Want to know the number one thing you can teach your dog to strengthen every skill they know and to give them a great foundation for every skill they could learn? It’s simple but can be so intricate and nuanced that even the most advanced dog trainers will tell you this basic skill is one of the most important. So, what is this mystery power skill? It’s relaxed, eager, attention! Teaching your dog to relax and eagerly pay attention to you is one of the most powerful things you can work on and continuously reinforce. After all, if they won’t pay attention to you, you’re probably not going to be able to get them to sit, come when called, or anything else they might know!
To build the basics of having your dog give you attention, we want you to try playing one game! There are many names and variations of this game, many ways to change the pattern, and many ways to build difficulty. At first, play in the least distracting places you can be in. Then play in increasingly more and more distracting environments. In order for your dog to have a great training experience with you, they need to 1) be relaxed, and 2) you’ll have to have a reinforcer (a treat) that they love! You can learn more about the power of relaxation and how to build it in our most recent blog post here.
Once you have some treats your dog is sure to love, take one treat and roll it on the ground for your dog to chase and eat. After they eat the treat just quietly wait for them to turn and look back at you. Once they do, get excited! Praise them and roll another treat in a different direction. The goal is for your dog to be running to eat the treat, then turning back to look at you as quickly as possible. They’ll begin to anticipate that LOOKING at YOU means a treat rolling on the ground for them to chase and eat! This can turn into a high-energy, rapid-reward game and your dog is sure to love it! Give it a try and even start to incorporate it into your daily walks and outings. Happy training!
See you next time, at Central Bark!
Carla is an Operations Field Representative for Central Bark and co-owns a dog training and behavior consulting business, Good Karma Canine. Carla has three dogs Karma, a seven-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier Mix; Gypsy, a five-year-old Bull Terrier/Lab Mix; and Newt, a two-year-old Chihuahua.