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How to Get Your Dog's Attention

By Linda Cole

No matter how well behaved a dog is, there are times when you just can't get their attention no matter what you do. However, sometimes it's important to get and hold your dog's attention if you need to distract him from another dog or person. Some dogs are more stubborn than others and will ignore their owner because they don't see them as the leader. Getting a dog's attention can help you prevent a dog fight or stop your dog from running out into traffic. In order to train a dog, you need to be able to get their attention.

My dog Keikei was given to me when she was 8 weeks old. She has always been a strong willed, independent and extremely smart dog who loves to learn. As she grew, it was obvious she thought she ran the household and I found myself with a young dog that was developing food aggression, leash aggression and other behavior issues that needed to be corrected. I wanted her to look at me so I could distract her attention from the other dogs to me when she felt unsure while I was working on her training. In the wrong hands, Keikei would have most likely found herself in a shelter because of her aggressive tendencies. She's an excellent dog and quickly learned to pay attention to me with or without treats. That's the goal you're shooting for, because you may not always have a treat or toy when you need your dog to pay attention to you.

Most dogs have something they really like. It could be their favorite CANIDAE dog treat, a special toy, lots of praise, or all three. Once you've discovered what they respond to, getting their attention isn't difficult to do. Keikei loves treats and praise. When dogs understand there's something in it for them, you'd be amazed how quickly they learn what you want to teach them. However, please keep in mind that when dealing with a dog with aggression issues of any kind, if you are uncomfortable or unsure how to work with them, it's best to find a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist to help you with your dog's aggression. It can be corrected.

Never underestimate the bond you share with your dog. The unconditional love and respect they have for a strong leader is important. Getting your dog's attention allows you to better control a situation and helps you protect your dog by distracting him when it's necessary.

How to teach your dog to look at you

Find a quiet area in the house where there are few distractions. Put a leash on him so he has to stay with you. Pick a word or short phrase like “watch me,” “look” or “look at me” and be consistent with using what you decide on. Hold a treat or his favorite toy next to your face, call his name and wait for him to look at you. As soon as he makes eye contact with you, give him the treat or toy and praise him. When he gives you eye contact, that's how you know your dog is paying attention to you.

Like any other training, stay consistent, positive and make it fun. Most dogs can learn in a short period of time to pay attention to you when you call their name. You want him to learn to stop whatever he's doing, ignore distractions and focus on you when you call him. By giving him a command to look at you, you're redirecting his attention and creating a distraction away from another dog, person or situation that could be a problem. The next step is to move outside where there are more distractions, and continue working with your dog. Practice every day to reinforce his behavior.

Even a well trained dog can give in to his canine traits and instincts if a cat suddenly bolts out in front of him or if he feels intimidated by another dog's body language. Dogs will always be dogs, but you have a better chance of controlling your dog when can get and hold his attention when you need to distract him.

Getting your dog to focus on you is a good way to teach them to ask your permission for something they want. My dogs sit and look at me before they go outside. Sitting helps calm a dog down and they have to give me eye contact in order to get what they want. It's the same for food. A calm dog is less likely to get into trouble, is stress free, happier and easier to control. When you talk to another person, you want their full attention; it should be the same with your dog. Eye contact says they are listening – and it's always good when you have your dog's attention!

Photo by Terry Bain

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