You know my doggy genius? Well, she’s only that way at home.
When we take the show on the road, she looks a lot like every other puppy. She’s fascinated by every leaf, blade of grass, moving person, building, tree, and whatever else is in the world. She likes to stare off into the distance where people or cars might be moving about. Sometimes even a dog.
It’s close to impossible to move through a park; she’s too busy with the journey to care about my destination.
Work? Sometimes I get 10 seconds at a stretch – much better than two weeks ago! At that point I was lucky to get three seconds. That included several mini heeling bits….each one rewarded with a cookie or toy and a huge fuss. A few “ups” on the platform, and near the end of our training time, she would retrieve the dumbbell to her platform.
Attention span for toys is even more limited, she loses interest in about five seconds. After that she abondons the toy and wanders off to explore something else. Today (two weeks later), we got close to thirty seconds of sustained interest – I had to do a lot of running to keep her engaged.
She can play with me without toys, but not very well. She is easily distracted and it can be very hard to redirect her to a toy or to work. I have to remember to scale back and use beginner toys. Today I used a beginner toy and it went better.
What it comes down to is she can perform work within a tiny window. The cues have to be obvious; a dumbbell, platform, a distinct offer of heel position. Good thing I have bits of work that can be performed within a three to six second window, followed by a one minute recovery period.
I don’t know how long this phase will last, but I’m patient. I can’t even remember my older dogs behaving this way, but I’m quite sure they did. Time heals all wounds, you know. I spent about thirty minutes in the first park two weeks ago; thirty minutes on the outskirts of the dog training class five days ag0, and today I spent another thirty minutes in the parking lot of a local community college. I doubt we did more than three minutes of work the first time, five minutes the second, and maybe six minutes today, but it was about right for her. I am resolved to do this at least three times per week, in addition to the general socialization she gets with my husband. It clear that she is improving, but I need to keep with it.
This is definitely not a time to get frustrated or to start pressuring her to “pay attention”. Lyra knows I have toys and food. If she is capable of overcoming her curiosity or fear, she knows to turn to me in order to work. If she is unable to do so, then the respectful thing to do is to give her that time – she needs to learn about the world (and work) at her own pace. That doesn’t mean I let her approach alternatives (I do not). But if she needs to look, then by all means….look! I am an interesting person with treats and toys….she’ll start to choose me when me the time is right for her.
I’ll try and tape her next session away from home. If you think your puppy has a remedial attention span, that video will make you feel better.