Training & Attention: Not What You Thought?

04 Sep

I read this great post by Susan Garrett about training attention, a skill that pretty much every trainer (P+ or otherwise) focuses on. But should we really? Over the years I myself have been a little confused by the various takes on training attention. Initially I thought “yes of course the dog needs to pay attention to you!” But then I realized that asking for constant attention is completely unreasonable; I resent people who demand as much from me. In addition it could be awfully uncomfortable for the dog since they perceive prolonged direct eye contact as aggression. In obedience training we went from training Wally to look at me to training him to look at my hand, all with the same trainer.

So what’s the right answer? I couldn’t tell you, but I do know that it’s whatever is most comfortable and effective for you and your dog. To me it seems most reasonable to expect the dog to check in periodically while performing the job at hand. This would allow him to focus on independently solving the problem while verifying that the request hasn’t changed. What do you think?


Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Training


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7 responses to “Training & Attention: Not What You Thought?

  1. milesandemma

    September 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    LOL! Wish I as a human w/ ADD had as good an excuse! ;)

  2. milesandemma

    September 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Rambling more like, hehe. This is such a great thing to think/ponder/discuss especially in regards to working with terriers! :)

    • Cassafrass

      September 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Totally agree, they get so — SQUIRREL!! ;)

  3. Emma

    September 12, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Thanks for linking Garret’s great post. I agree with her, that inspiration should come from a bond, not just monotonous training. What you said about resenting people for demanding the same sort of focus from you? Dead on! We have all have had that sort of boss. The one that expects total attention, but does not offer true respect in return.

    Since Miles was old enough, I’ve worked very hard with him learning about agility. We started together, both having no prior agility experience. Learning together has helped strengthened our bond, and both of our understanding about working together as a team.

    My “look” command is not about Miles being forced to stare into my eyes, but rather is used as a way to get his attention to then allow for something very active and fun to happen. This method has worked wonders for us! If I say “look,” Miles perks up and watches me for OUR next move. He knows that if I ask him to “look,” it is his time to focus, be “on,” and run an awesome course with me – his favorite thing in the world! A job and fun combined in one – how many of us are so lucky? “Look”ing at me is a moment of anticipation and joy, rather than of obligation or subordination.

    That is what I think. :) Thanks for another thoughtful post Cassie!

    • Cassafrass

      September 14, 2012 at 8:45 am

      How you described training “look” made me think of another Susan G training method: transferring the value, which you did by transferring the value of running a course to the “look” cue. Transferring value is something I’m always trying to figure out with Wally. :) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Cassafrass

    September 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks, my friend Sandi took it! Wally knows exactly how to get my attention: stand around and look either impossibly adorable or dashingly handsome. ;) It’s always fun to watch him try to train me by offering behaviors. That’s the joy of clicker/P+ training!

  5. carol

    September 6, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Awesome photo of Wally. Not being a pet ‘owner’ I have no clue, but as a human I agree that the interaction between you and your dog is personal – and you have to create your own ways of communicating and keeping his attention. Geez, he probably wants to know how to keep YOUR attention! It can’t be just the eyes. Surely all of the senses come into play here.

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