Eye contact is the mother of all behaviours; if we don't have our dogs eyes, we don't have their brains!
It's important to reward dogs for checking in with us visually and it's equally important to be able to ask them to look at us. We teach our dogs to give us eye contact so that we can get their attention before we give them their next cue.
Remember your parents and teachers saying "look at me when I'm talking to you"?
How to teach it:
Step 1: Stand near your dog; when they glance in your direction (whether it is at your ankles, knees, waist, shoulders, or eyes), click, reach into your pouch, take one piece of food and toss it on the floor at your dog's feet. This will cause them to lower their head to eat the food and you will have another opportunity to click the next glance in your direction. Be ready!
Repeat this step 5x
Step 2: Stand near your dog; when they at you, waist-up (waist, shoulders, or eyes), click, reach into your pouch, take one piece of food and toss it on the floor at your dog's feet. This will cause them to lower their head to eat the food and you will have another opportunity to click the next glance towards you. Be ready!
Repeat this step 5x
Step 3: Now let's name it.
Ideas for cues: "look", "eyes", "watch me", "focus"
Say your cue When your dog is not looking at you. Do not use their name first. Do not repeat it. Sound happy when you say it!
If they turn their head within 15 to 30 seconds, you will click and feed. Be patient. Don't repeat your cue - just stand still and wait. If you're unsuccessful, and you have to wait longer than 30 seconds, your dog may be too distracted in this environment.
Go back to step two and spend some time practising that level. It will take many repetitions at step three before your dog recognises the word that is associated with them giving you eye contact.
Be sure to practice in a boring environment first and then try to take it on the road. Always start in a quiet calm environment before asking them to perform a new behaviour with a lot of distractions or any stressors present.
Caution: Never have food in your hand during this exercise and be sure not to have your hand in your treat pouch. If you must, hide your hands behind your back so that your hands, the clicker, and any treats are hidden from sight until you have clicked and are reaching for the reward.
Not using a clicker? No problem. Use your marker word instead.