You hear this word all the time in regards to training your dog. What does it mean? Why is it such a sought after behaviour? What will it bring to your training? Do we really need it?
Look into the eyes of young Benny there...what do you see?
You see him, all of him, from the nose to the very soul.
Well that is what I see anyway when I look into a dog's eyes that is giving me total focus.
A beautiful open honesty that allows engagement and open communication, those eyes will tell you everything.
So if your dogs eyes slide away from yours or their gaze is forever seeking out better options in the environment then that should be a red flag for you. Where have you gone wrong?
Does the dog lack in suitable rewards for the work you are asking of it?
Or are you laying everything at that dogs feet and it does not have to work for what it gets?
Has the dog lost trust in you through inconsistent boundaries? inconsistent training methods?
Have you lied to your dog, promised it the world and then not delivered?
Go back to your very foudation training, reset command-action-response-praise and release.
Look at your reward system, is the pay rate fair? Or have you stopped paying the dog once you thought "he knows"? Hey you propbably know your job too but if the boss stopped paying you then I am pretty sure you would stop working for them!!
Is the dog just shut down and bored? Have you been working at the same level and doing the same thing without raising the criteria? Please do not bore the dog, he is not an idiot. Challenge him to rise to the task set, exceed your expectations and so will he.
If you are not gaining focus like you see in young Benny there then you just may never have thought to condition the behaviour in the dog. There are so many exercises we can do to have focus as an automatic response in the dog.
That look of ...."can I?" Using positive and negative markers to communicate to the dog that YES that is what I want or NO that is not what I want. Build the trust in the dog that a negative marker just tells the dog that try another alternate behaviour and see if that is what the handler wants. When they get it right..YES and the dog gains the rewards.
Your dog reads you better than we can ever read them. They have the power of their nose, we rely on eyes and ears. Work on building a training environment of trust so that a dog is willing to experiment and try offering you more and more. Keep that reward system high, raise the criteria as you go. Short bursts of intense training will gain you more than an extended session that flattens the dogs drive to work (and sometimes the will to live lol).
Be brave, look into those big brown eyes and be as honest with them as they are with you.