Does your dog seem to be distracted or unfocused? Is it hard to get a response or even a little eye contact from them? Here are some tips on how to get your dog’s attention.
Set Them Up For Success:
Dog training should always be based on setting them up for success. Gone are the days of ‘heavy handed, authoritative‘ training methods. We know so much more now about dogs, and how they communicate. Today’s standard of training is all about using their natural ability to communicate with us. But before we can jump into training, we need to make sure that we set them up for success by following these 3 simple steps:
1) Get the beans out
Take your dog out and burn off some steam. Take them for a run or a swim, play fetch or go to a dog park. Whatever your dog’s energy level is, MEET IT! It’s so much easier to teach a dog new things if they aren’t full of pent up energy. Also, by taking your dog out for some exercise, you’ve already started the focusing lesson without even knowing it. You’ve become the source of some fun! Your dog will remember that!
2) Take your dog to a distraction free area
Once your dog’s energy needs have been met, get ready for training. Start somewhere in your house where there’s no distractions. Remove their toys, close the doors and curtains and make sure everyone else in the family stays away, (that includes any other pets in your house).
3) Quit while you’re ahead
Work with your dog for 5 to 10 minutes only. And end the lesson with them succeeding. NEVER end a lesson on a negative note. Your dog needs to feel good about themselves and be confident. If the lesson ends on a positive note, that’s the first thing they’ll remember next time and they’ll be more confident and eager to please.
Have A Good Look At Yourself:
All communications are a two way street. If you find your dog doesn’t give you eye contact or respond when you want something, it might be you. So think about interactions between you and your dog. Who initiates play and attention, you or your dog? Does your dog demand attention on their terms? Do you pet them when they decide to come over for a pet? Or throw the toy when they drop it in your lap? Maybe you feed them when they beg or bring you their bowl? As cute as all these things seem, a demanding dog is a dominant dog. And dominant dogs tend to act aloof at times when you need their attention. So if any of this sounds familiar it may be time to start turning things around!
Teaching Your Dog To Focus:
Teach your dog to respect you
Love and respect are two different things, especially to dogs. I’m sure your dog loves you, but if you’re having issues around getting them to focus on you, I’m willing to bet they’re lacking respect. Luckily this is usually easy to fix. Simply be the initiator. So if your dog brings a toy and drops it on your lap, take the toy, put it on top of the fridge and go back to what you were doing. This might upset your dog at first. Ignore them. Once they go find something else to do, go get the toy, call your dog over and enjoy the playtime. So you’re not taking playtime away, you’re simply making it on your terms, not theirs.
Do the same thing with all interactions. If they initiate it, just ignore them or tell them to ‘go lay down‘, and go back to what you were doing. Later, when they’re not demanding it, initiate whatever the interaction was they wanted. You’re never depriving your dog, you’re simply making it your terms, not theirs. This, in a dog’s mind, will earn you some respect because they’ll start to see you as a confident pack leader instead of a submissive pushover.
Teach your dog ‘watch me’
Tell your dog to ‘sit’. Get a treat (or a favorite toy if they’re not much of a treat dog). Hold it close to your eyes in front of your face. As you do say ‘watch me’. The second your dog looks at you right in the eyes, praise them lavishly saying ‘goooood watch me’, and give them the treat. Over time have them hold the ‘watch me’ position for longer periods. When they get good at it, start adding distractions and changing locations. As you switch locations you might have to start from the beginning. Dogs think in pictures, if you change the picture they might not have a clue what you want, so be patient.
Bottom line, if you’re boring and predictable why would your dog want to pay any sort of attention on you? So be interesting. Be animated with your dog. Play hide-and-seek with them. Be unpredictable and take them off guard. Become the source of their fun, maybe enroll in an agility class. Dogs love to learn and they live in the moment. So keep that in mind!
Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Dog Trainer And Natural Nutrition
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