No, we aren’t doing the popular Whip/Nae Nae dance. ;-) But now that I have your attention, we are going to talk about an easy way you can work on gaining your puppy’s attention or focus.
In our latest video on Box Training (check it out here), we talked about working on increasing a puppy’s attention span. We want our pups to pay attention to us, our facial expressions, words, and body signals.
The bottom line is that all other training is based on being able to keep your puppy’s attention and focus. It makes all other training sessions easier, and it could even save their lives. Can you think of a scenario where having your dog’s attention could be life-saving? If so, put it down in the comments!
One of the most common ways to begin with attention training, or getting your dog to focus on you, is the “Watch Me” command. It’s fun, simple, and only takes a few minutes of your time throughout the day.
First, start in a quiet atmosphere where there are not a lot of distractions to waylay your pup. Using a toy, treat, or even just your hand, place your hand, with the toy or treat if using, near the dog’s nose. When they look at it, slowly bring your hand to your nose or between your eyes.
At this point, your sweet Mini Aussiedoodle should be looking at your face. Say, “Yes!” or click your clicker, and reward them with the toy, treat, or praise.
Repeat these steps as many times as it takes for them to get the idea.
Once your puppy makes the connection following the hand signal of bringing your hand to your nose, add the verbal cue, “Watch me,” before moving your hand to your face.
After they have that down, you can add a distraction. You can have a toy or treat in one hand and, while your dog is watching, extend your arm out to the side. Your puppy has a choice to make. She can look at your extended hand, or she can look at your face.
Give the command to “Watch me.” When she looks into your eyes, say, “Yes!” and reward her. You can also choose to do this without a verbal command. Just be silent and wait for your dog to look at your face. Be patient! The very instant she gazes into your eyes, reward her!
It’s important for us, as the pet parent and trainer, to stay calm, relaxed, and happy. If we get too worked up over it, your pup can tell and get stressed out. We want him to feel good, happy, and reassured when looking at you. If you find your dog is constantly looking away, you may need to relax and check your posture and/or tone. We always want to end training on a positive note. So, if you’re not finding success at any one command, before simply stopping on the negative note, do something, anything, you know your dog will do. Sit or shake are two options. That way, both you and your dog can finish on a successful task!
All the steps above don’t have to be done on the same day or in the same training session. Y’all can spend one or two minutes at any given time on any of these steps. Enjoy the journey together; there is no rush or pressure to be perfect.
The “watch me” command builds trust and a strong bond as well as a solid foundation for other training sessions. And it dovetails perfectly with the box training video mentioned above. It is a fantastic way to continue your puppy training!