The ability for your dog to pay attention to you (the moment you ask him to) is one of the most foundational and important behaviors. It is also one of the biggest complaints people have with their pets. "Fido just won't listen or pay attention to me!" is definitely on the top of the list of reasons why we get called in to help. This is a great behavior to introduce your dog to clicker training and will be a foundational tool you will use nearly every day of your dog's life. It is well worth the short training sessions necessary to help Fido understand that you want him to pay attention to you.
Below are a few instructions to begin training this behavior:
What you need:
Some tasty special treats (cut up into small tic-tac sized pieces)
A quiet "boring" room with few distractions
What you do:
1) Say your dogs name (only once!) and then wait for him to look at you. The split second he turns to look at you, click and immediately give him a great treat. To make it extra exciting you can even give him 2 or 3 treats one right after another (not all in one handful).
2) Wait for him to get a little interested in something else or start to walk away, and then repeat step 1. If your dog automatically offers you behaviors such as 'sit' or 'down' you may need to avoid eye contact for a few moments or pretend to turn around and do something else to give him time to get distracted
3) Continue to repeat steps 1 and 2. You will notice after three or four clicks your dog is going to be less and less inclined to walk away and get distracted. This is a good time to stop! Practice again later in the day.
4) Begin to make this more challenging by changing to a different room and eventually to practicing outside. When transitioning outside, we recommend using extra good treats and start off somewhere like a patio, driveway, or porch where there are fewer smells.
- Dog still not paying attention? Use better treats!
- Dog seems like he is getting bored? Shorter training sessions are always better. Limit yourself to 5 or fewer clicks and practice 2-3 times a day (it should only take 30 second for each training session).
- This training should not require you to move around or say anything other than your dog's name. Say his name only once and then wait for him to turn around and look at you. If it has been 20-30 seconds (which is longer than you think it is) then say his name one more time in a happier, excited voice. Still no response? You need better treats and a more boring environment.
- When praticing outside, keep your dog on leash. If necessary, have a friend hold the leash so that you can calmly manage the clicker and treat delivery.