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My Dog & I: Attention!

He just doesn’t listen!”  It’s a complaint I hear all the time. It can be interpreted in so many ways but I believe it is mostly a way of telling me that your dog does not do what you want! So, in order to get our dogs to understand what that is, we need to have them pay attention…aaand in order to get that attention, we must be more careful with the attention we pay them!!

Good attention, bad attention, no attention – it is how we connect…

Good attention, bad attention, no attention – it is how we connect with our dogs so today I am going to talk about some of the ways we can see the results of our actions and get better attention from our dogfriends.

When your pup or new dog arrives at the house for the first time…he is bombarded with attention…touch, talk, excitement, stimulation. He gets SO much attention that he cannot possibly interpret it all…it’s a wonder that these guys are not gibbering messes by the end of their first week in their new homes. They are, rarely quietly allowed to find their bearings and settle in gently to their new environment but don’t worry, the attention will get less as time goes on and they will then start to seek attention and sometimes in a not-so-good way!

The answer is…to modify some of that attention, back off a little to start and add more useful attention as time goes by. If you want your dog to understand the things you need from him, you will have to teach him those things. And we cannot teach a dog by repeating again and again, a sentence in humantalk in the middle of a busy room or when we are distracted. We must first pay attention to where we are, get the dog’s attention using the things that dogs are interested in and then slowly build a pathway towards where you want to be, paying attention to each successful step on the way.

Slowing our environments down in order to focus on a specific task…

Slowing our environments down in order to focus on a specific task is VERY hard today and we are expected to accomplish many things with our time. But only a very few dogs can really multitask while learning new skills and if you are talking, touching and moving your body around while trying to show him what you want he will not know which information to pay attention to. So you must start by paying attention to your own body, energy and the sounds you make in order for him to know what to pay attention to…

We are not just talking about teaching a “sit” but showing him how to go through a door (after you) and wait, patiently for playtime. To play gently with your five year old, not to jump on people, wait by the door with muddy feet to be dried off and tell you when he needs to go outside to the bathroom. Most housetraining accidents happen when no one is paying attention!

Touching your dog incessantly is not good attention.

Touching your dog incessantly is not good attention, yelling “no” at your dog is not good attention, wrestling with your puppy is not good attention. Taking the time to teach your dog how to sit and wait to have his leash put on for a walk is good attention, taking your dog with you for a ride in the car is good attention. A calm pat on the head with a “good boy” thrown in is good attention. A treat for a job well done is good attention but the act of teaching, itself is GREAT attention.

So, I promise, if you pay attention to the attention you show your best pal, not only will he understand you better but he will want to pay attention to you!! And try not to “flood” these guys with information that they cannot process or they will simply tune you out and then you can legitimately complain that they are just not listening!!

 – Janine Lazarus, HashtagWV #132. For more dog training tips, follow Janine at Goodladd.net and on facebook @goodladddogtraining

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