Let’s Get Ready

As researchers and trainers, we look at things from many different angles. Statistics, equations, possibilities, opportunities, and even “what if’s”. We have had to set our minds up to face challenges, resistance, and failures. We have wanted to throw in the towel, walk away, say we were barking up the wrong tree. But we didn’t. The inner strength of knowing something is there, something we will find that will make all the difference. Looking at the big picture, takes focus.

Just as we have to teach the puppy to focus, you must do so as well. We must learn how to read or pay attention to what our puppy is telling us. What does it mean when you ask them to do something and they walk away? Why, if they want to please us, do they pull on the leash? Our definition of focus and our puppies definition are two different things. We are capable of focus on a grand scale, a puppy is not. We can focus on the show in a movie theater even though the smell of popcorn is wafting the air. We can focus on talking on the phone while driving. A puppy can not. A leaf blows, there goes focus. A dog barks, someone enters the room, there goes focus.

Understanding focus means two different things to you and to your dog will help you realize how to react with your puppy when they are not paying attention. Pet owners often make the mistakes by trying to teach their dogs new things, in new environments. A dog must be taught what you expect in a non-distracted area, before they will even be able to do it in a distracted area. This is why we feel group classes hinder puppy development.

Kim & Christina

Pulling on the leash is a natural thing to a dog because they walk faster than us. They see things differently than us both in color and perception. (No they are not color blind as many believe. They see in shades of blues, grey, yellow, green. They see red as black)

The largest difference is the sense of smell. Dogs smell individual scents. You may smell the cheeseburger, but the dog smells the beef, cheese, ketchup, onions, pickles, all individually. If you think about it that has to be really weird to smell that way. That is why they are able to use their nose in so many situations that we really do not even truly understand.

Did you know that a dog can smell their owner from 4 miles away? So how the heck are we going to expect them to go out and learn how to walk on a leash in areas they have never been, and are bombarded with smells. Especially smells of other dogs!

We need to start slow, and in an environment we can control. Your yard is the best spot for this. So today we are combining how to play first to make yourself the one they want to be with, and then working on focus with the off leash obedience. If your puppy is not paying attention to you, then you have to make yourself more exciting. If they still are not, play a game of hide and seek with them. You hide where you can see them to make sure they are safe, but they can not see you. They will finally realize you are gone, once they do wait just about 30 seconds and come out from hiding and call them to you. Make sure they are coming to you, not you running to them. They will quickly realize they need to keep an eye on you, or you might just get away!


Do a few ‘focus’ exercises before practicing your previous days lessons. Be sure to have your puppy’s favorite toy or some yummy bits on hand to go along with your praise reward. Alternate between rewards. Let’s make sure your puppy knows YOU are the bestest thing in the world EVER! Better than that awesome leaf floating by. Better than the wiff of a double cheeseburger with fries. Waaay better than that squirrel, cat, car, dog, skateboarder, green grass, rock…insert your pup’s favorite distraction here! Remember to start focus work in an environment with little to no distractions. Focus needs a focus-able context. Even if you have to work in the same spot(s) for a week or two, don’t move to or add distractions until your puppy is reliably responding in each successive situation. Going too far too fast could sabotage all of you and your puppy’s hard work. All puppies have different levels of focus-ability. Don’t be discouraged if your pup seems to loose it over something silly like a bit of dust floating by. It’s OK. If you can only get their attention for 2 seconds, PRAISE AND REWARD like they just painted the Mona Lisa. Keep it short and sweet. You WILL get there. We promise. And to those of you who have those naturally inclined pups, whose mission in life is to always respond to you ASAP: we salute you, but don’t stop. Challenge them with distractions. It’s essential to ‘proof’ this behavior in all types of situations.