It is impossible for your dog to learn and perform a skill or exercise correctly if you do not have his complete attention. You should insist that your dog pay 100% attention to you. At the same time, you should give your dog 100% of your attention! Once you begin a training session, be aware of any “down time” that may occur while you are working with your dog. Down time occurs when you are getting more treats, setting up jumps, putting out gloves/articles, etc. If your dog has an opportunity for frequent sniff and gaze breaks, it is unlikely that his attention span will increase sufficiently enough that he can pay attention through an entire ring performance.
Rehearse good habits. First, make a training plan before you arrive at the new location. With a plan in mind, you will be able to set out everything that you need for your training session, and then move quickly from one skill or exercise to the next. While you are working with your dog, persuade him to give you his undivided attention and keep him engaged with you. Randomly reward your dog’s effort to pay attention to you by paying him with treats and toys.
Secondly, convince your dog it is in his best interest to watch you closely! While training, be unpredictable and spontaneous with your movements or give unexpected commands to discourage him to take even a single glance away from you! Your ability to praise and reward attention and to discourage inattentiveness will have a direct effect on your dog’s performance during training and also in a ring setting.
While training, maintain your dog’s focus in non-audible ways. Here are a few ideas;
• Push and run or push and play.
• Release up in heel position for treat or toy.
• Release with a toy, pocket or treat thrown over your head down to heel position.
• Drop a toy or pocket to your dog that is held underneath your left arm.
Attention and focus will make or break a performance in any sport. Work to build and maintain your dog’s focus on you during all training sessions and you ensure your success when showing.