Thursday, February 21, 2013

Attention training

I'd already been thinking that I hadn't done enough impulse control/It's Yer Choice/distraction work with Chimera. I don't feel like it's my strong suit (I'm better at teaching tricks... classic clicker trainer problem), so I just kept putting it off. However I now realize that's become a real problem, because I haven't given Cai the foundation he needs to succeed in agility class.

To be fair, I have at least taken other classes specifically to work on focus around other dogs, and before his reactivity started we did lots of little bits of training while out for socialization. In a few weeks we're doing a three week class at Braveheart called Strength, Balance, and Body Awareness. Really looking forward to it!

I'm trying to think of all the attention games I've seen other trainers do:

Ask dog to get into heel position or front and give eye contact while you hold treats or toys out to the side as a distraction. (Did this today!) Later, ask for heeling while you hold them out/move them around.

Heel past distractions. Heel up to food/toy at dog's eye level (ie on chair), keeping leash short enough that dog can't reach if he goes for them. Reward turning away.

Have treats/toy on floor while you ask for behaviors, blocking if dog tries to go for them. (I did this when he was a baby, but over time forgot about it.)

Raise the challenge level on stays (which I have barely worked on). Yesterday I was able to drop treats and he would hold his stand-stay, which pleasantly surprised me. I can also walk back and forth in front of him. I can start throwing more stuff at him.

Recalls, sends, and/or retrieves past temptations.

Classical conditioning may help. In some contexts, Chimera orients to me when he hears dogs barking. Perhaps I could CC other dogs moving -- it would help with his reactivity, too.

Finally, a good ol' "leave it" cue, which I haven't bothered to teach him.

Of course, just going out to different places and asking for behaviors is also helpful. I've started doing this again. (I had stopped almost entirely for the past month or two due to his reactivity.) But we spend most of the time working on leash walking and reactivity training, with just a teeny bit of extra behaviors when the environment is quiet.

If my readers have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


  1. I do It's Yer Choice as a whole lifestyle. Life is full of IYC moments! I'm an IYC junkie; I loooove teaching self control. It's also a really fun exercise to teach in classes because most dogs and humans have rapid success with the early levels, and each level is a very clear, achievable step up from the previous level.

    Leslie McDevitt teaches a lot of reorienting exercises: reorient to me when you exit a crate, when you go through a doorway (such as entering the dog school or competition venue), when you enter the competition ring. I've been meaning to do that with Albee - if we enter a space with dogs in it, he sometimes gets "frozen" looking at them. I love the idea of teaching him specific situations in which his job is to auto-watch me.

    I've had a TON of success with Look At That in a group class setting. Albee desperately needed a job to do while in a room with other dogs; if left to his own devices, he'd stare and build up pressure until he exploded into barking or lunging. He now offers LAT voluntarily in many situations (although I need to work on it some more when "surprise" dogs appear outdoors).

    1. Great points, thank you! Reorienting exercises are something I haven't done at all, other than during leash walking. And Cai also has trouble breaking off his staring, but the BAT is helping with that.