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Dog Tip: How to Get Your Dog's Attention

By Robin Tierney

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Yes, you may adapt these tips for use with a child, spouse or boss. And if any work with cats, let me know.

Getting attention is a critical first step to teaching anyone anything. It's essential for avoiding mishaps and accidents. But many people neglect to work on this basic skill with their dogs.

Jeanne Hampl of the Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound has granted us permission to share her article, ATTENTION, EVERYONE:

Whether we talk about people or dogs, in order to learn, we must be paying attention. Your dog must learn to look up at you and hold that position until you give him another cue or release him. We then utilize the dog's attention when we teach a "Leave It" command.

THE NAME GAME:

1. Say your dog's name - only one time. When your dog looks at you, use the verbal marker "YES" or click your clicker (see other tipsheets for details about clicker training) and reward with treats, toys, and/or verbal praise. Stop rewarding if your dog looks away.

2. Repeat several times a day.

3. Gradually add distractions. Make sure your reward is better than the distraction.

4. Play often and reward generously until your dog spins on a dime when he hears his name.

THE ATTENTION GAME:

1. Sit your dog at your side and/or in front of you.

2. Say your chosen ON, or attention-getting, cue word. This can be your dog's name, or LOOK, WATCH, or READY.

3. Use a food treat, ball or other toy to get the dog's attention. Then move the motivator up toward your eyes.

4. As soon as the dog looks at you, say "YES" or click, then immediately REWARD and PRAISE and RELEASE. Teach your dog a release word such as ALL DONE, RELEASE, FREE, OKAY.

5. Continue doing this, keeping your dog's attention for longer periods of time before releasing.

6. If the dog looks away, bring him back with the motivator.

7. Once the dog is responding reliably, gradually add distractions. If the dog looks away bring its attention back to you with its motivator. Repeat this step until the dog will not be distracted.

LEAVE IT:

Once your dog is giving you solid attention, giving eye contact in the presence of distraction, you can begin to use your attention cue to get your dog to disengage from a distraction. If you are walking down the street and see a squirrel, tell your dog to "LEAVE IT" and cue your dog to give you eye contact. Highly reward the eye contact.

You can use this technique for a dog who tends to be overly friendly or anxious about other dogs. When the dog's attention is on you, he won't be reacting to distractions.

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For more free information and guidance on behavioral, training, health and other pet-related issues, see the index of Tipsheets at http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html

For more of Robin's Dog Tips, see the index at  www.paw-rescue.org

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Last Updated: June 23, 2013 (LET) PawSupport