Have you ever considered the synonyms for attention? Consideration, kindness, thoughtfulness, responsiveness and of course devotion. Attention skills can foster these wonderful characteristics. People express consideration, kindness, and devotion to their dogs when they give them attention. Dogs who are offering attention to their person are often more thoughtful and responsive—extremely important traits when we talk about training.
If you have a wonderful dog who does not pay attention when the world is exciting, you probably understand the need for attention skills. Service dog trainers know it is one of the key foundation skills for happy and successful working dogs. It is also probably one of the best tools for helping a reactive dog learn to be calm around scary things (when you see a scary thing, look at me and I’ll give you a treat!).
Attention is also a terrific skill for our everyday garden variety companion dogs—especially in public. Consider walking down a busy street full of people, shops, and great places to eat (I’m imagining Carmel right about now!). If your dog is paying attention to you, he will not be looking for places to pee or mark, or sneaking a lick of that ice cream cone conveniently held at nose height by a young child.
One thing to consider: attention is a two way street. You know those really fantastic dogs with crazy attention, check out their people. The humans are paying as much attention to the dogs as the dogs are to the humans.
Of course dogs shouldn’t always have to pay attention to you—or visa versa. Dogs need time to be dogs, to smell the smells, to pee on the bushes, and to chase flying Frisbees. But calm, focused attention sure can be nice when it is really needed.
How do you feel about you dog’s attention? Have you done anything special to foster attention? Do you ever wish you had more attention from your dog when you really need it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.