When training your dog, what is one of the biggest struggles (especially with young dogs)? Yep, the attention span. Puppies have the attention span of goldfish, meaning that they can get easily distracted during their training times. Many dogs are also easily distracted by things when they’re out in the world, which could be potentially dangerous. If this is something that you’re struggling with for your pup, follow along with us as we go over several tips that will help get and keep your dog’s attention. Let’s go learn!
How to know if you have your dog’s attention.
This is an important first step to get down. If your dog seems like it’s stalking you, then you probably have their attention. Dogs who pay attention to their owners will generally follow them with their eyes or look to them for approval on a regular basis. Once you can identify whether you have your dog’s attention, then you can start the training process. Also, bear in mind that your dog can tell when you aren’t focused so keep your full attention on the process during training time.
With just about every dog, the trick to good training will be the use of positive reinforcement. This includes things like words of praise and treats for following directions. We recommend using treats that are particularly yummy for attention training, things that your dog doesn’t get very often. This will make them even more interested than normal.
Part of the idea of positive reinforcement includes your dog having a positive association with their name. If you are constantly yelling it or saying it in a negative tone, your dog will have a negative association with their own name and it will make the training much, much harder. Try to only use your dog’s name in a positive tone, to reinforce their positive reaction to hearing it.
“Watch Me” or “Look”
These are the basic words that most trainers will recommend for attention training. When you start training with your puppy, this is where you should start.
In a room with minimal distractions (i.e.: no toys lying around or lots of sounds or movement happening), start by saying your dog’s name in an upbeat tone, followed by the attention command you choose. When they look at your face, reward them with verbal praise and a treat! Super simple. If they don’t immediately look to your face with the name and command combo, you may need to start a little differently. You can wave the treat in front of your pup’s face after giving the command, then move the treat up to your face. Your dog will naturally follow the food and end up looking you in the face with their big puppy eyes. Reward with praise and a treat, and soon you won’t have to start with waving the treat around.
You will also want to make sure that you are training the “watch me” command in various situations once they have the basic version down. Try using the command on your daily walks in spots where they normally are drawn into focusing on a certain object or area. When they turn to look at you, reward with praise and a treat. Then you can start getting other family members or friends involved as “distractions” and continue training the “watch me” command. Just like with any command, practice makes perfect!
Make it a game!
Once your dog has gotten pretty good at “watch me” you can take it up a level to test if they’re actually paying attention to you. When out on a walk, you can walk a short distance away and see if your dog notices and follows you promptly. Reward when they do, and reinforce training with “watch me” if they don’t.
Having your dog’s attention is crucial to their life with you. They will need to know to always focus on you for training purposes, and also just for safety reasons. Knowing how to teach your pooch to pay attention to you will help you both.
If you have any other training questions or want to set up a training time for your dog, reach out to us here at Prestonwood Kennels in Houston for more information!