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Discussion Starter #1
Everytime I try to train Sisko for focus/attention he will look at the treats/food instead of me when I try to give him one or move my hands. What should I do differently?

Thanks!
 

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That's pretty understandable. Food's exciting! I use it to my advantage, wiggling a treat or holding it to my chest to hold her attention in the presence of something exciting.

But I also reward Peggy for looking at me. During training sessions, I'll say "Look at me" and then treat when she makes eye contact. Or I'll treat randomly on walks when she looks up at my face.
 

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How have you been training him for focus? When are you rewarding him with food?

At the most basic level you need to “mark” with a word or clicker exactly when he looks at you, not at the food or elsewhere. As soon as he looks at you, ”mark“ and treat immediately then release. To make it easier to begin you can hide your hands and food behind your back. Slowly add duration then distraction.

When he understands, then do as PeggyTheParti does and randomly treat him for giving you attention.

There are many games you can play to enhance attention. One of my favorites is a more advanced game where I drop food purposely on the floor and my dog knows that she will get the dropped treat only if she gives me sustained focus and ignores the food. I then mark and pick up the food and feed from my hand and release.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
That's pretty understandable. Food's exciting! I use it to my advantage, wiggling a treat or holding it to my chest to hold her attention in the presence of something exciting.

But I also reward Peggy for looking at me. During training sessions, I'll say "Look at me" and then treat when she makes eye contact. Or I'll treat randomly on walks when she looks up at my face.
It is understandable. They're like: food😍🤩! I get excited about good food too😆 hmmm, I wonder if I can hide treats in my other hand and give them to him when he looks at me.
 

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Hold the food out at arm's length away from your face and click as soon as Sisko's eyes flick away from the food. You may have to wait for a while, but just stand there not moving until he flicks his eyes away. Do not give him that food, give him a treat with your other hand. This makes it a lot easier for him to get the idea. Then start clicking for him glancing at your face. Then build duration so he has to keep his attention on your face. Once he gets that, switch to the other hand, move the food to other positions, wave it around at him, toss it on the floor, whatever. Just never let him get that food, always give him a treat with your other hand. If you have to put the clicker down and get a treat to give him that's OK, but he should never get the food that you are teaching him to ignore.
 

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It is understandable. They're like: food😍🤩! I get excited about good food too😆 hmmm, I wonder if I can hide treats in my other hand and give them to him when he looks at me.
Does Sisko know the "touch" command? Extend hand, palm open, and then treat with the other hand when he touches it. Or work on leave it, where he gets a hidden treat for ignoring the treat that's right in front of him.

All these little tricks and training sessions will add up and slowly move his focus from the treat to you—the controller of treats.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
How have you been training him for focus? When are you rewarding him with food?

At the most basic level you need to “mark” with a word or clicker exactly when he looks at you, not at the food or elsewhere. As soon as he looks at you, ”mark“ and treat immediately then release. To make it easier to begin you can hide your hands and food behind your back. Slowly add duration then distraction.

When he understands, then do as PeggyTheParti does and randomly treat him for giving you attention.

There are many games you can play to enhance attention. One of my favorites is a more advanced game where I drop food purposely on the floor and my dog knows that she will get the dropped treat only if she gives me sustained focus and ignores the food. I then mark and pick up the food and feed from my hand and release.
I gotta step back then and start over!! I was waiting for him to give eye contact then mark it (I think I was marking it poorly too😳) and then just giving him the food even when he looked at the food instead of looking at me. 😖

Okay!

Okay, thank you, so much! I will try this.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hold the food out at arm's length away from your face and click as soon as Sisko's eyes flick away from the food. You may have to wait for a while, but just stand there not moving until he flicks his eyes away. Do not give him that food, give him a treat with your other hand. This makes it a lot easier for him to get the idea. Then start clicking for him glancing at your face. Then build duration so he has to keep his attention on your face. Once he gets that, switch to the other hand, move the food to other positions, wave it around at him, toss it on the floor, whatever. Just never let him get that food, always give him a treat with your other hand. If you have to put the clicker down and get a treat to give him that's OK, but he should never get the food that you are teaching him to ignore.
Okay, thank you, so much!
 

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I found look hard to teach, it wasn't something Annie does naturally. She focuses on my hands and my torso, not my face. Annie does far better with gestures than verbal cues. I taught her 'look' by getting her to focus on my hand which I tapped my forehead with, then added the verbal cue. Then fed from other hand. Then I stopped tapping my forehead, said look, and clicked when she figured it out.

If she is really riled up, she ignores the verbal command, but will look if I tap my forehead.

On walks, I also used a clicker for a while and practiced look (treat). She quickly started volunteering the behaviour and I clicked and treated. I also make her sit before we cross the road, and have changed it to be a sit and then look at me before we cross (continuing walking is a big reward). I also throw her a treat occasionally when she voluntarily looks at me.
 

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Be mindful of how you are using your hands. My trainer repeatedly scolded, "Get your hand out of your pocket!" She saw I was unconsciously signaling that I was about to start handing out treats. This was going to make the dog focus on my pocket. It was also going to teach him to blow me off if he only got treats after I had been holding my hand in my pocket.
 

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I gotta step back then and start over!! I was waiting for him to give eye contact then mark it (I think I was marking it poorly too😳) and then just giving him the food even when he looked at the food instead of looking at me. 😖

Okay!

Okay, thank you, so much! I will try this.
I train and compete in dog sports with my minipoo - you know we're training a lot and training at a higher level than most people with pets. I still step back and go back to basics. Sometimes I go back to a basic because I'm not happy with her execution of a task, but mostly it's too keep us on a high level of performance. It's not a bad thing to go back to basics. it's a legitimate training tool.

If you get your hands and the treats behind your back, the only place Sisko has to look is up to your face. That time of "marking" is important. Practice without your dog before training him. Have a clear understanding of what your goal is when training and set goals to build. When you go back to basics, you can move quickly through these steps but when training something new, you move slowly. If you find this difficult, write it out and be clear what you are looking for. For example, do you want your eyes to meet? Do you want him looking at your mouth? Is he turning his head up or moving it to be able to look at you where you want him to? How long do you expect this "look" to occur. Most people don't have to write this out in detail, most people don't have to think too much about it but for those who are struggling, having a "plan" makes a difference in success. Marking exactly what you want is important. This is how you communicate to your dog that he is doing the correct behavior - when you aren't clear, your dog doesn't fully understand and can't repeat. Lastly that reward needs to come quickly after the mark. Have it in your hand ready to pull from behind your back. You want your reward to be close to your "mark" word so it completes the communication. When your dog learns you want a particular behavior and he gets paid quickly, he wants to give you the behavior again. Lastly signal that you are ending the training by using a release word before you repeat the training. That release word is also important communication to the dog. Also when you pull your hand from behind your back, randomize it -some times right hand, sometimes left, sometimes our hand is higher or lower so you don't inadvertently train your dog to look for that hand coming from behind your back.

I have another game to train your dog away from food and to look at you - but it's best played after you do the hands behind the back and have Sisko looking at your face consistently. In this game you let your dog see a cookie in your hand and you close your fingers around it making a fist. Hold your hand out and let your dog paw at it, lick your hand, bop it with their head ust hold your hand with food inside so they can't get to the treat. At some point your dog will get annoyed that they can't get the treat and Sisko will turn away from the hand and look up to you. As soon as he does this you "mark" the behavior and then open your hand and let him get the food. This is teaching him that to get to the treat he has to look at you. This game gets more advanced with you offering the treat in your hand, but keeping your hand open - when the dog goes to get the treat you then close your hand so they can't....and again when they look at you they earn the treat. Eventually you can leave a treat if your open hand your dog doesn't look at the treat in the hand, they know to look at you to earn the treat. Do this with both hands randomly. More advanced means leaving the food on the floor near the dog with your hand ready to cover the treat if your dog isn't look at you. I eventually worked up to leaving treats on both my dog's paws while she was in a down position and slowly counting to 5 with her looking at me the whole time before I marked and released he to eat her treats. I used this as one of my tricks for the AKC trick dog test. This is teaching impulse control as well as reinforcing your dog to focus on you.

Some people who compete at the highest levels of dog sports, keep written records of their training - they plan ahead for each training session, write out the goals of each exercise. It can also be a good way to train pets too if you struggle with training. Don't spend a lot of time with the plan - just a quick goal. For example you can plan Attention with hands and food behind back. Do three attempts and the goal is he looks in my eyes for a count of two - then after write what happened. Maybe he did it twice perfect and once for only a count of 1. Now you know you should repeat this next session, he isn't ready to move to a count of 3. When he consistently does it, then slowly make it a little harder - count to three. With a poodle you only repeat a few times. Training sessions are short but you can train several times through the day - maybe a total of 15 or 20 minutes for Sisko. Go slow - you will have him for many years and the time you take now will pay off in big rewards for many years.

BTW I don't recommend everyone write out plans for training - not everyone needs it. When it's safe to take classes, often the trainer will set out these goals for the handler to do at home. Many people just fall into doing this naturally. It's another tool to consider when you are having problems - worth a try to see if it helps. If it doesn't help, then don't continue.
 

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I do essentially as reraven described. I stand or sit in front of the dog with little treats in both hands and I make sure the dog knows I have treats in both hands. I stretch my arms out and the dog will look back and forth at both hands but eventually they will look at my face almost like saying "what the heck lady!?" Eventually they will seek an answer as to why you are standing there doing nothing by looking at your face. The instant that happens you say yes or good depending on your marker and offer one treat. Repeat and repeat...as you repeat Sisko will look at your face sooner and sooner. Once he is just looking at you you will extend the time before you treat him and you will randomize your reward schedule and only treat for really holding his eye contact.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to practice these foundations frequently (every day at first but later at least once every three or four days). You also need to develop the behavior in different conditions (duration, distance, distractions in that order with the understanding that as you add distance you decrease (then reintroduce duration and then the same with distractions and duration). Javelin is very well versed in all levels and many versions of this game which is essentially variations of Susan Garrett's "it's yer choice." In fact all of our dogs are very good at this game. I made popcorn the other day and Lily was with me while I ate it. I put pieces of popcorn on my knees with her sitting in front of me. I wasn't holding the pieces and her nose was just a couple of inches from the popcorn but she never took a single piece before looking at me and getting my okay to take it. I can do the same with all three of them and for Javvy who needs and has been trained to a much higher level of focusing to me and ignoring distractions I can sit with cheese on my knees and other dogs moving around to his periphery and behind him and him focused on my face for a minute or more. He can react to those kinds of distractions if he has no focal point. That is what you aim for with the understanding that it takes time for it to develop to a high level. Back in the days of having matches I often would just do and practice focus and no exercises because I know how important that level of ignoring distractions is..
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Does Sisko know the "touch" command? Extend hand, palm open, and then treat with the other hand when he touches it. Or work on leave it, where he gets a hidden treat for ignoring the treat that's right in front of him.

All these little tricks and training sessions will add up and slowly move his focus from the treat to you—the controller of treats.
He doesn't know touch yet, but his leave it with food is pretty good.

Okay, thank you! Okay, I will call myself the controller of treats while we train from now on.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I train and compete in dog sports with my minipoo - you know we're training a lot and training at a higher level than most people with pets. I still step back and go back to basics. Sometimes I go back to a basic because I'm not happy with her execution of a task, but mostly it's too keep us on a high level of performance. It's not a bad thing to go back to basics. it's a legitimate training tool.

If you get your hands and the treats behind your back, the only place Sisko has to look is up to your face. That time of "marking" is important. Practice without your dog before training him. Have a clear understanding of what your goal is when training and set goals to build. When you go back to basics, you can move quickly through these steps but when training something new, you move slowly. If you find this difficult, write it out and be clear what you are looking for. For example, do you want your eyes to meet? Do you want him looking at your mouth? Is he turning his head up or moving it to be able to look at you where you want him to? How long do you expect this "look" to occur. Most people don't have to write this out in detail, most people don't have to think too much about it but for those who are struggling, having a "plan" makes a difference in success. Marking exactly what you want is important. This is how you communicate to your dog that he is doing the correct behavior - when you aren't clear, your dog doesn't fully understand and can't repeat. Lastly that reward needs to come quickly after the mark. Have it in your hand ready to pull from behind your back. You want your reward to be close to your "mark" word so it completes the communication. When your dog learns you want a particular behavior and he gets paid quickly, he wants to give you the behavior again. Lastly signal that you are ending the training by using a release word before you repeat the training. That release word is also important communication to the dog. Also when you pull your hand from behind your back, randomize it -some times right hand, sometimes left, sometimes our hand is higher or lower so you don't inadvertently train your dog to look for that hand coming from behind your back.

I have another game to train your dog away from food and to look at you - but it's best played after you do the hands behind the back and have Sisko looking at your face consistently. In this game you let your dog see a cookie in your hand and you close your fingers around it making a fist. Hold your hand out and let your dog paw at it, lick your hand, bop it with their head ust hold your hand with food inside so they can't get to the treat. At some point your dog will get annoyed that they can't get the treat and Sisko will turn away from the hand and look up to you. As soon as he does this you "mark" the behavior and then open your hand and let him get the food. This is teaching him that to get to the treat he has to look at you. This game gets more advanced with you offering the treat in your hand, but keeping your hand open - when the dog goes to get the treat you then close your hand so they can't....and again when they look at you they earn the treat. Eventually you can leave a treat if your open hand your dog doesn't look at the treat in the hand, they know to look at you to earn the treat. Do this with both hands randomly. More advanced means leaving the food on the floor near the dog with your hand ready to cover the treat if your dog isn't look at you. I eventually worked up to leaving treats on both my dog's paws while she was in a down position and slowly counting to 5 with her looking at me the whole time before I marked and released he to eat her treats. I used this as one of my tricks for the AKC trick dog test. This is teaching impulse control as well as reinforcing your dog to focus on you.

Some people who compete at the highest levels of dog sports, keep written records of their training - they plan ahead for each training session, write out the goals of each exercise. It can also be a good way to train pets too if you struggle with training. Don't spend a lot of time with the plan - just a quick goal. For example you can plan Attention with hands and food behind back. Do three attempts and the goal is he looks in my eyes for a count of two - then after write what happened. Maybe he did it twice perfect and once for only a count of 1. Now you know you should repeat this next session, he isn't ready to move to a count of 3. When he consistently does it, then slowly make it a little harder - count to three. With a poodle you only repeat a few times. Training sessions are short but you can train several times through the day - maybe a total of 15 or 20 minutes for Sisko. Go slow - you will have him for many years and the time you take now will pay off in big rewards for many years.

BTW I don't recommend everyone write out plans for training - not everyone needs it. When it's safe to take classes, often the trainer will set out these goals for the handler to do at home. Many people just fall into doing this naturally. It's another tool to consider when you are having problems - worth a try to see if it helps. If it doesn't help, then don't continue.
Okay, thanks again. I will play the game with him, but only after we play the first one. Baby steps. I had goals and everything for Sisko and I. I wanted to do the S.T.A.R puppy program with him, wanted to get a CGC title(still possible!) I wanted to do agility, obedience and probably some other sports with him and push the both of us as far as we could go with them and still have fun.

We both did great when we first got him and I did clicker training with him and he understood it so well and had such an easy time figuring out what to do and what I asked of him. Training was a breeze!!! But after I got sick and my family didn't do anything with him, training has been SO HARD and it's like he doesn't understand almost anything new anymore and he won't even try like he used to😢😢😢😢😢

I wonder if I should just restart all of his training and act like he doesn't know anything at all.

I don't know how to get back to him understanding training like how he used to. holds back tears
 

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But after I got sick and my family didn't do anything with him, training has been SO HARD and it's like he doesn't understand almost anything new anymore and he won't even try like he used to😢😢😢😢😢

I wonder if I should just restart all of his training and act like he doesn't know anything at all.

I don't know how to get back to him understanding training like how he used to. holds back tears
Dogs go through phases as they grow up where they seem to forget everything they ever knew, so this is quite normal. Just stick with him and it will all come back to him, probably in a rush. Don't get frustrated with him, just be patient and let him work through it. Yes, back up and reteach things he doesn't understand right now, don't try to move forward until he is back on track. It will go much faster and easier than the first time of teaching.

Don't worry too much about nobody else in your family doing anything with him, dogs are very contextual and he will understand that different rules apply to you than apply to other family members. Yes, it would be nice if others helped, but really it's not that much harder for him if it's only you.

Hang in there!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Be mindful of how you are using your hands. My trainer repeatedly scolded, "Get your hand out of your pocket!" She saw I was unconsciously signaling that I was about to start handing out treats. This was going to make the dog focus on my pocket. It was also going to teach him to blow me off if he only got treats after I had been holding my hand in my pocket.
Cowpony, I would be scolded for the same thing!! 😖. Another thing that I realized I was doing wrong was holding a treat and asking for a behavior instead of having the treat in hiding and then asking for the behavior first then giving him the treat😳
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Dogs go through phases as they grow up where they seem to forget everything they ever knew, so this is quite normal. Just stick with him and it will all come back to him, probably in a rush. Don't get frustrated with him, just be patient and let him work through it. Yes, back up and reteach things he doesn't understand right now, don't try to move forward until he is back on track. It will go much faster and easier than the first time of teaching.

Don't worry too much about nobody else in your family doing anything with him, dogs are very contextual and he will understand that different rules apply to you than apply to other family members. Yes, it would be nice if others helped, but really it's not that much harder for him if it's only you.

Hang in there!
I'm so very happy to hear that this is normal. Okay, I will stick with him, and not get frustrated with him. Okay, the only thing he is REALLY good at is inside recalls for now. His duration for sits and downs are pretty good too, but we need to work on the other 2 Ds with both of those, so I will work on those first.


Okay😙💨
I will!! Thank you, so much😭!
 

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Oh, and remember to never give him a treat if he hasn't first looked you in the eye and waited for your signal !
And keep training really brief. Never let it go so long he even comes close to getting bored. It's better to stop while they still want to do more :)
 

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Thinking about this some more, I'll add another perspective: Do you ever just chat with Sisko? Narrate while you do the laundry, sing silly songs, tell him stories about the day you first met, study his fuzzy ears/nose/chin and let him know how cute they are, etc.

I did very little formal training with Gracie and she still learned to look to me. And for all I know, Peggy might be focusing on me more now because of that bond we're forming and all the other stuff is just icing.

I bet Sisko's eyes are on you all the time, anticipating your next move, and you just don't realize.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Oh, and remember to never give him a treat if he hasn't first looked you in the eye and waited for your signal !
And keep training really brief. Never let it go so long he even comes close to getting bored. It's better to stop while they still want to do more :)
Okay, thank you🙂
 
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