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Focus & Control
week 3 homework


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):

  • Relaxation (Home Base or mat work) and massage

  • Engagement with you

    • Rewarding eye contact or looking at you

    • Capturing the "good" behaviors you like

  • Find it!

  • 1-2-3 Walking Pattern Game

  • Whiplash Turn

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

New behaviors / exercises this week

(Practice each in familiar, low-distraction environments)

  • Hand Target

  • Run Away!

  • Go to your Mat

  • Open bar / Closed bar

Homework Items

1) 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!

2) Run Away! (Consider this an emergency U-turn or "Get out of Dodge" move)​

This exercise is designed to make it a fun and exciting game to make a 180 degree turn and walk, jog, run away from something (or, at least, in a different direction).

  • As you’re walking with your dog, ask for their attention (with their name, a fun noise, etc.).

  • When your dog has turned their attention to you, say, “Run away!” (or some other fun phrase, "Let's go," "This way," etc.) and start moving away. This can be turning around, changing direction, or even continuing ahead and doesn't have to be running, but can be a jog, fast walk, etc.

  • Keep the excitement up, so your dog is interested in you and excited about where you may be taking them – fun noises, praise, etc.

  • When you get to where you’re moving to, throw a party for your dog with treats, petting, praise, etc.!

3) Go to your Mat Behavior

I'm a fan of using our dog's mat/bed/blanket as a home base, as we've talked about before; it's a place we can encourage our dog to utilize when they aren't sure what to do or where to go, a place that's comfortable and secure and off to the side, and a place that is rewarding for them to be. With that said, we can also utilize a cue to send our dog to their mat (to get them out of the way or to remind them where they can go at that moment).

Step One: Treat Drop Game

  • First, it may be beneficial to teach your dog that your hand/arm is worth following and is providing them information about the direction they should go.

  • With a treat or small handful of treats in your hand, say your dog’s name and, using a wide, exaggerated hand/arm motion that is attention-grabbing to your dog, slowly swing your pointed finger past your dog's nose and to a random spot on the floor.

  • As your dog gets to the spot you're pointing to, click, then drop a treat.

  • Move your arm a new direction, repeating the exaggerated arm sweep, and clicking/treating as your dog gets to the spot you're pointing to.

  • Repeat a few times and, when your dog is following your hand quickly and consistently, you're ready to add the mat/bed/blanket into the mix.

Tip: It is often helpful to start this with your hand at about your dog's head height or lower, so it's extra easy to follow!

Step Two: Adding the mat

  • As before, put some treats in your hand, get your dog's attention, and, with the same arm motion you were using in the Treat Toss Game, point your finger at the very center of your dog's mat/bed/blanket.

  • Instead of clicking and treating for simply following your hand, click for your dog stepping even a single paw on the mat/bed/blanket.

  • Wait a few moments to see what your dog chooses to offer and continue clicking and treating for things you like to see - stepping all four paws on the mat/bed/blanket, standing quietly, sitting, laying, quietly looking around, etc.!

  • Click/Treat for at least five things you like to see, so your dog is actually spending some time on the mat/bed/blanket before you encourage them to move away.

  • Invite your dog off of their mat/bed/blanket and try again (maybe even move your mat/bed/blanket to a new spot)!

Step Three: Adding the Verbal Cue

  • When your dog is consistently moving to their mat with the sweeping arm motion you’re using (physical cue), you’re ready to add the verbal cue. Some examples of a verbal cue for this behavior are below:

    • “Go to your mat”

    • “Go to bed”

    • “Go home”

    • “Go to your place”

  • To add the verbal cue, simply say your dog’s name or get their attention.

  • Say your verbal cue, for example, “Ruby, go to bed”

  • Perform the now-familiar sweeping arm motion.

  • Click/treat for your dog stepping on their mat and continue to click/treat for other behaviors you like to see on the mat (as we've done over the past couple of weeks).

  • After some time (multiple clicks and treats), invite your dog off of their mat or, optionally, you can use a Release cue to let them know when they can leave the mat, go do their own thing (examples below); make sure that your dog does actually move away, since the Release cue is a cue for a behavior just like sending them to their mat is a cue!

    • "Ok"​

    • "All done"

    • "Free"

    • "Release"

  • Try again in a new spot!

As mentioned in class, I'd like us to work on increasing the amount of time your dog hangs out at the mat; instead of leaving after a couple seconds on their own or giving the Release cue after a couple clicks, extend the amount of time your dog is on their mat by clicking and treating more or putting some extra time between each click/treat!

4) Open Bar / Closed Bar

This is a great strategy for when you can’t move your dog or your dog is likely to react to a noise. This is a counter-conditioning strategy to teach your dog that stuff happening around them is no big deal at all

  • Take your mat, bed, blanket, etc. with you when you know the environment will cause stress or you're unsure if there will be triggers present.

  • When a distraction or trigger is present (at a distance your dog is able to maintain composure), the Bar Opens – treats treats, treats, treats. As we talked about in class, feed the floor or blanket!

  • When the distraction or trigger leaves, the bar closes and treats stop. The treats only happen DURING the distraction.

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