Using Off, Standby and Working Modes to Get (and Keep) Your Dog’s Attention

The number one problem for getting a stellar working performance from your dog is getting and keeping your dog’s attention. My technique for using seperate modes: off, standby and working is one of the best ways to get and keep your dog engaged.

The first time I did a video on off-standby-working modes was seven years ago!

This is such an important foundation skill for all dogs, especially competition dogs in any sport to have. Seven years later I am still implementing this method with my own dogs and teaching it to others (because it’s so important and it really works!)

Here’s the problem: When you are actively training and then allow your dog to check out in between exercises, for example, when you are setting up equipment or talking to someone, it creates an unfocused, unengaged dog. Your dog will quickly learn to check out if you are not actively paying attention to him and that is a big problem because HE is one deciding when to check out.

We need a way for our dogs to understand when they need to be actively engaged, prepared to engage or can relax. Ironically, one of the important steps in the engagement process is teaching your dog when they don’t need to give you their full attention.

For this, we use the following modes:

Working: When we are asking them to perform a behaviour,

Standby: When we need them to be ready to work (so they are already paying attention),

Off: when the dog can relax but still in a controlled manner.

Benefits of Using Modes:

  • Putting your dog into the off mode when you can’t pay attention to him during a training session still gives him a job to do (laying down, holding his position).
  • When you release him, into the standby mode (as shown in the video) this also gives him a job to do (being actively engaged with you and waiting for a cue to work),
  • From the standby mode you can go right into working mode and have a dog that responds immediately to your cue as he is engaged, focused and ready to work.

Teaching these modes are the number #1 exercise on my list. Give them a try and let me know if you also see an overall improvement in getting and keeping attention from your dog.

Happy Training!

Janice Gunn