Getting your dog’s attention is one of the most important things you can do in order to get the type of dog behaviour that you would like. And if, once you’ve got it, you can keep that attention, then you’re really going to make some fast progress.
Keeping your dog’s attention is not only essential in competition work but also invaluable in everyday life too.
Okay, so we’ve established the advantages, now we need to look at how to achieve this goal. It isn’t necessarily going to be easy to keep your dog’s attention at first, and some personality types are more difficult than others but here are some tips on how to accomplish this with most dogs.
Introduce a new command such as ‘watch’ or ‘look at me’ or whatever word you’d like to use to get them to focus on you (do not use their name as the command, it needs to be a separate word).
Use their favourite tasty treat to get their attention and to encourage them to look upwards at your face. Praise them when they focus their attention on you, give them the treat and say the ‘watch’ (or whatever word you have chosen) command.
Release them from the watch command.
Do this again and again, each time increasing the time where they are looking and concentrating on your face. You want to have their attention, so they are responsive to your next command.
Soon, your dog will automatically look at you when you say the ‘watch’ command, because they become accustomed to being praised and given a treat. As with all training, you can gradually replace the treat with praise, just giving them an occasional treat to maintain their interest.
Once you and your dog are working well with this in a quiet location, you can gradually add other distractions, increasing these in small increments to allow your dog to adjust. Praise them when they get it right, give the release command and play with your dog – they must know when they have done well, and training should be a happy, pleasurable experience for both of you.
This method will gradually teach your dog that it is to their advantage to watch you, to be looking at you for your next command, during all obedience training. The key to this is to build their attention span by tiny increments and praise them when they have done well.
Never get frustrated or angry with your dog if they lose attention, this will be detrimental to their training – simply praise them when they get it right and make sure, at the beginning, that the treat you choose is their absolute favourite.
Praise, fun and patience are the three things that will gradually build trust and good behaviour in any dog.