How can I gain my dog’s attention even when getting rid of any distractions? He seems to have the attention span of a goldfish, although he does love to work for food. Thanks in advance
Hello Jordyn, First, begin training somewhere super boring when teaching initial verbal cues like "Find It". Go somewhere like your bathroom or room, where there are no other people, animals, toys, or sources of food. After pup has learned the command, then gradually practice in harder and harder locations - only moving onto a new location when pup is doing well at the current one. This takes practice and patience. Second, keep training sessions short. Many dogs actually get better at training the more they learn - they learn how to learn and focus, but at first keep the sessions to about 10 minutes, but have several throughout the day for quicker progress. Notice when pup is really struggling to focus even more than when the session first began. When you can't seem to get them to focus any longer whether it's been 10 minutes or not, get one more good response out of them so you can end it on a good note, then end that session for now. Third, be motivating. Keep your energy and enthusiasm high when you want pup to feel excited. If you need pup to be calmer, keep your energy calm and confident. Help pup engage with the training by having the type of attitude you are trying to get pup to have - i.e. excited and motivated or calm and focused. Find what motivates pup and get creative. If pup loves small pieces of carrots instead of liver treats or vice versa - use what pup finds motivating so long as it's healthy and safe. If pup likes toys better than food, use appropriate toys as a reward for succeeding instead of food where you can. Fourth, reward small successes and break training down into smaller steps. When teaching a command reward attempts and getting closer to the goal, even if pup hasn't done the full behavior yet. As pup improves more, continue to praise as pup is getting close but gradually require a bit more correct behavior before you give the treat - until pup can do the entire behavior and get the treat at the end of doing that behavior. For example, if pup is supposed to be finding something, praise and reward pup for a few steps in the right direction and sniffing the ground a bit at first, then show them where to go if they need a hint. As they improve, wait until they get closer to the goal before you reward, praising quietly for staying on the trail as they look, then giving them a hint for the last bit of the trail if needed. Finally, wait until they get all the way to what they were searching for before giving the treat. This may mean rewarding pup for getting just one foot further for a while - until all those feet are put together into the final search eventually. You want pup to stay motivated to keep searching and learning by helping them succeed along the way while they are figuring it out. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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