Note: Only start this game if your dog has a +CER (Positive Conditioned Emotional Response, meaning they notice a trigger and look to you in anticipation of the food at least 50% of the time)
The object of this exercise is to simultaneously build focus and change the dog’s attitude toward a trigger (a dog, a person, an object, etc...). We want to teach the dog that it's safe to look at the trigger; rewarding a dog for looking at something/someone they are worried about, changes the dog’s emotional response and their behaviour too.
This exercise teaches your dog that good things happen when the trigger is present, that those good things come from you, and that all you want them to do is look at their trigger. The environmental trigger can then become the CUE to return their focus back to you!
Ideas for cues: "look at that", "check it out", "who's that?", "where's your friend?", "what's that?", (OR you may choose not to name this one at all.)
How to train using a benign object to start:
Step 1: Begin with the object (a can, a pen, a cell phone, or any small easily managed object) behind your back in your hand. Bring the object out where the dog can see it. When the dog glances at the object, say "YES!!" or click and then reach into your pouch and feed a treat. Put the object behind your back again. Repeat until the dog ‘gets it’ and begins to purposely look at the object to get clicked.
Step 2: Now move the object to a table a few feet away. When the dog glances at the object say "YES!!" or click and then reach into your pouch and feed a treat. Repeat until the dog seeks out the object.
Step 3: Now we can try it out with a real trigger. When the dog glances at the trigger (e.g. person, dog, car, skateboard, etc.) say "YES!!" or click and then reach into your pouch and feed a treat. Repeat until the dog sees their trigger and looks to you expectantly.
It is extremely important that the dog not be anxious or stressed when implementing this exercise. This is called keeping the dog ‘under threshold’. If the dog is reacting to the trigger, then the distance between the dog and the trigger needs to be increased.
Over time, your dog should start to feel relaxed and happy around this trigger, if they were previously uncomfortable or over-excited by it. If not, get in touch with us and let us help!