Attention span/handler focus in independent breeds

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by SpaceMutt, Mar 14, 2014.

  1. SpaceMutt

    SpaceMutt Member

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    Ok, I'm sure people here will have good ideas on this :)

    So I've had Astro since he was...12 weeks old or so? Can't remember, but the point he, he was adopted young. And since the first day I brought him home, I've worked on reinforcing name recognition, eye contact, and "checking in."

    Even with the best reinforcers in the world - tug toys, steak, you name it - he only cares for me about 5% compared to how much he cares about the world. Every trainer I've talked to, every book I've read, talks about reinforcing eye contact so that it builds and the dog learns to check in automatically, but with Astro, after months of teaching him to seek out eye contact, he still only glances my way occasionally, then charges ahead. During a 30 minute walk, he will check in maybe 5 times briefly. Otherwise, I have to call him to get him to even glance back at me, and then we get into the routine of "Puppy!", he glances back, he gets rewarded, then he charges out again...he NEVER hangs out for more treats, ever, of his own volition. I vividly remember when we first started out, and I had my clicker and treat bag ready for a short walk, and I was prepared to reward for ANY backwards glance at me or loosening of the leash, and he didn't look back at me once. So I stopped dead, and he still didn't look at me. I lasted 5 minutes in the cold, and he never looked back, and we had to go back inside.

    Honestly, I think if I hadn't reinforced it so much, he would never glance back at me at all, period. I let him off leash one time after a metric ton of early recall work, and in a second he was over a football field's length away. He never glanced back at me, not even for a second, even after being worked on attention and recall so much - he was G. o. n. e. Scared the daylights out of me!

    I've been rereading "When Pigs Fly," and it's been helpful, and I'm trying to use the things he finds naturally so reinforcing - being independent, sniffing around - to encourage good behavior by using them as a reward after he is attentive to me for a brief moment. It has been extremely slow going; he holds out very, very far before giving in and looking at me. Even with the leash very short, he sticks his head up and sniffs the air or makes frequent glances behind him rather than ever look up at me.

    I have to admit at this point that I'm so frustrated that I've leash-popped him a couple times when he was just outright ignoring me as I was calling him, and THAT gets him to focus on me. Comes right to me, stares me down. But obviously I don't want to do that as my primary resort :eek: I'm ashamed I did it, but at this point the issue feels...not dire, but definitely not progressing the way I'd like it to. We don't go backwards, we just never move forward.

    So, for those of you with dogs who naturally don't give a rip about you or what you're doing, what are your go-to methods to encourage nice heeling and other handler-focused behaviors? How do you become more interesting than the world out there? I know that I'm a novice in the grand scheme of things, but Astro is a really hard nut to crack even to my trainer at this point. Working with my trainers' clients' dogs is a cakewalk compared to him, because they offer "I'm paying attention to you" behaviors at some point on their own. Astro doesn't offer attention, he has to be solicited (and frankly, that doesn't work 100% either), and that's what we need to move beyond somehow. I've been waiting to jackpot him for the realization that staying close to me produces good results for months, and he has yet to care.

    I wonder sometimes if I've inadvertently been aversive somehow, but honestly, he's a tough dog who is insanely difficult to rattle, and so far it just feels like he's indifferent, rather than avoiding out of nervousness. The one or two leash pops came recently out of sheer desperation, it'd been months of nothing but a cheerful voice and treats at any right move on his part. If the situation dictates that he wants something from me, he'll bore holes into my eyes and be very attentive; it's when I'm asking anything at all of him that the world becomes too intoxicating to pay attention, even though 99.9999% of the time I'm not using even mild no-reward-markers, just lots of positive reinforcement whenever he offers any small step toward the right behavior.

    Keep in mind that I'm sort of in a pickle where I can't really let him burn off any "explore and run around energy" off leash, because of my living situation, and I'm sure that's a big part of it :( He can't be trusted at the off-leash dog park, for the aforementioned reason and others, and I live in NYC and don't have a fenced in yard; leashed walks and agility lessons are it until I move out.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
  2. Finkie_Mom

    Finkie_Mom It's A Red Dog Revolution

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    OK. This might be a novel and it might be kind of rambling (my brain is fried today LOL), but here is stuff that has worked for my dogs/client dogs.

    Try to reward little bits on walks. Make a sound, call his name, whatever, then reward an ear flick in your direction. With like meatball or something super awesome that he doesn't get very much at all. Then once he does the ear flick thing a lot up your criteria (but obviously lower it again in new places) to maybe a quick head turn. Reward/party! Keep going until he starts coming back to you and offering a loose heel at your side. Rewards can be unconventional - it could be that he gets to go sniff the grass at a spot he likes, or that he gets to chase a squirrel up a tree... Or even that you get to keep moving forward.

    Become a treat/good things dispenser at your house. EVERY TIME he interacts for a bit on his own, give him something. Obviously this isn't forever, but you can start with high value things (that you switch around pretty regularly) then go down to maybe his kibble, then randomly treat. I know that I still will treat randomly when my guys come in from the back yard because I want them to always come back in when I call. Do the same outside. Keep him on leash/long lines so that he can't completely ignore. And if he does, don't reel him in - take the end and sort of reel yourself in to where he is then you can pet/praise for his recognizing you are there.

    Play chase games/hide and seek with him (obviously you are the one he is chasing LOL). My guys LOVE them. Take those games outside with long lines in open field areas when he gets the idea at home.

    Don't sweat it. I've learned the more pressure I put on myself to have my dogs have the most instant recall ever invented, the more I was actually missing pretty good opportunities to reward. I actually very rarely ask Jari to sit/down much on walks anymore in places we do not frequent whereas when he was younger, he would do anything anywhere. I would rather build back up to that than chance his blowing off a cue.

    Keep every training session short and sweet. Time yourself. Or only do a predetermined number of repetitions of something before you stop.

    And realistically, he might just never be a dog that is trustworthy off leash not in a fenced in area. I know that mine aren't except during classes/trials. And that's OK with me. They still have fun and do all sorts of doggie things :)
     
  3. ruffiangirl

    ruffiangirl New Member

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    The lady I bought my second Shiba from had gotten a cd title on one of her dogs, to get him to pay attention to her...she kept pieces of hotdogs in her mouth. Just a few, 4 or 5 so she could cheek them and still talk to him, when he came into her or checked in she would blow one of them out if her mouth. It worked for him, his son that I had was in no way food motivated so it didn't work so much lol.
     
  4. Eleonora

    Eleonora New Member

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    My friend had noticed this thread and she thought that we could put here also her questions.

    My friend has a similar problem. Her dog, Lotta, is naturally that kind of dog who often stares at her/his owner but Lotta doesn't listen. This is not only about training sessions: Lotta often concentrates on something elseand behaves sometimes like no one has said anything and like she wouldn't "hear" anything like those dogs in this video:
    [YOUTUBE]N9hy174JVro[/YOUTUBE]

    So, Lotta may not notice that one is saying something. She sometimes behaves by that way also then when she is looking at my friend. Note: Lotta is not deaf although she behaves like she was. So, Lotta should learn to listen to her owner (not only verbal cues and it doesn't depend on how many times they are said).

    My friend has seen this tutorial:
    [YOUTUBE]vAdUvBGNx1k[/YOUTUBE]

    about what was suggested here:

    Should my friend also do what was suggested although Lotta already knows how to look at her? In a tutorial, about a certain behavior the trainer is throwing treats to the dog. When the trainer pauses throwing the treats, the dog waits patiently them. My friend tried it in order to see how Lotta reacts. Lotta started to act silly and to beg the treats. My friend wasn't actually training Lotta. How do you prevent it from becoming begging so that the dog doesn't do it only to get treats?

    Does someone have also other ideas of how to teach the dog to focus and to listen to his/her owner? My friend means generally human speach.
     
  5. Eleonora

    Eleonora New Member

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    We told that:
    QUOTE=Finkie_Mom;2355204] Make a sound, call his name, whatever, then reward an ear flick in your direction. With like meatball or something super awesome that he doesn't get very much at all. Then once he does the ear flick thing a lot up your criteria... [/QUOTE]

    Could someone answer to my friend's questions and advice on it?
     
  6. Brattina88

    Brattina88 Active Member

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    When I had a pretty "stubborn" or inattentive foster, I made sure to work/practice when she's hungry, like in the morning after a walk, before breakfast or similar.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pEeS2dPpPtA&feature=kp part 1 of teaching "leave it"....

    It also has links to "no mugging"

    ... and part 2 of teaching "leave it" is adding eye contact :)
     
  7. Eleonora

    Eleonora New Member

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    My friend was adviced to start with It's Yer Choice in another thread.
     

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