You should always aim to train your puppy when it is engaged. Now, that sounds easy and simple at first glance, but it is not as easy. Yes, it is easy when you train at home. But even there can be some distractions.
When you take training outside, things get more challenging and harder. Your ability to get your dog’s attention is the most important part of dog training.
You can learn the commands watch me and look to get your dog’s attention instantly, and we will talk about it.
But what I am going to teach you today is a simple trick that will get your pup engaged and ready to work.
Ready? Let’s Go!
So, you are wondering how do I get my puppy engaged and focused during training? Well, you start training by putting the focus on you.
And for that purpose, you can play a little game. If you like to call it a game. What do you do? Well, you just circle around on a leash and build some focus and engagement gradually.
In the beginning, your dog might look at other things, but you simply correct and proof the behavior. When you can do a few circles with your dog’s focus constantly on you, then you start training other things.
Your goal is for your puppy to be focused on you and the leash to be totally loose. Then, you can move do to some serious work. See, it is that simple.
Always Proof and Correct
Now, let’s talk a bit about proofing your dog’s behavior. Most dogs can easily get distracted. It is part of dog training. You just have to learn how to train your dog to instantly get the focus back to you.
Practice and gradually move to more distracting areas. Every time you move to a more distracting area, proof the behavior.
Here is an example. You have a basic training routine, come, sit, under, circle, lie down, up, jump, and what more. Your dog responds amazingly and perfectly to that when you are at home.
But as it gets noisier and more distractions kick in, your dog is suddenly losing focus. Well, proof it. Every time your dog gets distracted, use the watch me command or repeat the previous command to get him back on track.
More on the watch me command later on. Here are some tips:
- Make sure to use valuable treats when you are increasing the difficulty. The more challenging the task, the higher-value treat
- Increase the distractions only when your dog is perfectly watching at you
- Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog to get him to look at you from a distance
Training the Watch me Cue
Now let’s talk about the watch me command, or watch me cue. This cue will allow you to get your dog’s focus instantly. It is an important part of training, as much as sit and recall.
When you control where your dog is watching, you can increase the success of the training. Remember, not all dogs are comfortable with eye contact.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to teach the watch me cue. The easiest way is to lure the behavior from your dog.
- Start by holding a treat in front of your dog’s nose
- Slowly bring the treat up between your eyes and watch as your dog shifts its vision towards your forehead
- Mark the behavior with yes, and then praise and give the dog its treat
- Repeat the steps but with a treat from your other hand
- Repeat steps 1-3 with an empty hand, but continue rewarding your dog with a treat when they make eye contact and focus on you
- Only when your dog completely understands your hand signal and cue, add a verbal cue like “watch me” or “look”. Add it before you move your hand
When you add the verbal cue, it is time to add some distractions and make the exercise more challenging. This will improve your dog’s impulse control and the reliability of your watch me cue. Here are some points.
- Hold a treat to your dog’s nose, but slowly move your hand out to the side of your body so that your arm is straight. Give your dog the option to watch at the treat or stare at your eyes
- Yes, the treat will win in the beginning, but wait until your dog looks at you
- Mark that moment and give your pup the treat
- After several repetitions, your dog will understand the correct choice, which is between your eyes. Wait for direct eye contact before marking and rewarding
- As your dog masters the direct eye contact, add a verbal cue before you put the treat out to the side