Focus & Control
week 4 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):

  • Relaxation (Home Base or mat work) and massage

  • Engagement with you

    • Rewarding eye contact or looking at you

    • Capturing the "good" behaviors you like

  • Hand Target

  • Find it!

  • 1-2-3 Walking Pattern Game

  • Whiplash Turn

  • Run Away!

  • Go to your Mat

  • Open bar / Closed bar

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

New behaviors / exercises this week

(Practice each in familiar, low-distraction environments)

  • The Look at That (LAT) Game

  • Tricks / Play

  • Ping-Pong Pattern Game

  • Up and Down Pattern Game

Homework Items

1) The Look at That (LAT) Game

This week, we talked about the Look at That (LAT) Game as another skill you and your dog can take advantage of on your walks! This game rewards your dog for looking at a distraction or trigger calmly and quietly. Rewarding dogs for looking at objects or beings that distract them seems counter-intuitive, but it can be really useful!

And it’s simple:

  • When your dog looks at the trigger (whatever it is), click and then offer a treat.

  • When your dog looks at the trigger again, click and treat again.

  • Rinse and repeat.

Generally, if your dog is already barking at or lunging toward a trigger, you are too near it; give yourself and your dog some extra space from the trigger. And repeat!

Contrary to how it might feel, this clicking and treating is not reinforcing your dog for fixating on the trigger; instead, it’s helping to lower the distraction value of the trigger. We’re making the activity of looking at something a behavior that can obtain a reward; over time, the behavior of looking at the trigger (and the current pattern of barking, lunging, general freaking out) becomes less and less emotionally-driven, reactive behavior. Actions and behaviors become more deliberate, thoughtful, and much more calm, making walks more enjoyable for both ends of the leash!

2) Play / Teaching Tricks to your dog

By participating alongside your dog in a game of fetch or playing tug, your dog is learning several valuable lessons;

  • Good behavior is rewarded

  • Listening and obeying is fun

  • You're a pretty cool human to pay attention to!

You can use play and teaching tricks to build confidence and establish greater impulse control and reliability. Playing with your dog and trick training are relationship-building activities, which are win/win for the both of you! Your dog learns to listen while excited, maintains a nice attitude while learning, and comes to understand that access to all good things are attained through you. On top of all of that good stuff, research has shown play lowers the stress hormone (cortisol) and increases levels of the feel-good hormone (oxytocin)!

 

You can use play and/or trick training prior to a walk or before other training sessions (at home or out and about) to reduce stress, burn energy, and help your dog relax and focus! Here are a few ideas for tricks you can start teaching today!

  • Spin / Twirl

  • Shake Paw

  • Take a Bow

  • Play with a flirt pole or a game of fetch.

3) Ping-Pong Pattern Game

For those dogs that may prefer movement more to sitting still or staying in place, this pattern game is a good option (perhaps as an alternative to the Up and Down Pattern Game)!

  • As the name of the game implies, this game bounces your dog back and forth a bit.

  • While standing or sitting, roll a treat to the right; your dog should chase and eat it.

  • When your dog returns to you, click and roll a treat (or simply roll a treat) to the left.

 

The game can be played with a little bit of space, indoors, outdoors, etc. – possibilities are endless!

The goal is not to completely distract the dog, but to provide a predictable activity to join in on as an alternative to other behavior responses to something in their environment (a distraction or trigger).

4) Up and Down Pattern Game

This game is a good option for those situations when you’re waiting – to take turns, to find out what is going to happen, or are stuck in place – and your dog needs some extra structure to process what’s going on in the environment.

  • Sit or stand facing your dog and put a treat on the ground in front of yourself.

  • Your dog should, ideally, eat the treat, then look back up at you (“Can I have another one?”).

  • Click when your dog looks up or simply put another treat down on the ground.

Every time your dog looks back up at you, drop or place another treat on the ground in front of you!

Your dog is definitely allowed to acknowledge their surroundings – we’re not looking to distract the dog, but give a familiar framework to acknowledge the environment from!