5 hacks to get your dog to listen to you no matter what | Pupford

5 Hacks to Get Your Dog to Listen to You

Wanna know the secret to a well-behaved dog? It’s being able to get your dog to listen to you.

That’s why you are here, and that’s exactly what we are gonna help you accomplish! These 5 hacks will have your dog listening to you faster than you can say “look at me”! 😉

Keep in mind that these hacks are not 10-second fixes! If you are looking for “quick fixes” in dog training, you may want to rethink how you are approaching your relationship with your dog. Effective and lifelong learning for dogs takes patience (on your part), practice (for both human and dog), and consistency.

Every second invested in teaching your dog to listen to you is an investment in their safety. Not only that, but it’s also an investment for your peace of mind.

Quick Note on Exercise

One quick note on training your dog to listen to you is that almost all dogs, especially puppies, need ample exercise. Many dogs turn to problem behaviors (ignoring you can be considered a problem behavior) when they have too much pent-up energy.

So, give your dog age-appropriate exercise every day, and especially before training. A general rule is 5 minutes of exercise per month of age, twice a day. So a 3-month-old puppy can have 15 minutes of exercise, twice a day!

5 hacks to get your dog to listen to you now | Pupford

Let’s get to it, 5 hacks to get your dog to listen to you!

  1. Teach Your Dog “Look at Me”
  2. Never Use Your Dog’s Name in a Negative Way, Ever
  3. Use an Extremely High Value Treat When Training
  4. Exposure, Exposure, Exposure
  5. Use a Long Lead When Training Recall
  6. [bonus tip] Start Small and Control the Environment

Listening Hack #1: Teach Your Dog “Look at Me”

teach look at me to get your dog to listen to you | Pupford

The ultimate way to get your pup to listen to you is to teach an effective “look at me”. You may have heard of this behavior referred to as focus, watch me, or another similar name, and each has the same effect.

The desired result of this behavior is teaching your dog to look you in the eyes when you ask. When their eyes are on you, they are ready to listen. Period.

Teaching look at me is simple in nature but can take months of consistent practice for a pup to internalize in a variety of situations. Let’s break down how to teach look at me. For a more in-depth learning of ‘look at me’, be sure to sign up for our 100% free 30 Day Perfect Pup online training class. Sign up here.

How to Teach Look at Me

Step 1: Use a high-value treat or other currency (like a ball or tug toy) to get your pup’s attention. If using treats, give them one or two treats to pique their interest.

Step 2: Take the treat and hold it up to your face, right between your eyes or near your nose. The instant your pup engages eye contact (even if it’s just with the treat), give a verbal “yes” or “good” and reward your pup with the treat.
Pro Tip: Give the treat from down near your waist, not straight from your eyes. Your pup should know that the treat itself doesn’t come from your eye area, just that the area is where they should look.

Step 3: Repeat this step multiple times. As your pup starts to understand the behavior, introduce the word “look at me” (it can be focus, watch me, or whatever you choose, just remember to stay consistent). Do this by raising the treat towards your eye area, and as soon as your pup looks at you give the verbal cue “look at me” followed by a “yes” or good”. Then reward with a treat.

Step 4: After enough practice, you can start incorporating a hand signal! I’ve personally found putting my pointer finger right between my eyes to be the best, but find what works for you! Do the hand signal, and as your pup looks at you give the verbal cue “look at me” and “yes” or “good. Then reward with a treat.

Step 5: The final step is to ask for the skill by saying “look at me”. If your pup makes eye contact with you, give an energetic “yes” or “good” and reward with a treat. If your pup doesn’t understand the cue word yet, then take a step back and work through steps 2-4 again.

An important tip is to keep your “training bubble” small, meaning stay close to your pup while first teaching this skill. That can mean sitting on the floor and getting closer to your pup! The closer you are, the easier it may be for your pup to give you their attention.

We’ll cover it more in-depth later in this article, but be sure to practice “look at me” in a wide variety of situations, environments, and distraction levels. Remember, start simple and work towards more difficult scenarios. Baby steps!

Listening Hack #2: Never Use Your Dog’s Name in a Negative Way, Ever!

Remember when you were a kid and your mom would yell your full name?

Oh h*ck.

You immediately knew something was wrong or you were in trouble (typically the latter). That’s why to. this. day. most of us fear our middle names and hate hearing it… especially coming from our parents! 😉

The same goes for our pups!

If you constantly use your pup’s name when they are in trouble or did something wrong, you’ll likely create a negative connection for them between their name and bad behavior. The problem is, the next time you try to address them it’ll be that much more difficult to get their attention. Trouble!

Instead, only use their name for positive things and during training cue words. For example, “Buddy, come.” Once he comes to you, it’s all treats and praises! Not only will he be learning what “come” means, but he’ll be associating his name with positivity!

When needing to communicate that a behavior isn’t correct or desired, use “no” or “ah-ah” instead of their name!

Listening Hack #3: Use An Extremely High-Value Treat When Training

freeze dried beef liver training treats for dogs of all ages | Pupford

One truth in teaching your dog to listen, especially in early stages of training, is that you need to entice your pup with a very high-value treat. Your treat needs to be more valuable than pretty much any distraction out there!

Think about it… Is a piece of a carrot really going to be more valuable to your pup than the cat that just scooted by? Sorry but no!

Whenever working on formal training, and again, especially in the early stage of learning new behaviors/skills, you need to use a high-value treat. It’s recommended to not only find a high value treat your pup will love but also one that is healthy and low-calorie.

When training with treats you’ll likely be giving your pup many, many treats! If you’re giving them treats chalked full of calories and fat, you’ll have a tubby pup in no time.

One of the most popular, effective, and healthy high value treats out there is freeze dried beef liver. Freeze dried beef liver is great because dogs absolutely love the taste, it’s a simple and healthy ingredient, and it’s low calorie.

Want your pup to listen? Check out these freeze dried liver training treats now!

freeze dried beef liver treats | Pupford

Listening Hack #4: Exposure, Exposure, Exposure

Did you know how to ride a bike the first time you sat down on one? No way.

So, can you really expect your pup to know how to behave in a situation they’ve had zero experience or practice with?

The pup parent of three in me says no. 100% no.

One of the most vital aspects of getting your dog to listen to you is to expose them to a wide variety of situations in which you want them to listen. Odds are you’re finding it difficult to get your pup to listen while you are out on walks, at a dog park, in a new environment, etc.! It’s not a coincidence…

If your biggest listening problem for your pup is when other dogs are nearby, it’s probably time for some dedicated training sessions in the presence of other dogs.

Exposing Your Pup to New Environments

practicing a new trick in a new environment is how to fix a common training mistake | Pupford

For example, take your pup outside of a dog park (on a leash, of course). Start maybe 20-30 feet away from the fence of the park. Get your pup to perform a “look at me” (we covered it above, remember?), lay down, sit, etc. and maybe even a good “come when called” from a short distance.

As your pup nails those behaviors from that distance of 20-30 feet, move 5-10 feet closer and repeat.

Keep working this routine until you’re right next to the fence. Remember, that fence will probably have a handful of dogs right next to it! Don’t forget that every pup learns and progresses at a different pace. Stay patient and if the 20-30 foot distance from the fence takes a few training sessions to get down, that’s okay!

This type of “exposure” or what is often referred to as conditioning, is absolutely necessary for getting your dog to listen to you in all types of distractions and situations.

Listening Hack #5: Use a Long Lead When Training Recall

using a long lead to help a dog listen in new environments | Pupford

Sometimes it seems like when you need your pup to listen most, nothing works. Frustrating, right?

And that’s where leashes and long leads become your best friend in training. If your pup is connected to you via the leash, you have much more control over the situation and their attention!

Whenever you start with simple training in the home, keep your pup on a leash. It makes redirecting their attention back to you about 1,000,000 times easier.

Same is true when teaching recall or “come when called”. Odds are that this is one of the main reasons you want your pup to listen to you. That type of listening is crucial for your pup’s safety in so many situations.

When teaching recall, a long lead (typically 20-30 feet long) will be a game-changer. Imagine you are working on a longer recall, say from 15 to 20 feet away. You work through the same routine that worked at 5 feet away, but the second you call your pup a cat goes running across the street.

Their attention will likely turn away from you, and they may even try to chase that cat. But, if you have them on a long lead, it’s very easy to give a slight redirection back to you with the help of the lead. Of course, I’m not talking about yanking or pulling your dog towards, that’s not the point. Simply, it’s a tool to help get your pup’s brain back to you so you can refocus their listening and attention.

Long leads are a life-saver and training must-have. Get one here.

Bonus Listening Hack: Start Small And Control the Environment

avoiding dog training mistakes by controlling the environment so your dog will listen to you | Pupford

Here’s a little bonus listening tip for you! Along the same lines as exposure, it’s extremely important to make sure you start small and keep control of your training environments. This will help you teach your pup to listen! (PS- we cover this topic in-depth in our free 30-day online training class, led by Zak George. Sign up here.)

Whenever you train a new behavior/skill it is your job to make sure you set your pup up for success. So if you’re trying to teach your pup “look at me”, start off in a very familiar, comfortable, and distraction-free environment. That could be your living room for example.

Practice that “look at me” just in your living room, until your pup has it down perfectly. Then and only then should you introduce a more difficult environment.

Back to our learning to ride a bike example. When you were first being taught, you probably had training wheels, right? Think of distraction-free, familiar training environments as your puppy’s “training wheels”.

Just like when you learned to ride a bike, you should keep your pup’s training wheels on for however long they need to internalize the behaviors and skills. Taking the training wheels off of a toddler’s bike too early will likely end with a crash, and the same goes for puppy “training wheels”.

Recap & Overview of How to Get Your Dog to Listen to You

Getting your dog to listen to you and pay attention is not an easy behavior to teach. It can take months of consistent practice and conditioning. Remember, start small and focus on incremental success. Your pup needs to learn to crawl before they walk, figuratively speaking.

Whenever you train your dog to focus, recall, or any behavior, it’s beyond important to use a high value treat! Something they will absolutely love, every single training session. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back on that too! Save 23% on our high value, healthy, and tasty beef liver training treats here.

freeze dried beef liver treats | Pupford

Written by Devin Stagg

Since being deprived of dogs during his childhood, he and his wife decided to make up for it by having three dogs, two Lab puppies, and one grandpa Puggle. Meaning you won’t see him not covered in dog hair. When he’s not busy training his dogs and/or picking up their poop, you can find him cheering on Tottenham Hotspur and all Cleveland sports (yes, even the Browns).

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90 Comments on “5 Hacks to Get Your Dog to Listen to You

  1. Great article. I liked the suggestion of using high value treats. We always have better results when Using very high quality treats. I have also found that my dog focuses on training much better after we have a good play session. Great tips!

    1. Thanks for the comment, high-value treats really do make a difference! And I agree 100%, a play session before is a game changer! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. It cracks me up when my puppy is so fixated on a distraction (e.g. bird, toy, her dinner being prepared) that, when I say “look at me”, she turns her head and moves her eyes only exactly as much as is absolutely necessary in order to make eye contact with me! So funny! Anyway, I’d like to know if a retractable leash could be used instead of a long leash for recall training. We get all tangled up in the long leash, or it gets caught on something (rocks, trees, sticks) that it just ends up being more of a pain and even distracting her from training. Thanks!

  3. It’s really important for my pup to have a high value treat, there are lots of distractions for him with all the little kids we have. I have found a great treat he loves and he is responding well to commands I. Our home and we are slowly implementing them in new environments as well as adding new tricks.

  4. Love these tips. I have been guilty of not exercising my dog before training and it doesn’t usually work out well. I’ve also thought “He’s look at me is perfect in the house and back yard so he’ll have no problem with it on a walk”. Wrong. He’s still a work in progress, thank you for this article.

  5. I learned that using your dog’s name negatively is bad. I never thought using my dog’s name while scolding her would be bad. Very interesting article with lots of good tips!

  6. Teaching look at me is the most effective thing I’ve learned in training my dog. It works for a very simple reason, you are teaching your dog that it’s ok to be excited about the squirrel/cat/dog etc over there, but i want you to look to me for direction. So many training methods out there rely on training the natural curiosity out of the dog.

    1. I couldn’t agree more! Once you practice it enough your pup will naturally look at you for direction, and that’s the key! Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. Not using your dog’s name negatively is such a great tip and one that was super hard for me in the beginning. It’s so instinctive to yell the dog’s name when they are doing something they shouldn’t be!

  8. This is wonderful – thank you! We are getting our new puppy on Saturday and I’ve been devouring all your articles. I especially appreciated the advice on the long-leash training here, for practicing longer-distance recalls.. I have so much to learn – thank you for being a fabulous teacher!

  9. I love the reminder of making sure your dog is looking at you in the eye, because when they do..only then is when you have their attention. It’s those reminders that help take training your pup to the next level. Thanks pupford!

  10. Ah geesh…I’ve been saying my pups name to get his attention when he’s barking his fool head off, then saying No, stop, shhh, etc. Going back to simply Focus, sit, yes! Thank you!

  11. Really informative…. I need to be better at not saying my puppies names when they do something that I don’t want them to do. Its so hard to not to say their name when you have two puppies and one of them isn’t doing the right thing.

  12. These are so helpful and just as my pup has to do things over and over, I’m finding out as I’m a new dog owner that I have to read over and over tips to train him as this is all new to me as well.

  13. I’m so guilty of using my puppy’s name in a scolding way! I need to really remind myself not to do that. I want him to associate me calling his name with positive things, nothing negative, Thanks for the reminder!

  14. I can stress enough how much “look at me” has helped with out puppy. When he is barking like crazy I use look at me to get his attention and reward him.

    1. It’s a real game-changer for sure, wish I would have practiced it since Day 1. Keep up the good work and thanks for your comment 🙂

  15. I worked on “look at me” today when my 9 week old puppy wanted to chew up a cat toy. She was able to glance at me for a second…but she left the toy alone! I’ll take that, and I’ll keep working with her! So excited to be using great techniques from the very beginning.

  16. Teaching our pup “Look at me” has been an incredible advantage for the rest of our training. Not to mention, it makes for adorable pictures. 😉 I watch Zak’s videos over and over because I pick up different subtleties every time.

  17. This article really reinforced what you teach in perfect pup in 30 days. My dog just learned look at me. It was easy to do in a controlled environment.

  18. I learned about so many things I was doing incorrectly! My pup is focusing more and watches me intently! Also, tried Pupford Beef food andbChico loved it!

  19. I like the training outside a dog park suggestion. I have a reactive dog so I’ve been trying to work with him around houses with barking dogs on our walks (not sure how all my neighbors like this…) as well as outside of PetSmart while dogs are going in and out. I’m going to try the dog park idea next!

  20. This article is great especially for first time dog owner to know like me. When I got my puppy I used these tips as a guide to teach him and he learned quicker this way. It also help build a loving and trustworthy bond between my dog and I.

  21. I loved reading this article. Great tips and great motivator to keep training. I’ve very much overcome using my dogs name negatively but my husband on the other hand laughs at my method of training and does use our dogs name for scolding. Don’t know how to change this. I’ve asked him to just say NO. Any advice?

    1. Sometimes all you can do is just keep reminding as kindly as possible 😉 Maybe get him to watch some of the videos and read some of the articles as well, some people just need to learn it firsthand 🙂

  22. Hi, thank you for these tips. I’ve only had my guy for a week. We are both newbies at this training and can use all the help possible.

  23. I have yet to try the look at me trick. But i found it very use ful that you use a treat frist them move on having the treat in a diffent loaction and try to get them to focus on look at me. I exercise my shiba inu for a half hour before training shes only 12 weeks but shes done great with sit and leave it right now cant wait to tey leave it.

  24. I’ve been working on “look at me” with my puppy for a couple of weeks now and it’s going pretty well, but I had never considered where to give the treat from! It’s a really good point that the treat should come from the waist and not the eyes, I’m going to have to start doing that.

  25. What I have learned is to teach in different environments. I never thought about training by a dog park, but that is a great way to get my puppy use to the distractions but still come when called upon

  26. The look at me section was one I was not familiar with with dog training before my wife and I got our 8 week old Golden. It has made him come right up to us, sit down, and immediately give us focus since we try to always start with it with our training sessions. We are now doing the 30day training that Zak has, and we are already seeing progress from just a few hours! Having a structured training and consistency is something that we believe is vital to progress.

  27. Such great tips, not using their name negatively is such a simple rule and makes so much sense but it is one I’m still working on. Lol

  28. I always tried to do the look at me never knew to give the treat from the hip area not straight from the eyes!! Gonna retry this trick now.

  29. I am having trouble with recall at a distance. My Guinness, 8 month old Aussie lives to run but I don’t have a fenced yard and there are many things he could get hung up on with a long lead. Am I dooming my recall with him because of giving him too much freedom too soon?

    1. Everyone situation is different! It may be helpful to take a step back and practice the recall at shorter distances. Can you try a more open park so there are fewer things for the lead to get caught up on?

  30. My two year-old goldendoodle, Callie, is great with all of our training. It cracks me up and can get frustrating when she gets in her “stubborn mode” and not follow any command, even in our living room. She has actually turned her head away like a toddler. Suggestions besides laughing?

    1. Haha, that totally can happen! Sometimes you may just need to take a quick break, maybe play some fetch or tug and then get back to training 🙂

  31. One thing I’d never known about with other dogs I’ve had was teaching “look at me” or using that as a way to reset & focus. Also, having a really long leash to work on “come”. Both of these have really worked well with our newest family member

  32. The amount of exercise before training was helpful and measurable (didn’t know the recommendation is about 5 minutes per month of age, twice a day). Also didn’t know to not use the dog’s name negatively.

    1. That exercise recommendation is a guideline (just wanted to clarify), some dogs may need more or less so be sure to keep an eye on how your dog responds to that amount of exercise 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  33. My pup has got look at me down pretty well, when he wants to! Ive watched all of Zaks videos and got his book and try to follow to a T but the leash training and working through distractions have been tough. I am deffinetly going to try your idea of training sessions outside of the dog park though!

  34. Great read. Using high value treats have really upped my training game. I can’t wait to see how much more my pup can learn!

  35. Amazing article very informative and informational. I think teaching a dog command look at me or how my dog knows it “look” is very key thing to teach your dog. Especially in places where your dog can be distracted and you want their attention. My dog frequently looks up at me if we are in a store or just out and about now without the command being said.

  36. Not sure if my last comment got posted or not so I’ll do another one just in case. I believe look at me is a great command to teach your dog. Especially when you want your dog to focus on you in a busy surrounding. My dog always “looks” at me when in a busy store or just at home. Now he’s gotten to the point where he checks in on me. I also think having a high value treat is essential to dog training, chicken has been a favorite of my dog since he was a puppy.

  37. It’s super hard to not use their name negatively sometimes because I see a lot of parents do it to their own kids. Im trying really hard to just say “no” when she does something wrong. So far so good 🙂

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