The “Look” of Love
Before You Teach Your Dog Anything Else — Teach Him/Her ‘Look’
We all know how difficult it can be when trying to get the attention of someone who is focusing on a cell phone. Well it’s not that different when trying to get your own dog to pay attention to you when they’re focused on something across the room or outside the window. Teaching your dog the “look” command will lay the groundwork for all subsequent training. This simple cue not only fosters a bond between you and your dog it’s also amazingly helpful when dealing with life’s countless distractions. Once your dog has a reliable “look” cue, you can prevent all kinds of unwanted behaviors and instead have a dog that’s focused on you and the task ahead.
What You Need
- Super-yummy dog treats like , or
- A quiet and controlled environment to practice
“Look” Training Tips
- Start by holding the dog treat (with your right hand) briefly under your dogs nose - just long enough so he/she smells the treat and knows you have food in your hand.
- Take the treat up and hold it right next to your right eye. (How you hold the treat will also become your hand signal).*
- As soon as the dog looks at you, tell him, “good look!” and give the treat. The first few times, your dog need only hold your gaze for a fraction of a second.
- Repeat these steps a few times and take a break.
- Eventually build upon this so your dog is looking at you for at least a full second, while repeating “good look” before giving the treat
- After several repetitions practice giving the cue and sweep your hand up next to your eye without the treat in your hand.
Training sessions should be brief and fun – take breaks before either of you become frustrated. As your dog starts to understand the cue, you will give treats less and less. But don’t just stop giving treats. Look for situations where he excels when responding to the cue. For example, give treats for responding quickly and/or holding eye contact.
Once your dog performs consistently in a controlled environment, add in some distractions. Practice with him outside or during your daily walks by throwing in a “look” every now and then to keep him on his toes. Remember to praise if he looks back, no matter how briefly.
You Have My Attention – Now What?
Once you can reliably get your dog’s attention with the “look” command, start to use it as a pre-curser to other simple commands like “sit” or “down.” Then stack the “look” with more fun activities like “look” - let’s go for a car ride,” “ look” - let’s go for a walk,” “look” -“let’s play fetch”. These types of activities are like rewards for a successful “look.” In no time you will say “look,” and your dog will quickly spin his head toward you with ears perked – not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to please you and eager know what’s next.
*If you’re left handed, hold the treat in your left hand and sweep it up next to your left eye.
Before your dog learns how to speak English, the only language he/she is fluent in is dog. If you teach your dog just one command (e.g., “look”), you instantly share a language. The more commands you teach your dog, the more you can communicate with each other.