attention problems


New Member
My 6 month old border collie will not look up at me when i am working with him he is very well beaved and when he is not focusing on me he will still do the things he already knows, but it is very hard to teach him anything new because he is not watching me he is looking down or every where but at me, it even gets so bad that he will just lay down and ignore me, and he wont follow treats. i have tried making training more interesting by switching off treats with his favorite toy he instantly perks up when i bring out the toy but the second i take it away he goes right back to ignoring me. is there anything i can do to get is attention on me?:dogunsure:


New Member
There could be several reasons for this, or any combination of these reasons, and thus you can try different things to teach attention:

1. At 6 months old, he is an adolescent, and it is normal for them to have the attention span of a flea. Sometimes, just 2 seconds of attention is all you can reasonably expect.

2. He is bursting with energy and restless. you might try exercersing him a bit first before trying to do attention training. take him for a run, or throw the ball for him until he is tired. Then when his excess energy is expended he can more easily settle down and pay attention and be interested in you.

3. Or, he is overly tired, as in too tired to concentrate. For example after a long hard day at work, you are tired and probably won't learn a new skill as easily as if you were more refreshed. If this is the case, then do the attention training when he is less tired. Also, a dog can be mentally tired though not physically tired (for example if the training session is going on for a long time), and vice versa.

4. The training environment is too full of distractions. Eventually you want the dog to pay attention to you around distractions (the purpose of the training). But you need to start with zero distractions when teaching and practicing this skill. Start in the most boring location (to your dog) that you can think of, like maybe your living room when all his toys are put away, any other pets in the house are in other rooms, any other family members are in different rooms, no TV on, no radio on, you get the drift.

5. Maybe your treats or rewards are not high enough. use something that your dog really likes.

6. Or, maybe your treats or rewards are too high value. If the dog is preoccupied with the treat or toy, for example busy scanning your hands or searching for the toy or treat, then the treat or toy is actually a distraction rather than a reward. If you think this is the case, then use a more boring reward, like his regular kibble for example.

7. Maybe you are going too fast too soon. start by asking for a split second of eye contact and reward that. Once the dog is offering you split-second-long eye contact consistently (which can take many sessions depending on your dog, your timing and consistency, the environment), then increase the duration to 1 second before rewarding, and stay there for however long it takes for your dog to do that consistently. I'm not kidding, literally split-second in the beginning, then progressing to 1 second and no longer.

Then when he can do 1 second consistnetly, progress to 2 seconds. When he can do that consistently, progress to 3 seconds. All of this is still in your zero-distraction environment by the way.

I'd say, when he can maintain 5-10 seconds of eye contact, then start introducing the mildest of distractions, and immediately drop your expectation down to 1 second again and rebuild from there.

Don't worry if it seems incredibly tedious. Working with adolescent dogs is a challenge in some ways, but when the groundwork is done slowly and solidly, then later on the progress realyl speeds up. And attention training is so fundamental that I would go really really slow with it. good luck!!!

One more thing, don't make the training sessions too long. end each session on a good note when the dog is being successful. There's a common tendency to keep pushing and repeating, but don't. It's much better to ask once for a split-second of eye contact and be successful and quit for the day, than to do it ten times in a row and half of the time is not successful.


New Member
thanks for the advice i dont think he is overly tired, or to hyper because i though it was one of these at first so i tried taking him for a walk and playing before working with him and it made it worse i also tried in the morning after he woke up and befor breakfast but it didnt help, and i forget to mention he dosent like food that much and its hard to find treats for him because he has allergic to corn and wheat which i think is also the reason why he dosent like them because before we found out about his allergies he would get sick every time he got treats.
but i will try what you said about the split second eye contact. As of right now he dosent look when i call his name he just turns his ear and every now and then he will look. but what confuses me the most is i call his name and he comes right away even when he is distracted, but he just comes and usually stops at my feet and turns around and lies down looking away even when i praise him he dosent pay attention. the only time he ever does is when i am just waking up and he wants me to get up then he will sit and stare until i get up.
thanks again for the help i am going to try what you said and because he is with me all day i can do lots of very short sessions. hopefully it works.


Experienced Member
Something that I have started doing over the past week and a bit...

Before going on our walks, I load my pocket up with really small food treats. I then make sure that I always have at least one in my hand at all times throughout the walk, on leash and off.

Whenever she looks at me, I very quickly praise and throw her a treat, or if we're on leash, I pass it to my left hand and feed it to her. I also play 'bombs away' with her too. I stand above her, she will look up at me, I then say "bombs away" and I release a treat, to her from above.

In just the short few days I've been doing it, it's made a real difference.

P.S. My Border Collie is 23 weeks old so I feel your pain. :)


New Member
hi Dakotamom just a couple more tips:

If he is not food motivated, either experiment with different treats or try using his regular meal during his mealtime for the training. For example, divide his meal into half, and use half of it for the attention training, and then end on a good note and give him the other half in his bowl as usual.

For now, don't call his name or prompt him to try and get him to look at you. Instead, just park yourself in a chair with a handful of his food and quietly observe him as he goes about his business. Sooner or later he will glance your way, even if it takes 10 minutes just to get a split second fleeting glance at you, and if only by sheer accident. (I promise you that it won't always take this long, just in the first few sessions until the dog catches on). But if there are zero distractions, and you have his dinner, then sooner or later he is bound to glance your way even if only by accident and for a split second. watch him carefully so you can praise and reward him with some food the instant that happens.

Then go back to being perfectly still and quiet and watch him until he again eventually glances at your face even if only by accident, then immediately praise and reward.

You will find that if you are quick to reward him for that split second eye contact, then eventually he will catch on that whenever he glances at your face, he gets food and will be doing it more often. But again, for now expect only split-second glances, and when he's done a few of that end the session so the last thing he remembers of the session is nice things. You will know he is catching on when he starts glancing at you more often, but still keep your expectations very low for now and reward even the teeniest bit of eye contact from him.

By not calling him or prompting him to get him to look at you, you are waiting for him to "offer" the behavior on his own, even if it's only by accident. Even though this may take a really long time in the first few sessions, eventually he will catch on and then future progress goes much quicker. And many expert trainers say that this type of learning (where you simply wait for the dog to do the behavior without prodding him, so he has to figure it out for himself) results in very good long-term retention of the training and develops the dog's intelligence.

Have fun with it!

Jean Cote

Staff member
Wow!! There are already so many good replies that I'm not sure what to say! :doglaugh:

I believe your demands might of had been too high and he decided to give up on training since he couldn't figure out what you wanted.

I think the best damage control in that case would be to give your dog "freebies", to get him interested in training again! Keep a few treats in your pockets at all time, and randomly give him one from time to time. Eventually he is going to wonder why he is getting those treats, and you will be able to raise your criteria.

In a few days raise your criteria to him looking at you. Everytime he looks at you say "Yes!" or "Good Boy/Girl!" and throw him a treat. Then I would start training extremely easy things, shaping behaviors would work best for your dog. Unfortuntely those lessons aren't written yet (sorry!), but you basically click & reward anytime your dog does something you like on his own, without luring him.

For example, your dog is wagging is tail, you can click & treat every time he wags his tail. It's very easy and dogs love it, it keeps them wondering and interested.

It's already been mentioned, but try upgrading your treats, liver treats are much better than kibble. And try reducing his daily dinner amount, or train in the morning and give him his dinner at night (or vice versa).

Hope this help! :dogsmile:


Honored Member
Staff member
Well, if he doesn't really like treats that much, why not give praise-training a try? Maybe he's bored with the treats. It is possible to train a dog without treats...treat training is just the most common of methods. Of course, training methods vary for different dogs. Some dogs excel with treat training, while others do much better with praise training. With praise training, his only reward is him, tell him he's done a good job, and try again or move on to the next trick. Give him treats randomly, just because you feel like it, not necessarily because he did something.
Also, clicker training may be good for him, although if he's not big on treats, then maybe not...
Also, maybe the little guy needs a break. If you're training him every day, and you're working on multiple different commands, lay off a little. Maybe just work on one or two tricks a day, and then quit if he's doing well. Always try to end on a good note. If you're training every day, this can definitely be an overload for many dogs/puppies. Give him a day or two off, maybe even a week. I don't train more than about four days a week. The other days are spent just walking or playing or whatever. Let him have time to just be a puppy, rather than a puppy-in-training. Keep your patience in check also. Sometimes it's hard to be patient with a distracted puppy. =)

Jean Cote

Staff member
Yup tx cowgirl is absolutely right. I've mentioned this in the Reinforcements lesson located in the Level 1 of the classroom, but tx_cowgirl gave a very good description of how to use praise instead of food! :dogsmile:

sharon jean

New Member
I don't think that there is anything wrong with using the toy for awhile. And make lessons fun. Maybe he wants more of a challenge. Do you feed him before training? Do you exercise him before training? I have found it best to do these two things after training. And always -when able- I have fun with my dogs after training. They look forward to it.
HOpe this helps, just a few of my experiences.
GOd bless you
Sharon E.

sharon jean

New Member
I would not keep my training sessions very long. My one dog is 5 months old, and I train him about 3 minutes a day 3 times a day. And he really enjoys it. I also review when we are just hanging around the house, lots of praise and treat when job well done!!! THis might help you. i"ve found puppies don't have a very long attention span.
God bless you