E347: Deb Jones, PhD, Crystal Wing & Nicole Wiebusch - How Do You Get a Focused Dog?

Join us for a panel discussion all about focus! What IS it? How do you train it? And what do we do if our dog doesn't seem to have it? 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Dr. Deb Jones, Crystal Wing, and Nicole Wiebusch here to talk about the idea of focus in dog training. Hi all. Welcome back to the podcast!

All right, so to start us out, I wanna give everybody a chance to figure out whose voice belongs to who and have you guys share a little bit about you and your current canine crew. Crystal, you wanna start us off?

Crystal Wing: I would love to. My name is Crystal Wing and I'm CB Wing on social media and I have three dogs.

I do search and rescue with my lab-mal and I do protection sports. Well, kind of my Checkmate, my Malinois has been a little injured lately. And then I have Yukon, my hiking buddy Dutchie and I'm a high school art teacher of 21 and a half years, three to go, let's go. I'm not counting down or anything. Future dog trainer and that's kind of my story right now. We're having a lot of fun here in this crazy weather.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Deb?

Deb Jones: Okay. Hi, I'm Deb Jones. I've been around Fenzi Dog Sports Academy since the very beginning. Let's see, I now, right now have two dogs. Star's my 13-year-old Border Collie and Wizard who is almost three. And he's a Koolie. It's hard to believe he was just a baby the other day.

And I also live with a couple of Shelties. They're almost always a couple shelties in the household. So let's see, I am retired. I was a full-time psychology professor for 20 years and I am happily retired.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. All right, Nicole, it's your turn.

Nicole Wiebusch: Hi, I am Nicole Wiebusch and I'm never going to retire. I have four dogs currently. Our oldest is Strive, she's my golden retriever. She's about 10 and a half and she now belongs to my daughter. So my 13-year-old daughter handles her and trains her in agility and rally. And then I have Excel who is about six and a half now, and he is my main competition dog at the moment.

We're working on a rally championship, we're actually getting really close to finishing it, so that's exciting. We have a black lab named Kira and she belongs to my son. She's his four H dog. And then finally I have a six month old puppy named Rise and he is another golden retriever and so we are having tons of fun. He is starting to get into adolescence now and so we're working through some things, but he's really a great puppy. We're really having a lot of fun.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Alright, since we are here to talk about focus, I wanna start things off with a conversation about just kind of what focus is and maybe a little bit of what it isn't, at least we're talking about our dog. So how would you describe or define a focused dog? Deb?

Deb Jones: This is a difficult question. It's a much more complicated question than it appears to be. At first glance, I was looking back for a blog post I'm writing and I see that I have been working with the idea of focus for over 20 years. The idea of focus in dog training that 20 years ago we published our first book on focus, which is, can't be 20 years, could not have gone by, but back then the idea of focus was mainly your dog maintaining eye contact with you that if you had that behavior, you had focus. And now I look back at that and I say that's way too simplistic. That's just one small thing out of a much bigger picture. And so over the years, my ideas of focus have expanded. So I look at things like, you know, where is the dog oriented towards what's drawing their attention? What can they concentrate on and pay the most attention to? What naturally draws them in and what do we have to pay for in order to get them to focus on us?

So it's, to me it's a cognitive skill, it's a cognitive ability that you're able to focus on things. And I think most normal creatures, eh, have that ability and it can be built, eh, over time. When we talk about it with dogs, the one thing I always think about is teamwork. If you, if the dog and the handler can work together well as a team, that they typically are focused or some sort of partnership.

And so I always approach it as I want my dog to want to work with me. If we have a dog that wants to work with us, then typically focus is coming along for the ride on a lot of the things that we're training. And I think we're probably gonna get into the details of that a little more as we go along. I think that's the same but t's not eye contact, but it's a lot of, that's really my short answer to the question.

Melissa Breau: Right, Fair enough, Nicole.

Nicole Wiebusch: Well, I will say that I think a lot of people think that focus, like Deb said, is eye contact or attention on the handler. But I'm here to tell you that my six month old puppy is very focused on blowing leaves and he's got great focus, not so much on me in that particular situation. So I think it's important that we recognize that dogs can be focused on a lot of things and some of those things are good. If they're focused on the handler, that's a good thing. If they're focused on their task, whatever that might be, that's a good thing. But distractions also come into play.

So it's important that we remember that. And sometimes we want focus on the handler and sometimes we don't. If you run agility and your dog is super handler focused, that becomes very difficult to run that dog. So in that case, you know, we're training focus kind of in a different way. Ideally, obviously the dog should ignore the surrounding distractions and not be so focused on them and just be more focused on the handler.

Melissa Breau: Crystal?

Crystal Wing: So I'll get geeky then, since you guys have said so many great things I talk about in my little thing about boats, because that makes sense when you're talking about dogs, right? I always like to have some sort of visual. And so the visual that helped me out is I was thinking about what you have to have chemistry wise, like neurotransmitter neurochemicals. And so if you start with epinephrine, that is your, which is the same as adrenaline. So that's your get up and go. So it's just energy in its sense, right? So you have your adrenaline and that's the watercraft itself. So there's no steering unit, there's no power, it's just you're in a boat, so that's your epinephrine. You have to have that in order for focus to happen.

But then now you need a way to direct it. And that's the acetylcholine. So that's your steering mechanism, that's your rudder. So that's what's gonna get you to where you need to go. But then to actually get it powered, you've got your dopamine and that's what's gonna power this little vessel.

And so some of us have jet boats or jet boat motors on kayaks and it's really dangerous and terrible. And I also refer that to as adolescence, we need to put a governor on that little engine. But then here's the part that really started to trip me up when I had this analogy was like, okay, you have these three chemicals working together to make everything work, but really it's about the water that you're in. So I'm not gonna throw my little Yukon, not little, he's a 20 pound dutchy, but I'm not gonna throw him who's wearing like a flamingo. You know, what are those little things you put like the little flamingo raft? Like I'm not gonna throw him in the ocean, he's not gonna survive, but yet he'll do great at the beach.

You know? So in my mind focus, you have to have those three things to get you there, but then you have to know kind of where to put that boat and what kind of boat is gonna be best in each place. And it doesn't mean that you necessarily have the boat that you got for the job.

And so that's something I always wanna kinda keep in mind too, that I can be really focused on my goal of doing protection sports and really focused on my goal of doing search and rescue. But that doesn't mean that my dog has the ability to do that. It's not the right waters for him. There's my analogy on focus.

Melissa Breau: I like it, I like the boat analogy. All right, so it kind of taking all of that and like thinking about kind of the next piece, right? So is it something that is a skill that needs to be deliberately taught? Is it something that we're kind of capturing? Is it something that maybe comes along for the ride if we're using good training, kind of, you know, core good training principles. Can you guys maybe kinda share your thoughts on some of that stuff, Nicole?

Nicole Wiebusch: Sure. I think it's a little bit of all of those things. They all come into play. So typically when with my young dogs, I start by capturing focus as an attention on the handler. So I give them cookies, I mark their behavior when they give me natural focus.

So one of the first skills that I teach my puppy is offered attention. And I want that to kind of be, become the default for the puppy. But now there are times where we don't necessarily want focus on us. So then I have to train for that. So as a couple of examples, like if I'm shaping props, I don't want the dog staring at me when I'm trying to shape a behavior.

So I'm going to reward interaction with the prop for agility. I'm gonna reward the dog on the line. I'm not gonna reward him from my hand in most cases because I want that obstacle in line focus. Also with reinforcement cues, I purposely train reinforcement cues that don't include handler focus. So chase is one that I train, that means the toy's gonna be thrown straight ahead and my dogs know that, so they don't look back at me when I say chase and ground means I'm gonna put a treat on the ground. So I don't want the dog to focus on me, I want 'em to focus on the ground and scatters kind of the same thing. It's actually amusing when I say scatter to my dogs, they just like drop their head and stare right at the ground.

It's really funny. But scatter is something where again, I want attention not on me, I want it elsewhere. I have a reinforcement cue called be that means get the reward behind you. So that one too, it's the, I'm taking the focus off me and I find that when the dog's focused on the handler, it's easier for things to happen.

Like they're creeping in on position changes or they're creeping in on their signals. And so I use these reinforcement cues in a way to get the focus off me purposely to kind of reduce the value of me and increase the value of being out there. So in other words, part of it is trained, part of it's captured, right? And part of it comes along for the ride.

Melissa Breau: Yes, exactly. Yep. Alright, so Crystal, do you wanna pick it up from there?

Crystal Wing: Yeah, you made me think about some things there. I wrote some notes down. So thinking about every time that I go out to train, I have a couple hats for instance, I have one that has reinforcer on it. I'm actually wearing it right now. And it just says reinforcer really big on it. And it reminds me that I need to be the reinforcer and that's gonna be a big part of how I'm going to get the focus that I need. And then on the back of my hat, it says hashtag pay attention.

And that's a huge thing that I've always kind of told and, and shared with people. It's not that I'm saying pay attention to me, but I'm saying pay your dog for their attention. And so by paying their attention, you're gonna get more attention and then that attention is gonna create focus that you want, but then also pay attention to what you're doing. Pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to your dog. So you can't lose your focus either. And what Nicole said, maybe think about this, but we need our dogs to focus on different things. So I need my dogs to focus on my words. I need them to focus on my movement.

So I'm thinking about like, when I'm out searching, I need them to think about and focus on the odor, but at the same time they have to keep like an ear kind of to me. So at any moment, you know, if there's something that I need them to do, they need to, to freeze on a dime if there's an emergency.

And so even though I want them to be so single-mindedly focused on hunting and odor, not really, I still want an ear to me. And so it's important then that I teach them that focus skill before they even leave me. And then I was also thinking, you made me think too that I also, that that's like a split focus. And so it's kind of that overt focus where I want you like really focused and staring at something, but then it's also like the covert focus where I want you staring at something, but aware of everything else. Holy cow. Look at all the stuff we expect of our dogs. So absolutely it has to be deliberately taught like every single time. What I started finding was when my dog started checking out more and I started having more struggles, it's because my number one goal when I started that session wasn't my hashtag pay attention.

It was, I need to teach a skill, I need to make progress. You know, I wasn't really keeping my foundation, which is always pay attention. So that's something I have to keep in mind every time whenever I start to struggle, I've lost that momentum, that point behind my foundation. So it's always back to the foundation of focus.

Deb Jones: Yeah, I think that good training brings focus along with it. So somebody can be a really good trainer and the focus just sort of organically will happen as well. But if you're not really noticing what's going on with your dog, then you can have the case where your dog is focusing on something, but it's not the thing you want. So we have so many options.

They can focus and they can focus well, but they're not focusing on the appropriate thing at the appropriate time. And so the first thing I like to bring in and I want them to focus on of course, is me. I would like us to form this partnership or training relationship, but I have to be worth it. I have to be worth my dog's time and effort.

And so I have to pay as, as Crystal said, pay attention. I have to pay over and over and over again. I have to, I wanna be central to everything good that comes to my puppy in particular. 'cause I think that lays a really strong foundation, but I wanna be in the middle of it all. So I'm always part of the good stuff that's happening in my dog's life. And to me that's training focus. And so we do have a lot through games. I play a lot of little games that don't look like they're anything and, but they really do teach that, teach my dog that I'm always interesting, I'm always valuable and I'm a good bet. If you don't know what else to do, look at me and I'll help you with it and I'll pay you for it. So I think a lot of times in my own work focus just comes along. But of course I also realize that what I had been sort of naturally doing could be developed into games and exercises that other people could do as well so that you can build focus.

But again, we don't want that single-minded. I only ever want you to focus on me as both Nicole and Crystal have said, focus on these different things when it's appropriate to focus on them. And being able to do that switching seamlessly. That's a difficult skill, but that's a skill that I think needs a lot of practice. And so my little games, we practice that switching focus between things all the time. So I think there's a lot there. But those are my thoughts for the moment.

Melissa Breau: Fair Enough. I'll say some stuff for the other questions. Fair enough. So a lot of what we're talking about, right there seems to be kind of a non distinct line between kind of what we've been talking about and the idea of like engagement, right? So how are those things different? Does training those things look different? Maybe they're not different. I don't know. You guys tell me Crystal, you wanna start us off?

Crystal Wing: Yeah, I think so being a little neuro spicy person that I am, I can be super focused on something and not interact at all. So I can have just rabbit hole just flow. You could never grab me out of this focus that I have, but it doesn't mean that I've actually engaged with anything or that I've created anything or it's just I'm focused. So that's where the engagement becomes different for me. So with my focus training, I am very systematic about like with detection work and with bitey stuff, I'm very systematic about adding each level, adding in my four Ds and making it a very progression type base on how I can create that focus. My engagement, that's the art part. So I actually strive for empowerment. That's really what I really strive for. But that engagement piece, that's the bond, the connection, the interaction, that's when it now goes beyond, I'm focused on something to now I'm doing the thing and it's that next level.

So focus to me is a component of engagement. And when I say empowerment, I think it was Forrest Mickey, I think it was years ago. And he made the comparison of you can watch a TV screen and that's very much engagement. Like you're watching it, you can be focused on it, but when you put a video game on it, now you are the one causing what's happening on the screen to change. And that's empowerment. And that's what I want from my dogs. So my dogs can focus on me all day long. Like they'll sit on the couch and just stare at me. It's kind of creepy, but they will hashtag herding dogs. You wake up and you've got three dogs staring at you, it's like, oh, I'm glad I woke up. But the empowerment piece is when they're pushing you to work and they're the ones saying like, Hey, let's get this going. So that goes beyond the engagement into the empowerment and that's what I'm always trying to kinda strive toward.

So there's, to me, a very distinct difference between attention is an openness, it's a willingness to let things in. I can have attention on things in my mind, I can attention things on things that I see. Focus is like a spotlight where you're highlighting something, it's a focal point. And then engagement is where you are now interacting with. And it's more of the art part and the elationship part put in. And then empowerment is the dog activating me to do the thing.

Melissa Breau: I like it.

Crystal Wing: And I gave you more than what you asked, so there you go.

Melissa Breau: Alright, Deb, what about you?

Deb Jones: We can take it from there. That was really good. That was a really good response. Thanks Denise. And I wrote a book on focus and engagement about 10 years ago maybe now. We had tons of discussions trying to sort out our own thoughts on, you know, which part of this is focus, which part is engagement, how do they work together? And so kind of our baseline was you need focus in order to have engagement that if you don't have focus, engage true engagement, which is the interaction that between you and the dog is just really not possible.

So you wanna build the focus first to a point, but you can also be working on some fun engagement things at the same time. But I like what you said and I believe that the dog drives the interaction when you get to engagement. The dog wants this, they really want to be involved in doing this activity. And yes, they will push you and have, I have some very pushy dogs who will insist that it's time to do certain things at certain times. Okay. And that's what I want, that's what I trained for. So then I can't complain when they stare at me endlessly because basically I got exactly what I thought I wanted And rethink that for dogs in the future.

But I think focus is just that, you know, that innate ability to concentrate on something. And once we teach our dogs that they can do that and they can switch focus to different things, now let's move it to these interactions that we're going to have together. And then we can even move beyond that into talking about focusing on different tasks and things that we're gonna ask them to do. That, I think gets a little more high-level in terms of training. So that's what I think for now for today.

Melissa Breau: Nicole?

Nicole Wiebusch: Those are two very good answers. My thoughts are very similar. I think the focus, engagement and engagement are related, but like the other two mentioned, I tend to think of engagement more as interaction. That's the word that I kept coming back to when I was thinking about this question. And it's the same one that both of these ladies used. So I would call an engaged dog, a focused dog, but not necessarily a focused dog, an engaged dog.

Crystal Wing: And I just thought about another visual of an engagement ring. Like what does that mean? I mean it's this whole idea of you're now committed to, and it's, I don't know, it just, it was this nice visual in my mind just now and you're like engaged and I was like, oh, like you have like a little ring and it's like now it's like you're bonded and you're connected. So it was a nice little visual that hit my head. Sorry.

Melissa Breau: It's all good.

Deb Jones: Yeah, I like that you're taking visuals 'cause I think in words, so it's nice.

Crystal Wing: We can balance each other. Visual art teacher, right? Go figure, visual, Imagine that.

Melissa Breau: All right. So if you guys had a dog and you were raising them and they just didn't seem focused during training, what would you do? How'd you handle that? What training or skill building do you think you'd kind of put in place? Deb, you wanna start us off on this one?

Deb Jones: I would be very concerned if that was the case because I feel like that's my first and main job as an owner as well as a trainer, is to help my dog, my puppy, and my dog build focus so that we can, we can work together. And so if I'm seeing a dog that's really disengaged and sort of checked out, I seriously would consider physical issues before I would, I would think about training issues because to me that's not normal. If I'm reinforcing and I'm fun and I'm interesting and I have all the good things you want, why wouldn't you be focused on me? What could possibly be a problem? There's something interfering in some way. And so that would be to me some concern for physical or mental wellbeing. And I would even think, you know, kind of at a deeper level is my, is this dog feeling safe in the environment? Are there fear related issues that might, or stress related issues that might be inhibiting our ability to work together with focus. So I would think about those things a lot and I have a ton of things that I have to do to build this relationship and I'm kind of holding off just a little bit longer to talk about this specific. So I'll come back to that with the next question though.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. Nicole, what about you?

Nicole Wiebusch: So I agree with Deb. Offered attention and focus is one of the very first skills my puppies learn. And it's also one of the first skills that I generalize because without focus it's gonna be pretty hard to train my dog. So if my dog couldn't focus during a session, I'm gonna look at why is this something's going on?

So is the environment too distracting? Is the training session too long? Is the dog tired? What's going on? For example, I have a six month old puppy right now and his attention span is fairly short. And so I'm careful to end the training sessions before I lose focus. I mentioned this earlier, but the other day I took him outside to work on, offered attention and it was a really windy day and there were tons of distractions like leaves blowing around, which is apparently the most distracting thing in my puppy's world. And I got about five reps of offered attention and I, we were done. So continuing to train when he couldn't focus would have been pointless and detrimental. So we went back into the house.

It's important that I adjust my expectations to match my dog's ability and his inability to focus is definitely on me. It's on me to make sure that he can be successful in the situation. And I think that's where handlers get into trouble sometimes is Crystal had this lovely, she was talking about the water, the water you throw your dog in and this fits perfectly right there because it's those, you know, if you're gonna throw your dog in over their head, you're going to lose focus. It's, you know, it's very possible that you might lose focus. And so just paying attention to what else is going on and how can you change the environment to set your puppy up to be successful. That would be my first step.

Melissa Breau: Crystal?

Crystal Wing: I'm sitting here with brilliant trainers, Likewise everything. I jotted down everything. And I had big old capitals on expectations. And when you hit that one, I don't know if you saw me, but I was like, I was like, come on, let me have that one. Can I tell you a story then? Sure. So this was a really, this was a hard story. This was a hard share. This was Yukon, my Dutchie and we were in Ohio and I'm in, I live in Missouri. We were up there and it was kind of like a little test. I just wanted to see because whenever I go somewhere the test to see if, you know what he could do at home, he could do, there would be that I would have my space, I would have my six foot leash and we would come out into that space, he'd go potty. We had a routine, right? And so I had him on the leash and I waited and I waited and I waited. Do you know how long I waited for my dog to look at me?

Like I was looking for anything. Give me a guess of how long I waited there. 10 minutes. I'm You got 10. What did you say, Deb? I Said, I'm scared. 15. I know I've waited 20, 45 minutes before he would even look at me. And the amount of soul crushing that, that feels, I'm like, Yukon, I love to play. I'm good at play. Dammit, come on now. I'm fun. Like give me a chance dog. And, and I don't know if it was expectations because I really wanted him to have fun, but it always felt like there was something I now understand that I really believe he's a neurodivergent little boy and I had to really get to know him.

And that was my entire life with him. He's now seven years old and I am still getting to know him. But he has an amazing recall. He's now my dog with the best recall. I would've never guessed that in a million years. He's the one that wants to cuddle the most. He's the one that wants to be with me now.

And all of that was because I had to completely look at him differently and have zero expectations and just get to know the dog. And so, and you know, I think it goes along with what Deb said about look for any sort of health things. So here I think there's some brain chemistry that's off a little bit. So you know, you just, you can still adapt but you just really, you really gotta think about it and figure it out. Yeah. And sometimes it's not simple. Oh, not simple at all.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. All right. So since you guys are all presenting for Hocus Pocus: Train For Magical Focus, the upcoming one day conference that FDSA is hosting, I thought I would give you guys each a minute to kind of plug your topic. So tell us a little bit about what you're talking about, what your presentation will cover. Nicole, you wanna start us off?

Nicole Wiebsuch: Sure. My presentation is called Proof is in the Performance Distraction training for Competition dogs. And it's about focus for competition dogs. So we're gonna discuss how to assess your dog's focus in the moment and then talk about ways to kind of train through the different types of distractions that you might see with a competition dog, the types that they might be exposed to, and kind of how to work through that and train through those distractions.

Melissa Breau: Deb?

Deb Jones: Oh me, I am talking about puppies and focus, which is fun. One of my favorite things to talk about. Two of my favorite things together to talk about. So for a while now I've been working thinking about focus in some different ways and putting together my model for focus. So I'm looking at four types of focus that they can focus on the environment, they can focus on themselves, they can focus on the trainer or on the task. So those are the four main ones that I've identified. And you can have overlap in those.

So you're, you can be focusing on different things, right. Then I was looking at different categories of interactions between you and your puppy. So we can have interactions that are, that revolve around food. We have a lot of those, we have interactions that revolve around toys in play. Okay, well, so I have a lot of those interactions that revolve around movement and moving together or separately depending on what we're doing, interactions that have to do with control, like the zen work kinds of things that we introduce very early. And also then physical or tactile interactions where touch is a big part of the interaction between us and our puppy. So I have all of these different categories of interactions and in each of those I've developed different games that you can play to highlight those things.

So I think I have four games in each category and then I talk about each of the games, what is this highlighting, what is this strengthening, what are we working on here? So it might be, oh, we're working on trainer focus and environmental focus, or we're working on task focus and self focus or whatever the case might be. And as I said, there's a lot of overlap. So I've been thinking about this whole concept a little bit differently, expanding on it, just finished a blog post. So it's all still new in my mind. And I'm gonna have a new focus class. I retired the old focus classes and I'm gonna have a brand new focus class with a lot of this stuff on it once I actually developed the class. But this is the beginning of it is looking at puppy focus in this one day conference. So I'm excited to present this stuff 'cause it's all new ideas for me.

Melissa Breau: Fantastic. Crystal.

Crystal Wing: So mine is called Connection Through Play: Focus On Fun. And it is, I think sometimes traditionally we don't think about play as being this the main key to focus.

And I love that, you know, it's just kind of how we all think about it here in this we're also like-minded and it's so welcoming to be in this environment. 'Cause a lot of times it's, you know, obedience. Well how is anything to do with focus, you know, or play, you know, it's like, it's all about obedience and doing this, but play is obedience, obedience is play. It's all just this beautiful cycle. And so I have a couple play loops that I show. I have a couple people that I am coaching and so I break down the coaching and I share that and it's a kind of a fun little, it jumps a little, I know the topic is focused, but I tried to keep it like in a nice little line and not too tangential, but that's kind of where my brain works. I had a lot of fun with some editing and such, so we'll see how that works out for y'all. But I do, I go a little bit from neurobiology and then I get into making some analogies and then with some play in there and some coaching in there.

And it really is fun to watch how play merges and everything blurs together. So it's just fun and there's soft focus and there's hard focus and it's about getting the arousals on the right level and using play and food to do that and social play. So it's just a lot of fun. It's one of my favorite topics. And the problem I ran into is I had so many hours worth of material that I just have to keep cutting down and cutting down.

So that's why it's really hard for me to keep it so focused in this like little bit. So I feel like I'm just giving this like little sampler platter of ideas. 'Cause I really got into this. This has been a lot of fun to think about.

Melissa Breau: Very Cool. Sweet. Alright, well, any final thoughts or key points that I just wanna kinda give everybody a chance to kinda round things out? So Crystal, do you wanna start us out on this one?

Crystal Wing: Sure. I love using play because it is so low pressure, it's high reward and it's the best way to create the focus without really causing mistakes or just being able to enjoy and then build the focus and the engagement along the way kind of at the same time. And I love the idea of focusing on our dogs and paying attention.

So, you know, remembering that little hashtag pay attention. So pay your dogs for their attention, pay attention to your dogs. Something that I wanna kind of throw out there as a side note that I just thought of, there's so many times at seminars that people leave their dogs hanging in order to get feedback. And the poor dog is just, instead of having the play and the reinforcement, it just kind of gets pushed aside because they wanna go talk to the person and get, you know, what they need to learn. But it's about that dog. So just paying attention to all the way around. Yep. The thing that I always say that I always tell students is never train an unfocused dog. Just don't do it.

If your dog isn't focused, and Nicole said this earlier, you know, in the session, stop training, you're asking for too much or the environment is too difficult or something's going on with your dog, that's problematic. So no matter what the problem is, you can't fix it in the moment. Just stop digging that bigger and bigger hole.

So if I know that my dog is unable to focus for whatever reason, I need to end the session. And that is awfully hard for people to do. People do not want to end training when they haven't had the success that they are expecting or think that they should have. But sometimes that's the best training decision you can make is to just stop now, take a little break from it, think about how you can change things and reset it. Go back to help your dog be more successful. Right? But if your dog can't focus, stop reevaluate things.

Melissa Breau: Cool.

Nicole Wiebusch: So Deb totally stole my answer. Completely Stole it. I've been doing quite a bit of recording lately for workshops and webinars and such, and I feel that this is something that I've been repeating a lot lately is it's okay to not end on a good note. I think there's this fallacy out there that you have to end your session on a good note and sometimes you'll do much more damage trying to get to that good note point than you would by just walking away and trying again later.

So, you know, if your session is not going well and you know the dog isn't focused and you're not getting what you need, it is totally okay to walk away. And I think that's really important that people hear that and to know that it's, that's okay to do. And it's in fact better than doing the opposite. So if you're in a situation, your dog's just not giving you that focus, then take a step back and look at what was going on and see if you can figure out a way to make it easier so your dog can be successful, because that's the most important piece.

Crystal Wing: So if I can add to that too. Yeah, I really, I'm hearing, you know, and I believe too, that focus is so dynamic and it's impossible for any of us or our dogs to be laser focused for so long and so many times now in our sports, I feel like the cards are kind of stacked against us. It just keeps getting, the bar is higher and higher and higher and it's expecting so much.

And I just think that we need to be very aware of that. And just understanding that you can only give so much really truly dedicated focus and that really deep focus. We also then have to counter that with a lot of that kind of decompression and a lot of that just kind of freedom away from that. So that's something else that I'm witnessing a lot of people pushing and pushing and pushing harder and harder and we can build that focus muscle. But once it's depleted in that session, it's just depleted, you know, it is just, it's dynamic. It's gonna be back and forth.

Melissa Breau: That's okay. All right, well thank you all so much for coming on to talk about this. I think it was a fun conversation about the topic, so thank you. Thank you so much.

All: Thanks for having us. I look forward to hearing everybody else's presentations. I'm very excited. Oh yeah, me too.

Melissa Breau: And thank you to all our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Kelly Daniel to talk about canine conditioning. If you haven't already subscribed to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to our next episode, automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available.

Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in and training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

E348: Kelly Daniel - Beyond the Basics: Getting Ge...
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