Back to blog

Focus can teach relaxation

Focus can teach relaxation


One of my more successful discoveries, right when I started to teach dogs new behaviors was that dogs who were distracted, constantly scanning the environment or to use a more common label ” crazy”  were able to concentrate and focus successfully when given the opportunity to gaze at something.


In practical terms: that would mean placing something desirable/ a treat or toy in front of them would be able to remain in a sit for much longer than without that point of focus.


I have also found that earning additional toys/ pieces of food can show how much we appreciate that muscle of patience grow. It’s a dog’s opportunity to see his bank account grow by waitingJ


Now I see it is a variant on Chirag Patel’s idea of the “bucket game”


He uses that game to allow animals to associate handling and husbandry functions by teaching them to focus on the bucket full of treats. Once they have learned to look at the bucket they learn to re associate somewhat scary procedures or events with tasty rewards but actually they go into their little Zen state when new and unknown events happen.


When I go to the dentist I try to put myself in a different “place”. I   pretend I am right near my dog’s face and I can recall his or her particular smell. Cosi smelled like chicken I thought, and Petzi smells like caramel. I focus on that when the doctor approaches with the high-pitched drill or the long needle. It definitely helps me deal with the angst and overcome past trauma of painful procedures.


I am guessing that this is very similar to what the dog must be experiencing when he can displace possible anxieties and trepidations and can be transported to think about what wonderful aroma is emanating from the tasty tidbits in front of him or the bucket full of treats that can be enjoyed during and after the exercise or procedure, whatever it may be, is over.



  1. How adorable! Such manners for Nono and Sia. Very creative on the adults end.

    Comment by karen on June 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm
  2. That is totally hilarious! Great job and really fun to watch!

    Comment by Fran on June 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm
  3. Actually my friend and website designer Kendra Dixson was the person who sent me the video. So 99% of the credit goes to her!

    Comment by Elisabeth on June 11, 2011 at 7:55 am
  4. Hee hee, well a good friend of mine forwarded it to me so the list goes on. I think it is so cute and I’m amazed at how well the dogs are behaved, although you do see a little help from the human hands so they don’t dive their noses into their dish. lol

    Comment by Kendra Dixson on June 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm
  5. yes the dogs are great! I also liked HOW they helped the dogs by pretending it was a human “putting your chin in your hands” gesture. It is most entertaining.

    Comment by Elisabeth Weiss on June 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm