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Good eye contact.

Discussion in 'Sheltie Training' started by trini, May 3, 2021.

  1. trini

    trini Premium Member

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    Having your dog learn to focus on you, especially when you need their attention to be diverted from something else, can keep them safe in stressful situations. For a herding breed like Shelties who by nature react to anything that moves... other animals, traffic, runners or bikers...this reaction can make a road walk or even time in your yard stressful and put their safety at risk if they are able to get loose and give chase. Teaching your dog to make eye contact on command and be able to get and keep their focus on you rather than the item they are reacting to is really important.

    Dr. Katherine Houpt, Professor Emeritus Animal Behavior at Cornell's School of Vet Medicine explains how she teaches eye contact using the command "look": "You hold a piece of food away from you. Most dogs, if they can't get what they want, will look up at you. As soon as they do, you say 'look' and give them the food. After about 20 times, it becomes a command." I would also add praise to the treat when they make that eye contact.

    Obviously in different situations where longer term focused attention is needed, such as slow moving vehicles, walkers or bikers, you may need to repeat/treat/praise until whatever is causing the reaction has gone by. Thankfully most Shelties are very food oriented so this method of training works well with them...just make sure the food you are offering for this training is a really high value treat.

    Trini
     
  2. Piper's mom

    Piper's mom Moderator

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    That’s a great method for teaching a watch! I’m just in the process of teaching Blueberry and Katherine Houpt is correct! When teaching leave it we were told to wait for the dog to look at you (once they understand leave it) and it certainly doesn’t take long for them to realize they have to LOOK at you!
    An invaluable tool to have is a good watch! I know when Piper was young he wanted to play with every dog he saw...a sit and a good watch me kept him quiet until they’d passed!
     
    Sandy in CT and Sharon7 like this.
  3. Sharon7

    Sharon7 Moderator

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    I was just given this exact exercise to do by a dog trainer friend! Thanks for posting this Trini, it really is so important.
     
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  4. trini

    trini Premium Member

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    I actually prefer the command "watch me" to the command "look" when I am teaching eye contact and focus. I like to keep the command "look" to point out something that I want my dog to see that he/she may not have yet noticed...it takes the startle factor out of the situation when they see what is coming and then I switch to "watch me".
    Trini
     
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  5. Piper's mom

    Piper's mom Moderator

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    I do too, watch me is used to get the dog to focus on me. Getting the dog to look at me when there’s a treat on the floor is them asking for permission...as in can I have it?
     
    Sandy in CT likes this.
  6. Sandy in CT

    Sandy in CT Premium Member

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    Agree on the importance of this command!

    My trainer has us start this very, very early. I do use 'look' and then 'watch' is more for hey, sit here and watch this with me. We use 'look' during our walks - if a neighbor dog comes out barking and Brodie gets hyped up, we use 'look' to keep his eye contact on us and try to redirect his energy and attention. 'Look' is very important in Rally where your partner needs to be focused on you, your voice, body language, motion. We used 'look' extensively when Brodie became hyped up over cars driving by - we have a neighbor (older than me) who loves to gun his engine right before he drives in front of our house - he started teaching Brodie to chase his car by doing that. Over the last year, we've used 'look' and then incorporated 'watch' where we have him sit/watch or stand/watch or down/watch and simply watch the car go by. We started always using treats, then incorporated a 'high five' as well as just happy, 'yeahs' and 'yes' so he never quite know what the reward is now when he obeys - he might get a goodie, he might get a ton of excited praise or he may get a simple good job and some petting.
     
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