Friday, April 19 2024 - 10:02 AM
lady training dog
Photo by Dreamstime


I’m taking my puppy to a local Puppy Class for socialization and to learn a few basic commands. This is intended to make life easier for both of us and provide him with a clearer way to understand my expectations. I need to become better at learning how to help him. He is a quick study, as long as there are treats available.

Last week in conjunction with the “sit” command, we were taught to ask our dog to first “focus,” followed by the sit command, then moving on to a silent hand signal for sitting. The focus command is very important for getting the dog’s attention and putting his mind in place to shift gears. As I learned with toddlers many years ago, eye contact is crucial for helping humans with communication, and it’s so with dogs. Now I rarely have to say “sit” if the puppy hears “focus” and sees my hand signal.

Easily Distracted

Young dogs get distracted so easily since the whole world is new to their acute senses. Walks can be challenging with sidelines of sticks, pine cones, bugs, trash, birds, other dogs, big trucks, yard statues—you get the picture. A regular focus is useful so I don’t trip over a ping-ponging puppy. It also can assist a dog whose mind has slipped into a mental groove of bark, fear, or attack mode.

Sometimes I wish someone would say “Focus!” to me. I know how vulnerable my mind is when I am in front of technology devices for entertainment or reading. Years ago, when I started writing deadlines from my home, it was so distracting to balance household chores, telephone interruptions, and human management issues (children, parents, friends). I’m the person who can watch the TV news and get fixated on the scrolling news bar at the bottom of the screen. I routinely have six books open on my electronic reader. Life is one glorious but frustrating buffet.

Controlling the mind and not allowing it to fixate or wander is a health practice for humans and pets. Many humans learn to focus on a scripture verse, song lyric, or affirmation along with paced breathing to bring the mind and nervous system back to balance. Those who have experienced former trauma can benefit from “centering” or “grounding” practices that might involve focusing on current physical senses, bodily moving, or changing room location.

I Need Reminders

In my spiritual life, I need reminders to focus—on the beauty of the physical world as reflects my Creator, the perfect grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, and his gift of reconciliation with God, the blessings of community and family, and the hope of eternity—to name a few. The “whatevers” of Philippians 4:8 (NIV) plus Hebrews 12:2-3 and Colossians 3 are there to help us focus and not lose sight of our standing with God. Then we can truly “sit” with Jesus and his finished work, trusting in him, able to fully rest (Ephesians 2:3-10).

So let us not become distracted by the sticks, stones, bugs, trash, and vicious dogs of our existence. God calls us in many ways to “focus” so that we can enjoy a relationship together.

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

  1. What helps you focus on your relationship with God?
  2. Can you imagine sitting with Jesus? What would you like to talk about with him?

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Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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