brand new word, etc.).

  • Let your dog get mildly interested in something (for example, toss a low-value treat in front of you).

  • With your dog's back to you, give the cue you've chosen (your dog's name or a new word)

  • The second you see your dog's neck start to swivel your direction, click and hand your dog a treat. (You may even choose to quickly back up as you're delivering that treat, so your dog has to "chase" you a bit or catch up!)

Timing is important with the click - we want to click/mark the very moment the dog starts to turn, so we can see this happening faster and faster (hence the name "whiplash turn"!). When your dog is whipping their head around at the sound of your cue, you can begin adding to the behavior (upping your expectations of them) by calling from a bit further away or practicing in new environments

A great whiplash turn in a controlled environment (such as the in class or at home) is not the same as being outside with many more distractions! Practice this everywhere and increase distractions slowly and/or expect less of your dog when you change locations (maybe only doing this on a 6 ft leash) and until they adapt and master the new environment. Raise your expectations bit by bit!

3) 1-2-3 Walking Pattern Game

Pattern games are a repetitive, predictable framework of cues and behaviors that helps a dog process the environment – patterns weave a safety net of predictability and expected behaviors into an unexpected, uncomfortable, or unpredictable situation. Patterns are all of the following:

  • Safe

  • Predictable

  • Repetitive

  • A natural part of learning (patterns make learning easier and faster)

  • Normalizing – a dog can process the environment from the safety of the familiar pattern

This pattern game helps you and your dog get from point A to point B and with less pressure than a cue for walking or in a situation where attention is cued. As mentioned with patterns above, this treat walking game allows a dog to notice their environment from the safety and comfort of the pattern.

This is a simple pattern game you can use anywhere at any time and with any dog – almost zero prep work is needed!

  • Take three steps.

  • Count out loud as you do so.

  • When you say “Three,” give your dog a treat.

 

You can use any three sounds if you prefer not to count (A-B-C, X-Y-Z, Tim-Tam-Tom); it doesn’t matter! Just three words and hand a treat out.

Some dogs may stay close by; other dogs might move around some or wander off or simply be too excited to catch on that the third sound equals treats. If that seems to be the case, you may start the game standing still and with a handful of stinky treats right in front of your dog’s nose; each time you get to the third sound, open your hand.

Resist the urge to call your dog to you, pat your leg, or pull them to you with their leash; this game is about teaching your dog an association – not telling them what to do.