I have been working with lots of owners recently with various things they need help with. There are some basics that need to be pretty solid for all of the other training to fall into place and one thing that is really underrated is focus. If you haven’t got any focus from your dog then they definitely wont come back to you when off lead and they won’t respond to you around distractions.
Focus can help with
One of the first things I teach on my 1-2-1 puppy course is ‘look at me’ which encourages your dog to get eye contact with you. It’s a really simple command to teach but can have huge benefits in the future.
Start by having your dog infront of you and ask for ‘look at me’, when your dog gives you eye contact, mark and reward. You can use a clicker, a hand signal or a verbal command as a marker. It’s whatever works best for you and your dog.
When your dog has this solid in the home it’s now time to increase distractions. First of all in the garden, then on walks, in parks etc.
Don’t increase the difficulty level too quickly as you will be setting your dog up to fail!
Lots of dogs pull on the lead when they are focused on something else e.g another dog, rabbit, car, person etc. Asking for ‘look at me’ and getting your dog’s focus back will help to loosen the lead.
When off lead asking for ‘look at me’ will stop your dog straying too far. It means your dog knows that you always have to remain in eyesight. When your dog hits that confident teenage phase (which they all do!) and they run further than normal this will mean they shouldn’t run out of sight. Lots of dogs go missing during the teenage phase so putting in as much training as possible beforehand will hugely help.
It is important that everyone in the home can get focus from your dog as it will make the training more evenly balanced and everyone will have a great bond.