The Best Dog Training Focus Exercises

Nov 08, 2023


After getting a new puppy, many pet owners consider training the puppy. However, knowing where to start with dog training can be quite overwhelming, specifically with focus training. After mastering focus training though, dogs can learn simple commands, such as sit, stay, come, heel, and down.

The purpose of dog training focus exercises is to teach a dog how to focus on her owner. This means that the dog is giving her owner her full attention—she is not distracted in any way. The best dog training focus exercises you can start today to win your dog's attention include eye contact training, impulse control training, and hand target training.


The Top Three Dog Training Focus Exercises


1. Eye Contact Training

When you don't know where to begin with dog focus training, consider starting with eye contact training, which involves an owner teaching a dog to focus on his face. To start, find a distraction-free area where you can sit with your pup for a few minutes, and bring a form of reward for your dog with you. Your reward during any type of dog training may be anything from a couple of small treats to a favourite toy of the dog.

To train your dog to focus on your face, wait until the dog makes eye contact with you, then reward her with either one of her treats or just her toy for a few seconds. Then, either after she has finished her treat or after you have taken her toy back, wait for her to make eye contact once again, and then repeat the process a couple of times.

If you have trouble gaining eye contact with your dog, consider showing the dog her reward in front of your face. After that, hide the reward behind your back, and if she continues to give you eye contact, reward her. If she follows the reward behind your back, repeat the process and show the reward in front of your face once again. This may also take a couple of tries, but your dog will eventually learn to make eye contact with you if she wants to receive a reward.


2. Impulse Control Training

Impulse control is an essential dog training focus exercise that teaches a dog to avoid impulsive reactions, such as jumping on a guest of the house or running out an open door. To begin impulse control training with your own dog, find a distraction-free area to sit with your dog again, and bring your planned reward for your dog as well.

Impulse control is partly about teaching a dog to stay, but it builds on eye contact training too because it teaches a dog to focus on you as her owner at the same time. To start this type of training, take a dog toy and drop it on the floor in front of yourself. Then, if your dog charges for the toy, place your foot over it and tell her no. After the dog has backed away, lift your foot and repeat the process if she charges for the toy again.

Eventually, once she learns to stay back from the toy, encourage her to also focus on your face, not the toy. You can do this by snapping your fingers by your face or saying her name while pointing at your face. Once you feel she is focusing on you, reward her by either giving her the toy or a small treat.


3. Hand Target Training

Hand-target training is one of the less common dog training focus exercises, but it is extremely helpful for owners who want to teach their dog to be calm and grounded in times of stress, such as during a storm or while visiting new places. Essentially, hand target training teaches a dog to focus on her owner's hand whenever the owner offers a hand down to the dog's nose.

Again, hand target training works best in a distraction-free area with a type of reward within the owner's reach. To begin this training, sit at your dog's eye level, then reach your hand down toward the dog's nose. Give the dog a chance to observe and sniff your hand but then praise her if she touches your palm with her nose. Repeat the process of reaching your hand out and taking it away a few times and be sure to reward her every time she touches it.

After your dog has mastered hand target training, you can give her your hand any time you notice that she feels stressed or highly distracted. When she touches and focuses on your hand, she can calm herself down and will be less likely to act out as a result of her stress.


Tips for Dog Training

Any time you practice dog training focus exercises, or any form of dog training, you can keep a couple of things in mind to keep your dog relaxed during training and to make the training more effective.


Use Rewards that Your Dog Loves

All dogs have unique personalities, and each one has his or her own likes and dislikes. That being said, some dogs perform dog training better with treats as rewards while others perform better with toys as rewards. To figure out what your dog likes best, test out your dog training with both options and then see which your dog seems to react more positively to.


Give Your Dog Your Full Focus

It's only fair that you give your dog your full attention while you are working to get your dog's attention. All dog training focus exercises are much more effective when you work with your dog without your phone around, and a dog's attention span grows slightly when there are no other sounds or distracting visuals in the room, so be sure to turn off any TVs or blinking lights. Often, strong smells can take your dog's attention away from you too.


Keep Your Dog's, Rewards Hidden

While it might feel counterintuitive, dog training goes much more smoothly when the dog in training is unaware that there are rewards involved. That being said, before beginning any training sessions, take and hide any rewards for your dog nearby the planned training area. If your dog sees the rewards before beginning the session, she may become overly excited and will not give you her full attention. Showing her the rewards before training sessions can cause confusion for her when you want to put her learned skills to the test later on, too, because, in cases of dog training focus exercises that focus on making an anxious dog calm, she may not understand that you are replicating the calming exercises without immediate rewards.


Add Distractions to Later Dog Training

As mentioned above, it's best to get your dog's attention when you give your own attention to her and turn off all other distractions around you. However, in the real world, your dog will face many distractions every day, and she won't learn how to tune those distractions out without some practice. So, when first beginning dog training, turn off all nearby distractions and focus on teaching your dog how to focus on you as her owner. Then, after a few sessions of successful training, you can slowly bring distractions one by one into the area to continue to challenge the dog's attention.


Make Training Sessions Short and Sweet

Remember, a dog's attention span is quite short by default, so it's important to keep sessions of training within a reasonable time limit that corresponds to the dog's attention span. This means that you should aim to keep sessions within a range of just two to five minutes. Any longer than this and your dog will have trouble giving you her focus; any shorter than this and your dog will not learn anything from your session.


Use Meal Time to Your Advantage

One final tip that many pet owners forget about is that a dog's meal time should be training time too. All dogs really like food, and you can use food as a training reward, both with treats or regular meals. Consider trying the impulse control exercise with a dog's food dish, only allowing the dog to eat when she proves that she can sit and give you her attention first.

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