or better yet not at all!

Do you ever say “why doesn’t my dog listen to me?”

In order for a dog to work with you, he must be thinking about you. He can’t hear what you are saying if he’s not paying attention. So, how do you teach your dog attention?

Here are a few tips to help you on the road to attention.

Don’t over use your dog’s name
Many dog owners use their dog’s name any time they want their dog to do a command or skill. Let your dog hear the command rather than his name.  That way he will learn what the command word means.

Reward your Dog for Looking at You
Anytime your dog looks at you, reward him. That does not mean that you have to carry treats with you 24/7. Instead, smile or give him a pat on the head. Let him know you appreciate him looking at you.

Just Walk Away
Have a leash on your dog and go out for a walk.   Anytime he looks away from you switch directions without saying anything to him. Turn and walk away!  When your dog catches up, praise him enthusiastically, then turn away in another direction and praise him once again when he catches up. Vary how you walk. Examples might be, do right turn, left turn, go in the opposite direction, stop abruptly or do zig zags. Eventually he will learn to watch were you walk!

Attention While Heeling (for the competitive geared)
If your dog gets distracted, push, poke or tap to encourage him to look at you. Use NON-VERBAL ways to get his attention. Example, if I tap you on the shoulder, you will turn and look at me. Use the same technique and reward your dog when he does look.

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Adding Distractions
If you’re teaching your dog to focus on you, at some point you’re going to have to add some distractions. With your dog on leash, go out in the front yard or go to the local park to practice. Gradually add distractions by getting in more locations that have bigger distractions like shopping malls or parks. If you build upon success and have a sound foundation, your dog knows that you are the best game in town.

Switching to Random Rewards
While treats and toys are effective training tools, you don’t want to have to have them on you all the time. When your dog is focusing on you well, and is able to pay attention with distraction, it is time to start randomizing rewards. Instead of giving the reward every time your dog looks at you, wait and give reinforcements when your dog looks at you immediately when a big distraction appears. Reward the best efforts rather than every time he looks at you.

Continue to Build These Skills
Teaching your dog to pay attention to you is not just a useful skill but also a very important one. When your dog is paying attention to you, he’s not sniffing the ground or running after another dog. In addition, when your dog is focused on you, you can tell him what you want to do next and he can successfully perform the skill.

Do you have a training question? AskDebbyQ