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How to keep WCS focused when there are other dogs around

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Gina028, Nov 18, 2020.

  1. Gina028

    Gina028 PetForums Newbie

    Jul 26, 2020
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    Our wcs is 5 months now. His recall is a work in progress but generally he’s good in the park/ open fields. There can be other dogs in the distance but as long as they don’t get too close he will stay focused and close by (we do always have high value treats and play some recall games and also scatter treats and play ‘find it’)

    In fact he’s only run off to another dog once and that was on the beach when the dog came close by.

    We’ve only recently started to let him off in the woods as he seems much more distracted there than on the fields. I posted on here recently and someone very helpfully said only let him off if you know he will come back. So we only let him off in the woods when it’s very quiet and normally there are no other dogs around.

    However, walking in the woods is a bit of a struggle even when he’s on the lead as we have to pass other people and dogs quite close by and as soon as he sees another dog he’s scrambling to get to them and play but it usually ends up with him trying to jump on the other dogs head. I’m trying to teach him it’s not ok to go to every dog he sees and that he can only approach/ play with other dogs when we say so.

    I suppose the question is how do we keep him focused on us when he’s on his lead and then build that up to off lead? I see dogs just walk by other dogs like it’s not a big deal and I wonder how you train that?

  2. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

    May 23, 2018
    Likes Received:
    What you're talking about is engagement, and yes, it's always a work in progress. Basically you're building value for you and what you have to offer him. For me engagement looks like this: I offer a reward, dog is enthusiastic about the reward, and sticks around waiting to see what else I have in store.
    Early on in engagement/attention training, the dog may just grab the reward and run off, or worse, not be interested in the reward at all.

    So the process looks something like this:
    Phase 1 - build value for you and what you have to offer. This is where you really watch your dog, pay attention to what they care about, and incorporate that in to building value for yourself.
    Dog is a scavenger, looking for anything and everything to hoover up? Hide some treats along the walk, point them out to the dog and let him find them.
    Dog is all about the smells? Find some good sniff spots and point them out to the dog. Does he always sniff this clump of grass? Remind him to go check it out. This builds *you* in to the equation of the interesting environment.
    Dog loves to chase? Play chase games, run away from him, throw food that he has to catch or roll food that he gets to chase down.
    Basically watch him and learn what his interests are, and incorporate yourself in to equation of checking out the environment.
    Meanwhile at home, in less distracting environments you're also playing lots of fun games that keep his interest.

    Phase 2 - reward what you like. Once the dog is happy to take rewards from you and sees value in what you have to offer, offer him rewards for behaviors you like. Did he flick an ear in your direction? Good boy! Treat. Did he run by you and then remember you have the good stuff and come back? Good boy! Run away for a fun game of chase and treat. Did he respond to his name? Yay!! Throw a party and treat.
    Again, you're watching him and rewarding anything that shows he's aware of your existence :)

    Phase 3 - reward and see what happens. Does he take the treat and bomb off again? Or does he take the treat and sit there waiting to see what else you have up your sleeve? This is the end goal - reward and the dog sticks around wanting more.
    Initially it might just be a slight hesitation before running off. And even on the same walk, you may have moments of pure engagement and moment of half-brain engagement.

    This is an example of a dog half-way engaged. Watch the little brown dog. She's not completely blanking me, she thinks about coming to check in with me but gets distracted. At the end she chooses to come even though there's other interests and then initially she takes off right after the treat, but watch how she reconsiders when she realizes the other dog is getting treats too. All of it is good and part of the process, but it can be better.

    As opposed to her attitude here, she's all about the reward and she's not even interested in taking off after the reward.
    Notice in both videos there's a release cue - "okay" which basically means go do your thing. There are a lot of good reasons for putting "go take off and do your own thing" on cue. The more the dog learns that *you* give permission to run off, the less it will happen without the cue.
    LittleMow, Torin., JoanneF and 2 others like this.
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