Shift Your Focus: Games to Encourage Focus Flexibility

Friday Oct 4

1:40 PM

Experience Level: All

Focus is so much more than just attention on the trainer! Our understanding and view of the value of focus in dog training has expanded over the years. We now understand that our dogs are always focused on something; it just may not be what we want or need at the moment. Rather than trying to force or limit focus, our goal is now to help our dogs learn how to shift focus quickly and easily.

The four main focal points for a dog are 1) external (things in the environment), 2) self (emotions & sensations), 3) trainer (the person they are directly interacting with), and 4) task (a specific set of behaviors or skills).

We can accomplish these focus shifts by introducing and practicing interactions with our dog in different modalities that encourage different points of interest. These different categories of interaction include 1) food, 2) play, 3) movement, 4) control, and 5) tactile. Within each category we can break down games & exercises even further. For example, we have stationary & active food delivery, interactive & independent play, shared & individual movement, passive & active control, and interactive & independent tactile activities. Our goal is to broaden our dogs’ experiences with the different types of interactions so that we have a wide range of ways to establish and nurture desired focal points.

These different interaction modalities allow us to naturally introduce focus shifts into our play & training sessions. Used thoughtfully we can help our dogs comfortably move between the different focus states. We will consider the types of focus each game encourages.

In this session Deb will introduce and walk you through several games from each category. Working teams will have the opportunity to practice and customize games to meet their needs. We will also discuss sequencing games for the ultimate in fast focus shifts.

Dogs in working spots should have basic interest in food and play. Working teams please bring a variety of your dog’s favorite reinforcers with you to the session.

Presenter Bio

Deborah Jones, PhD

Deborah Jones, Ph.D. is a retired psychology professor who now trains animals full-time. She has been training for 30+ years and focuses on positive reinforcement based methods. Deb has written 13 books on dog training and has helped develop several DVD series way back in the day. She has also trained and shown multiple breeds to high level titles in agility, rally, and obedience. She is currently teaching online training classes, workshops, and webinars at Her latest project is the Cooperative Care Certificate program in partnership with Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. You can learn more about this at Visit her website at for her blog and more information.