There you are, totally engaged with working your dog, when someone comes up to you to ask a question. What you do next will make a HUGE difference to how your dog views working with you and the quality of the focus he’ll give you in the future.

When we have sports/performance dogs we want them to stay totally focused and engaged with us for the duration of the ring performance or training session. We expect 110% commitment from them! We get annoyed when they flick in and out – attention here, there and everywhere, multi-tasking.


Human-centric attitudes

However, WE are hopeless at giving our dogs the same focus! How many times have you dis-engaged from your dog to turn and chat to someone else? Check your phone? Scratch your head as you decide what to do next? We do it all the time! Video yourself training in a public place one day and count how many times you leave your poor dog wondering what’s happening. You may be shocked! You wouldn’t do it to a person mid-conversation would you? Training IS a conversation, it’s just with your dog.


Mindset is everything

The training bubble is a mind-set. It takes practice and the more you’ve been schooled in ‘polite’ human interactions, the harder you’ll find it. It’s the one time where you need to grit your teeth and ignore other people and outside distractions. It’ll feel as if you’re being rude! However, if you’re in the middle of training your dog, your DOG is your priority.


“Sorry, I need to take this call”

Obviously, there’re times when you need to dis-engage from your dog while in a training session. However, it’s polite (and very good training!) to let your dog know he’s temporarily ‘off duty’.


Here’re some ways to do it:

  • Put him in a down stay for a minute or two. Release him back to work when you’re ready.
  • Put him on a mat, platform or other station. Release him back to work when you’re ready.
  • Crouch down and gently hold his collar while you do what you need to do for a few seconds.
  • ‘Park’ him by standing on his lead.
  • Engage him with a tug toy.



If you consistently do these things when you have to ‘multi-task’ he’ll learn that he’s ‘off duty’ during these brief interludes. It’s like saying “Sorry, I need to take this call” to a friend mid – conversation. You’ll find his focus improves once he clearly understands the working/not working signals that you give. Establishing a ‘working bubble’ around yourself and your dog will allow both of you to concentrate on the job in hand. For such a simple change you’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make to your dog’s attitude and focus!

Happy training!

Sarah and the Gang

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