Training 101 – Look at Me Command

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There is something important for every dog owner to remember. When your dog hears his name it should always be in a positive manner. For example, if you scold your dog saying, “Cosmo, bad dog!” that negative connotation will stick with him and he may not cooperate. If your dog pays attention when you say his name, it makes it easy to follow it with another command such as heel, sit or come.  Make your dog feel positive about his name by doing this. A great command to follow a dog’s name is the look at me command, especially for fantastic for dogs who are easily distracted by cars, skateboards or other dogs.

First, prepare some treats. If your dog is not treat motivated use something he does not normally receive such as cheese, hot dogs or cooked chicken cut into tiny pieces. Put your dog on a leash and drop the leash to the floor. Step on the leash so the dog does not wander away. Hold the treat in your hand and move it towards your eyes. Say the dog’s name in a happy tone. As soon as your dog makes eye contact with you say, “Look at me,” and give him the treat immediately. Timing is very important; do not inadvertently play keep away by delaying the treat or pulling your hand away.

Pit bull - Jack Russell Mix looking at caneraIf you are having a child do this, you may want them to offer the treat from the middle of the palm of a wide open hand to avoid nipping of the fingers. Practice this several times but not so long that your dog becomes full of treats or bored and starts fighting the training. As with all commands it’s better to practice a few times, take a break and continue later.

Once your dog consistently looks at you quickly, you can try to hold his attention longer by increasing the time before you give the treat — but only by a few seconds. If the dog starts to look away remind him by saying “Ah-ah! Look at me.” When he looks back at you give him the treat. Once your dog knows to look at you when you say his name or “Look at me,” you can begin practicing while moving.

Walk with your dog in the heel position, which means walking quietly by your side without pulling or lagging behind. If your dog becomes distracted, stop and back up four or five steps; say the dog’s name and give a slight tug on the leash; say, “Look at me.” He should turn and focus on you; then start walking again with the dog by your side. Praise him for paying attention by saying “Yes! Good look at me!” If your dog becomes distracted again repeat the process.

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You can also mix it up by going from heel, backing up, speeding up and back to heel again. Another option is to place your dog into a sit as a distraction approaches. Use the dog’s name, “Look at Me,” and offer treats until the distraction has passed.

An alternative phrase to use is watch me, rather than look at me. Just remember that whichever command you chose, always use the same one and always use a happy tone, with treats available. Eventually you will be able to wean them off the treat but never forget to praise with a happy, encouraging voice — something that is always readily available to you.

Good luck!

From the Pet Tails Magazine archives; this article was written by Nicole Zarnoch, CCS of Cosmo’s Corner.

Feature Photos Copyright: Cindy Thibault @fromwagstowhiskersinc

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