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How to get dog's attention.

We have all at one time or another watched a dog that was very intent on watching their owner or handler. Looking as if they would do anything to please them. We all may wonder, "What do they do to get their dog to do that?" It’s really much easier than most people would think. This article is about how to get your dog to do anything you want to. We will start with step one. Getting their attention focused on you. Then in future articles we will use this basis to be able to teach them anything you want, whether it be for obedience, conformation, agility or just to be a good house pet. This method of training focuses on positive reinforcement and teaching your pet how to learn something new rather than teaching them to avoid corrections.

Of course the foremost important thing in training is to have a very well socialized dog. If they are so concerned with everything going on around them that they have to see things they haven't seen before, then all will be lost when you start training.

In the last couple of years I have been introduced to "clicker training." I have trained dogs using just about every method used over the last 30 years. I have really been taken with "the clicker." It can be used to train a dog (or any other animal for that matter) to do just about anything. Used properly, and not in conjunction with other methods, this method can give an insecure dog more confidence, focus a dog's attention on their handler, and above all allow you to own a dog who is under control!!!

The first step is to start with a puppy or older dog that is hungry!!! Even the most finicky eaters can be tempted with hot dogs, liver or chicken. Have a variety of treats with you so your dog does not get bored with one. You want to use something that is soft and or moist and easily broken into small enough pieces they are not chewing it when you give it to them. Something like milkbone hard treats are not desirable as they have to chew them and they crumble. Next have a clicker in one hand and a handful of treats in the other. Your dog does not have to be on a lead, but should be in a quiet distraction free area to start. What we do first is called "charging the clicker." Offer them a small piece and click as they are taking it out of your hand. Do this about 20 times, 1 click and treat following immediately after the other. Be sure to click as they are taking the treat out of your hand. We are making an association that whenever they hear the click it means "cookie." So when you click they will ALWAYS receive a treat.

I have found after training many dogs with this method, that the first thing you teach them is the behavior they return to the most. ATTENTION is one of the most important things you can teach your dog, no matter what ring you are going into or what you want the end result to be. Put a cookie right down into your dog's face, but do not give it to them. Try to guide their eyes up to your face with the cookie in your hand. If they look away before your hand gets to your face, start over. As your hand gets to your face (with the dog looking at you), click and treat. The timing of a click is very important. It has to happen "AS" the dog is doing the behavior you want, not after or before. Whenever you click you have to treat even if you were wrong in clicking. Do this about 10-20 times. You should be able to get at least 5 seconds of them looking in your face by then. Of course later on you will increase this until you have 30 seconds or a minute. But for your first lesson be happy with 5 seconds. The click represents "what" they are being treated for. So a click is always given for any kind of correct response. Do not ever use the word "NO." They are not wrong for trying anything new. They just may not be right. Just do not click if it’s a behavior you do not want to reinforce. Even if the dog accidentally does what you want without realizing it at first click and treat. They will try it again to see if that is really what got the click or not.

By now you may not only be getting their attention, you are probably also getting "ears." So now offer a treat again and pull away to get ears. You only click if you get attention with ears up. Even if only for a split second. In this type of training we don't train for the whole behavior at once. We are working for small approximations of the bigger picture. We have to work on one small piece of the whole picture at a time. In the end we can put the whole thing together for the completed picture. In the beginning it doesn't matter if the dog is in a stand or in a sit because this is only the first session. Once you have attention you can teach them anything from there. All this so far has taken maybe 10-15 minutes of training. Always end on a positive note. Remember to praise your dog a lot during training. During this first training session we have not given any commands, no "NO'S", but lots of praise and clicks. By the next day or next training session later that same day, you will have a very eager dog to work with. The dogs just love this way of training because there are no "corrections" per se. The dog figures out on their own and sometimes with a little help from us guiding them into position, what it is that we want them to do. When they learn this on their own, it sticks much better and then they KNOW it. Rather than us putting them in position and making them do it etc. We have all known dogs that learn to do something we don't want and then it is very difficult to teach them not to do it. The reason is that they learned how to do it on their own and enjoy it, so they don't forget!!

Training Your Dog - How to get their attention?
By Karen Martin

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