How to Get Your Dog to Listen
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Getting our dogs to pay attention and listen to us is essential. This attention is needed for good communication between us and them, as well as for their safety outside of home. Once you have taught your dog to recognize its name, you should start training it to pay attention.
In this AnimalWised article we will teach you how to get your dog’s attention (and keep it). These tools will make sure that your dog is constantly aware of you and where you are. This training that can prevent, for example, loosing your dog.
How to get a dog to listen when distracted
Unlike other basic dog obedience exercises, when teaching your dog to pay attention you will not train in a place free of distractions, but you will in fact take advantage of these distractions.
In this case, we recommend training your dog with a clicker. A clicker is a small button you press that emits sound to your dog, in turn, grabbing its attention. Clickers are usually used as a sound that tells the animal if they have done something right, this is called positive reinforcement. However, you need to dedicate a few days to this training allowing your dog the opportunity to understand what the sound of the clicker actually means.
Follow this step by step to teach your dog how to pay attention with a clicker:
- Take your dog to a place where there are some light distractions. Your dog should be distracted, but not so much that it doesn’t looks at you. If the place is in a closed and safe area for your dog, you can let your dog run freely. If the place is more open, we recommend keeping your dog attached to its leash.
- Stand still and observe. Your dog will smell the ground, look at everything that catches its attention, explore the place and do whatever it pleases. At some point, however, it will look at you. At that precise moment, click the clicker and give him a piece of food.
- Then walk a little to allowing your dog to explore the environment (this will also act as a reinforcement). Wait until he is distracted again and repeat the procedure.
Keep in mind that timing (the exact moment you click) is extremely important for this exercise. The first few times you use this method, your dog will probably only look at you for a moment, and perhaps only accidentally. Therefore, be sure to use correct reinforcement to manage good timing. If you need a clicker for this, look to try the first session in a more private environment.
Practice this exercise twice a day in short sessions and do not worry about the number of times you repeat it. What matters is that your dog can begin to realize that looking at you from time to time will have beneficial results. Therefore, you can do very short sessions, with three or more repetitions. Of course, if you have time to do more, it is better.
Take advantage of these distractions when walking your dog. Every time you take it for a walk, stop a few times on the road and wait for your dog to look at you. Then click, give him a treat and continue walking.
How to make your dog listen: possible problems
If you notice that these above mentioned methods are not working and your dog is still not looking at you, reassess the distractions you are surrounding yourselves with. It is possible that the place where you are doing the training has too many distractions.
Make sure you do not confront your dog with things or situations that scare it. If your dog is scared or nervous it will not pay attention to you as he/she will be focusing on escaping the uncomfortable environment. If your dog is easily scared, you need to focus on this as a separate training session to desensitize your dog to these environments.
It is very important that you practice this exercise in different places, not only inside your home. Practice in the garden, street, in the elevator aisle or anywhere you like, but not inside only your house.
How to train your dog to listen
Avoid risky places that scare or overstimulate your your dog, or they cannot pay attention. If you are practicing in the street with your dog attached to a leash, pay attention to its body language and anticipate any strap pull. It is dangerous for a medium or large dog to run when it is attached to the leash, because it can cause severe damage with its pull, or possibly even make you fall.
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