is very important to teach your puppy to initiate and maintain
eyecontact with you, as the dog will learn to follow you and and not
just the treats in your hand. Eyecontact will help you communicate
with your dog without always having to use treats and lures. The dog
will learn to do things for you because you are important to him and
not just do things in order to get delicious treats.
basic idea of eyecontact exercises is that by keeping an eye on your
face instead of your hands, the dog will concentrate more on you and
be more attuned to your commands. Good communication between handler
and dog is the basis of any good working relationship.
are many exercises which you can do. Here are a few which I have
found to be very fast and easy to teach to all our dogs (I really
cannot draw in Paint, sorry about that. The black blog is supposed to
be a Newf puppy).
In the picture the dog is looking
at the treat and not into your eyes. This is Not what we want. The
dog is supposed to ignore the treat and concentrate on you
This is the exercise that I prefer to start
1. You keep the treat at an arm's length and ask the dog
to sit in front of you. Keep looking at the dog, do not look at the
treat in your hands.
-At the beginning, the dog will stare at
the treat just waiting for the reward for sitting. He may keep
glancing at you wondering why he isn't getting a treat for just
sitting or he may go through all the tricks she knows (sit, down,
turn etc..) wondering what is expected. Just wait patiently until the
dog looks into your eyes for instructions. You can call the dog by
name the first few times you try the exercise, but stop calling as
soon as he knows what is expected. The idea is that the dog learns to
automatically look at you for instructions, without you having to
-When the dog maintains eyecontact with you even for
a nanosecond, praise the puppy a lot and give a reward. Make sure you
start praising when he is looking at you and not the treat.
Repeat the exercise a few times, only asking the dog to maintain
eyecontact for a few seconds to begin with.
3. When the puppy
maintains the eyecontact for a few seconds, increase the time (eg by
2 seconds every time increase).
-If the dog keeps glancing
between you and the treat, you can praise the dog verbally as he
glances at you to let the dog know that eyecontact is what you want.
However the nanosecond the dog looks away, stop the praise - even in
midword. Do not tell the dog 'no' when he is looking at the treat,
just wait patiently until you have the dog's undivided attention.
When the dog stops glancing at the treat, and only concentrates on
you, give the treat and praise the dog a lot!
-When I praise
the dogs for waiting/eyecontact, I usually use a softer and calmer
voice, so that the dogs know they are doing the right thing but do
not get overly excited. I use the excited voice when the exercise is
finished. However all dogs are individuals, so see what works best
with your dog.
4. Repeat a few times and then increase the
time by a few seconds again.
-The idea is that you always push
the dog's limits bit by bit. However make sure you do not try too
much too fast. If you feel that the time limit you have set for the
dog is too much, backtrack and start again with shorter time
is a very good exercise to do just before you give the food. I
usually make the pups sit, and then keep the food bowl at an arm's
length and only when they only concentrate on me and not the food,
will I place the food in front of them. I still do this exercise with
the adults, although they know how to maintain contact for minutes
now - even when I have prime porkchops in the foodbowl!
is also a very good exercise for when you let the dog off-leash. Ask
the dog to sit and only when he has eyecontact, take the leash off
(You don't need to hold your arm vertically for this ;-) ) . As an
additional training tip: it would be a good idea to have a 'release'
command, such as 'free' or 'go on' so that the dog knows the exercise
is finished and he can go and play or start eating.
One very good contact exercise is the “disappearing
act” that we like to do while on walks in the forest.
When the dog is too far ahead and not paying any attention to you,
find a big tree/obstacle and hide behind it.
-Once the dog
realized you are missing, he should and quite likely will actively
start looking for you.
2. For the first few times, call the
dog so that he does not start panicking when he cannot find you.
Praise a LOT when the dog finds you in your hiding place.
Every time the dog is not paying attention to you, hide behind a
tree/obstacle. When the dog knows the exercise, you don't need to
call the dog when you hide.
The idea is that the dog
learns to keep an eye on you, so you don’t have to keep an eye on
the dog. This will make your off-leash walks a lot more pleasant as
you don’t have to have eyes in the back of your head and can just
relax and trust the dog to keep up.
(I think I like Paint, though the pictures are a bit odd
to say the least)
very good contact exercise if your dog does not want to initiate
eyecontact is to try and get the dog interested in what you are
1. Turn your back to the dog, crouch down and start
‘digging’ the ground e.g. with a stick or with your hand. Pretend
you are having the time of your life.
-Pay no attention to the
dog, just concentrate on what you are doing, head down. Do not even
glance back or call the dog, he is air to you.
patiently for the dog to come to you.
-Very few dogs can
resist their insatiable curiosity, and most will come to see what has
you so fascinated.
3. When the dog comes to see what you are
doing and initiates eyecontact (to ask you what’s got you so
excited), praise him and turn around and again start digging away
from the dog.
-The dog will follow you and try and see what
you are doing.
4. Turn around a few times, everytime praising
when the dog initiates contact.
The idea of the exercise
is to get the dog's attention so that reward is given when eyecontact
more contact exercise you can easily do while on leash walks. It is
very easy and has only one step
1. Call your dog only by name
and reward it every time it initiates eye-contact.
name just once (the same basic principle as with the "come"
command), so call out "Newfie" and not
-In the beginning only
call when the dog is already paying attention to you.
will learn very quickly the equation: dog’s name=immediate reward
-When the dog knows his/her name, you will be
able to call him in a crowded, noisy room and he will immediately
focus all of his attention on you. You will almost be able to hear
the neck snap when they twist to look at you so quickly.
training the name, you can reinforce your contact with your dog, and
in situations where there are numerous dogs, your dog will know which
command is directed to it (e.g. when in waterwork you are directing
multiple dogs in an exercise - ”Capri find boat, Vera forward,
eyecontact exercises for the advanced.
1.Instruct the dog to sit next to you and give the “stay”
2.Place a treat a bit in front of the dog. Make sure
the dog stays put and does not get the treat.
-Often dogs get
up when you bend down to place the treat on the ground if the “stay”
command is not yet bomb-proof.
- If your dog gets up, pick up
the treat and make sure the dog cannot get a reward for getting up
without the release command. You must not reward any unwanted
behaviour. Do not acknowledge the dog as even a verbal reprimand is
sometimes enough of a reward for the dog (any attention = reward) and
return calmly to where you started and command the dog to sit next to
you again. Give the “stay” command and try again.
suspect that your dog may not stay put, you can place the treat in a
jar with a lid so that even if the dog gets to the treat, he cannot
-If your dog really really really likes toys, you can
always replace the treat with a toy.
3.After placing the treat
on the ground, return to stand next to your dog
4.When the dog
does not look at the treat in front but gives you eyecontact, give
the release command (e.g. “Go on”) to let the dog know it's
alright to go for the treat.
Start with a second of
eyecontact, and increase the time a second at a time. This is also
good exercise to do with each meal.
You can change and vary
where you place the treat. You can even place it between you and your
dog. As long as the dog gives you eyecontact and does not stare at
the treat, you can give the release command and allow the dog to get
the reward. Remember that even though the treat acts as a reward,
verbal praise is always necessary as well.
the advanced eyecontact execise is a bit too hard for the dog, you
can easily make it easier. Often when the handler comes back to stand
next to the puppy, he does not have the patience to look at the
handler again before getting the food. Often the pups start to get
antsy and their concentration breaks, so it's a good idea to do
exercise 5 in a facilitated form. There is no point in trying
something too hard, so know your dog and his limits.
the dog to sit next to the handler and tell him to "wait”.
Place the food bowl about a meter away from the dog and stand next to
the food bowl.
-You can keep your hand up in the "stop"
position so the dog remembers that he is not supposed to move
3. When the dog looks at the owner and not the food bowl,
praise him, wait a second and then reward the dog by saying the
release command e.g. "go on".
- The exercise is good
practice for the "sit", "wait" and "go on"
you are rewarding the dog for choosing you instead of the food.