Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Can I Have Your Attention?

I love when I see a dog walking along with their owner and glance upwards to gaze into their human's eyes. It's gorgeous.

 This is what it looks like.

Relaxed, happy, saying "hello".
You know what's better? Having a dog do it while walking off leash as a way to check-in with their person. It says that they are having fun with their person, they want to make sure their person is having fun too, and they have a super bond.

YOU can have this! I teach this to all my clients (unless they already know it). It is great for all dogs, especially those whose owner wants to master off leash walking in any manner, easily distracted or reactive dogs.

Best of all, it's super easy to teach:

Purpose- teaching this exercise will train your dog that it is more reinforcing to pay attention to you than the distractions around him.
Criteria- your dog should look at you.
Visual cue- Point to your eyes.
Verbal cue- ‘Look’
Important to remember:
Your dog is familiar with his own environment.  There are fewer distractions at home as compared to a park.  Begin all training where there are minimum distractions.  As your dog becomes more reliable with certain behaviors, gradually work your way to a more distracting environment.  DO NOT expect your dog to respond to you as well as they would at home in this new environment right away.  They will improve over time and with practice.

Start in an area with no distractions
Take a treat slowly wave it in front of your dogs nose and with your dog watching bring it to your eyes. Wait. As soon as your dog looks away from the treat and into your eyes, say “look” or “attention”, Click & Treat.
After 20 approximations at step 2, say ‘Look’ then ‘ok’ then Click & Treat
The above must be given in that order.  Your verbal ‘ok’ is their cue that they can look away.
When beginning this behavior only expect your dog to look at you for up to 2 seconds.
Repeat several times in a environment that is not distracting.  Slowly start increasing the length of time your dog looks at you.
Move to different environments that are not distracting, like different rooms in your house.
After 50 successful approximations of your dog looking at you while using the food lure, begin to fade the use of the lure.
Fading the food can be done by first asking for ‘Look’ with the treat in your hand by your eyes but CT your dog from the hand that is not by your eye. 
After 10 successful approximations, do not use a food lure, instead give both your verbal cue ‘look’ and your visual cue, point to your eyes.  Click & Treat from hand that is not by your eye.
After 10 successful approximations, randomly reinforce your dog.  Don’t forget the occasional ‘jackpots’ to encourage your dog to look at you in future exercises.
Slowly start to add more distractions for your dog.  For example, if you began training this behavior in your house move to your porch/ sidewalk outside.

Remember the importance of fading the food treats once your dog understands the new cue- random reinforcement is one of the strongest builders of any behavior!!

How else do you get your dog's attention? 

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