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How to Get a Dog’s Attention & Focus on You: 4 Techniques | Pupford

May 1st, 2023

Filed under Training

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“He’s so good at listening…when I can get him to pay attention and focus on me.”

If we had a dollar for every time we hear that!

When it comes to training your dog and teaching them new things, getting them to pay attention is (more than) half the battle.

It’s also important for your dog to pay attention to you for safety purposes. If there’s a potential danger that you need to direct your dog away from, it’s helpful to know your dog will give their attention to you when you ask for it.

While it’s important, it’s a skill a lot of dogs haven’t quite mastered. But that’s okay – we’re all a work in progress.

Today we’re going to talk through how to get a dog’s attention on you and keep it. We’ll focus on four small behaviors that have a big impact, with tips and tricks along the way.

So let’s get right into it. ⬇️

HOW TO GET A DOG’S ATTENTION & FOCUS ON YOU

how to teach your dog their name

It's all about the treats!! Kidding, kidding.

Well, it does involve treats (much to your dog’s delight), but there’s more to it than that.

Here are 4 behaviors to teach to get a dog's attention on you:

  1. Teach your dog their name
  2. Use a positive interrupter
  3. Teach touch
  4. Have a cue for eye contact

Now, let's dive into each tip for getting your dog's attention below. 👇

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, focus behaviors and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶

1. TEACH YOUR DOG THEIR NAME

Most dogs know their name, sure. But does your dog know that hearing their name means they should drop what they’re doing and give you their full attention? Maybe not.

While it’s true that your dog may hear their name so often that it removes the urgency around it, it’s still an important piece of the puzzle when getting your dog’s attention on you.

WHY YOU SHOULD TEACH YOUR DOG THEIR NAME

Most dogs learn their name early on, but it’s helpful to continue strengthening that skill. That way, you have an easily-recognizable word for getting your dog’s attention – which can come in handy in situations with a lot of noises, distractions, and other words.

It’s also helpful for families with multiple dogs to have each dog respond to their own name. This will make both group training and dealing with your dogs individually a lot easier.

Related Reading: How to Train Multiple Dogs

HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG THEIR NAME

Luckily a lot of dogs naturally learn their name over time. But you can definitely work to speed up the process or strengthen the association between their name + paying attention to you.

It’s pretty simple: say your dog’s name and use a high-value training treat to reward your dog every time they make eye contact with you in response.

Be sure to pair the treat reward with a clicker sound or marker word like “yes!” so you can reinforce the behavior even when you don’t have any treats on hand.

Tip: Don’t use your dog’s name and then punish them. If you want them to create a positive association with their name, you want to use it in association with treats/praise/some other reward.

2. USE A POSITIVE INTERRUPTER TO GET ATTENTION

using a positive interrupter dog training

Interruption and attention usually don’t go hand in hand, but for dog training they do.

A positive interrupter is usually a high-pitched sound used to break your dog’s focus (hence “interrupter”) on something else and get them to look at you instead.

WHY YOU SHOULD USE A POSITIVE INTERRUPTER

Dogs respond exceptionally well to high-pitched sounds, so it’s a great way to get your dog to stop what they’re doing and look at you instead.

Once you have that eye contact, you can give additional cues and hold their attention.

HOW TO USE A POSITIVE INTERRUPTER

Teaching a positive interrupter is usually pretty straightforward, as most dogs respond naturally to high-pitched sounds.

You’ll teach it the same way you teach their name: make the noise and mark/reward when your dog looks at you in response.

The key here is to pick one interrupter and stick to it, whether it be a kissy noise, a whistle, or a specific word said in a high pitched voice. Let your dog form a solid association for the best results!

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, focus behaviors and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶

3. TEACH YOUR DOG 'TOUCH'

how to teach your dog to touch

The “touch” cue gets your dog’s attention on you by having them touch a designated spot with their nose. Most commonly, people use their hand as the touch target to get their dog close to them and as an easy segway to eye contact.

WHY YOU SHOULD TEACH YOUR DOG “TOUCH”

“Touch” is a great skill for directing your dog’s attention wherever you want it – including you. It’s great for situations where your dog is farther away and you want them to come closer to you, since they have to physically move to touch the target.

Pro tip: “touch” can also be used to guide more advanced behaviors like potty bell training.

HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG “TOUCH”

Teaching touch is all about repetition. And practice. And more repetition.

Start by taking the desired target (i.e. your hand) and holding it close to your dog’s nose. When they move closer and touch you – even if it’s just to sniff – say “touch” and reward them.

After some practice, your dog will learn to associate the word touch with their nose touching your hand and will be able to initiate the touch on cue.

Pro Tip: Using touch is vital for training a deaf dog!

The first part of the video below, from our Train Your Dog with Me Series, is all about focus & touch!

4. HAVE A CUE FOR EYE CONTACT, LIKE "LOOK AT ME"

have a cue to teach your dog eye contact

Lastly, there’s an approach that lets you cut right to the chase: having a cue for eye contact. This has your dog stop what they’re doing and look at you until you give them further instruction – great for training purposes and to help ensure their focus in environments with a lot of distractions.

WHY YOU SHOULD TEACH YOUR DOG TO MAKE EYE CONTACT

Even if you teach your dog all of the other ways to focus their attention on you, you should still be teaching eye contact.

This cue encourages precise and direct attention on you which is a skill that transfers into almost everything your dog does.

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, focus behaviors and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶

HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO MAKE EYE CONTACT

It’s best to teach eye contact with both a verbal cue (like “look at me”) and a hand signal. That way, you can utilize the hand signal to continue holding their attention so your dog knows to wait until you give them the next task.

Here’s how to teach your dog eye contact or "look at me":

  1. Hold a training treat out in front of you toward your dog
  2. Bring the treat up towards your face and give the verbal cue (watch me, look at me, etc.) and/or the hand signal
  3. Once they have made eye contact with you, mark and reward
  4. Practice this many times, alternating which hand you use and whether you use a verbal cue or hand signal
  5. Practice without a treat in your hand, still going through the motion of bringing your hand toward your face
  6. Eventually, you’ll want to get to the point where you can just give the cue or signal without tracking your hand to your face

RECAP OF KEEPING YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION ON YOU

get your dogs attention on you in high distraction environment

It may seem easy to teach these skills to your dog in a training environment, but that doesn’t always translate to the real world when it matters most.

Regardless of which way you choose to teach your dog to pay attention to you, you’ll always want to start out with no distractions and gradually work your way to an environment with many distractions. Training around distractions should be at the top of your dog or puppy training checklist.

That way you can be confident that your dog will always be focused on you, even when other people, animals, sounds, or objects are present.

Here's a quick recap of 4 things to teach your dog to get their attention on you:

  1. Teach your dog their name
  2. Use a positive interrupter
  3. Teach touch
  4. Have a cue for eye contact

Which method(s) of getting your dog’s attention & focus work best for your dog? Share in the comments!

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, focus behaviors and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶

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