Does your dog pull on leash or not come when called? Do you wish your dog would listen more? Follow our daily plan below to jump-start your dog training. Your dog won’t actually be Lassie yet, but you will have a lot more focus than you do right now. Focus is the essential foundation before you can train anything else.
For this exercise, we use either a clicker or a word, like “yes,” to mark instant that your dog earns a reward. Every time you mark (click or say, “yes,”) you owe a your dog a tangible reward, like a food treat or toy. (Read more about clicker training). When you mark a behavior, give your dog the reward within a few seconds.
Days 1-2: Mark and Reward every time your dog looks at you on his own.
The idea is to catch your dog focusing, and pay handsomely. Try to mark the exact instant he turns his head toward you, so that you are rewarding the choice of turning his head.
- Tip 1: If you’re not going to train for a spell, either put him in his crate or tell him “All Done” and when you’re ready to train again, say his name and click/treat the turn toward you. I recommend not doing this while you’re eating your own dinner. That’s a perfect time to say “All Done” – meaning no chance for rewards until further notice.
- Tip 2: Use your dog’s food in quiet places, like in the living room, and better rewards when your dog does it around distractions. We call that “hazard pay.”
- Tip 3: Don’t forget to praise your dog!
Days 3-4: Mark and Reward about every other time your dog looks toward you.
We are now weaning off the treats a little. Continue to use praise for most head turns or eye contact.
- Tip 1: Every time you mark, you still reward, you just won’t be marking as much.
- Tip 2: Get a little picky – click for the faster head turns or whatever is somehow ‘better.’
Days 5-7: Wean off of the treats.
Be unpredictable, rather than paying for every 3rd glance. Make it random, but mark & reward about 1/3 of the time. Then 1/4 of the time, then 1/5. Do it gradually, so that your dog won’t suspect the odds are getting longer.
Vary the type of reward, too, and where it comes from. Mark and then pull a hidden toy out of a tree or off of a shelf. Mark and pick up a stick to toss.
After that, carry treats on you for a while anyway, so your dog doesn’t get the connection that no food = no rewards.
Training your dog to focus is just a foundation, but it’s essential that you get this before you train other things. Use this new Lassie-like focus to train other skills. And any time your dog needs a little boost, go back to this 7 day plan and you’ll get your Lassie back on track!
For more ideas on keeping your dog quietly focused, say in class, read my “Stop Barking” page.