I've been holding onto this clip of distraction training since we taped it on December 17th. There isn't anything really special about the clip, but the realization I had afterward is enlightening.
I set it up by putting a life-sized stuffed Dalmatian in the middle of the room - one she's never interacted with. I wanted to work it as a distraction from the moment we came in the door. So I clicked/treated any offered attention. Some of the clicks are terribly late. Early into the session, I wanted to treat it sort of BAT-ish, basically setting her up for and then rewarding good choices. A lot of what I did was good, but then I pushed her a little too far (at 1:10) and she was able to reach the "dog", sniff it and realize it wasn't real. You'll notice then she is no longer having to work hard to resist the dog, and is totally into the game. I again pushed her too far at 1:50, so she sniffed his tail and got in another sniff at 2:00. She did really well for two close circles around him, then got in a sneak-sniff at 2:35. From there to the end she did fine and couldn't be fooled.
When she was a puppy in classes, we learned early on, as soon as she
figures out it is game-time, you just can't fool her into making a
mistake. Even though it took her longer to get totally into the game this time, I was still very pleased. We haven't focused on distraction work in a very long time, so I thought she did really well.
We followed this with a focus session where I was playing the eye contact game with her while J'Anna tried to distract her waving food in her face. It took one time for her to not get the food from J'Anna for her to realize it was the game again. Then she couldn't be fooled. We also did some heeling with J'Anna trying to distract her and she couldn't be fooled at all.
Then I set up to begin the course we were practicing and she was beautifully attentive, until I said "heel". Then she immediately started looking around. She didn't leave me, but she wasn't focused either. She understands her job is to resist distractions (within her capability), but doesn't seem to understand I want the same attention and focus when there's no distraction. I am certain I could set up a couple dozen open dishes of food along our course and she'd no doubt be amazing. But when its easy, she doesn't focus. I know she enjoys a challenge and I believe she wants to do well and please me.
Like I said, I think she just doesn't understand what I want. Which of course puts the onus on me, clearly I've failed to teach her well. I've asked a couple of people how they'd train this. While they claim to be reward-based trainers, their solutions though not strongly punitive, are not reward-based either. So I'm looking for a truly reward based solution.
I know the answer is out there... feel free to share your ideas.