Over the years I have occasionally encountered dogs that, for some reason had very little or no interest in playing with a ball, a tug, or a Kong. These dogs were missing the sheer unadulterated joy of chasing a ball, playing a game (Two Ball), playing tug, and the chance of more meaningful interaction with their people. Fortunately we can use the dog’s own inherent, innocent greediness to build his drive (or desire) for the ball, toy, tug, Kong, etc. We will refer to this as “the object of his desire” or simply “OOD.” The OOD I will be using and recommend is a roped Kong.
When your dog is in a “neutral” state of mind you will produce the OOD and proceed to entertain yourself with it. Toss it from one hand to the other … noisily act like you’re chewing on it … have a really good time without him! His natural curiosity will bring him over to you to investigate. You may even push him away if he gets too inquisitive about just what you are having so much fun with! You tease him like this for a few minutes then take the OOD and place it where he can see it but can’t get to it. A small nail high on the wall works just fine. You should pretty much ignore the dog for the next fifteen to thirty minutes.
Now, for the next two weeks and at least a few times every couple of hours, you are to take the OOD down and entertain yourself with it and at the same time tease the dog with it. Wiggle it in front of his face and drag it along the ground in front of him, but do not let him have it. Get him really excited … then just hang it back up. Week two proceeds the same way, but now you let the dog get just a little bite or nibble on it while you are teasing him.
If you have done this several times daily for two weeks you are now ready for the practical application with your dog. You have him collared and leashed, ready for his walk … but this time you have the OOD stashed in your pocket or tucked under your arm. A few yards into your walk you produce the OOD .. WOW!!! The dog of course switches into his excited mode. You quickly snap the OOD up under your left arm. *The roped Kongs fit nicely in the armpit area. Who do you think the dog is going to be focused on? Where is his attention going to be? He will be looking up at you and concentrating! Walk about twenty feet and without coming to a stop, whip out the Kong / OOD and let him have it this time. Lay on the praise and play a rousing game of tug with him for a minute or so. Then take it away, snap it back under your arm, and continue your walk. Repeat this as you go along, adding about twenty feet each time between “play” stops.
This exercise or game is invaluable for increasing your dog’s focus and attention. It will also transform a dog who just plods along all droopy and gloomy looking into a dog who struts or prances alongside his person with a spirited and eager attitude!
By Chris “Dogguy” Amick