Each day that the dog walkers come, they leave a little note describing their visit and what the boys were up to while I was at work. Those notes are the highlight of my day; as I’m driving home, I often wonder what the note will say. I know my guys inside and out. I can describe my dogs’ personalities in intricate, intimate detail, and I worry that someone else may not pick up on all the little details that make them them. Although, turns out, their personalities must be strong enough to shine through because the notes really capture facets of their individuality! I’m often so surprised when people – people who likely have never loved a dog – don’t seem to realize the depths that their personalities have.
All this is a roundabout way of saying that training a new behavior can be a gigantic pain with two dogs who are so completely different in every possible way. Emmett is food motivated and desperate for approval. So, in theory, he should be really easy to teach. But he gets himself all worked up, offering every behavior he can think of – sit, down, wave, roll over, sit, bow, down – in a rapid succession that the first hurdle in teaching him anything is to get him to STOP offering behaviors so that he can focus. Lucas, on the other hand, is only sort of into food (unless it’s American cheese – then he’ll do algebra for me), and he sort of wants approval, but if the mood strikes him, he’d rather run in circles. Or chase a fly. Or pounce on a toy. Or bark out the window. Or clobber Emmett.
It occurred to me over the weekend that I face the same challenge with both boys – attention – but for wildly different reasons. For Emmett, it’s getting his attention; for Lucas, it’s keeping his attention. We only work for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, so I feel pretty confident that they’re not being over-worked… but I don’t know?
So all you dog-savvy readers: How do you get (or keep) your dog’s attention when you’re training a new behavior? Any tips or tricks?