One of the biggest complaints I receive from pet owners besides barking and jumping is that their dogs simply will not pay attention to them in public. They are so distracted. Here are some simple tips to teach your dog to acknowledge and check in with you. Remember the more that you reinforce a behavior, the more likely it is to increase.
Have your dog earn all of their rewards. For me this is the most important foundation to all training. It is simple, easy and once made a part of your everyday routine establishes your position as leader. Waiting for the food bowl, having your dog wait and then on permission follow you outside, waiting when crossing the street and asking permission before being allowed on the sofa by offering a behavior are all a part of the plan.
Teach your dog to look at you. Start in a quiet place like your home, then move outdoors and try different venues like pet stores and banks. One way to do this is to praise your dog every time they look at you. Another is to actually teach this behavior by taking a treat and placing it up by your nose so that as your dog looks at you they look into your eyes. A quick ‘Yes” to confirm their success. Then once they understand see if you can move the treat to the side of your face, say their name and get eye contact. Say your dog’s name and then WAIT for them to look at you. Say it once. And when they do big praise and a nice treat.
Be interesting! Besides using your voice you can pat your leg, change your pace and your voice, use a sound that catches their attention, master silly walks. The goal is to be far more interesting than anything else in the environment. Squeak a toy, whistle or prance and when you get that look praise and treat.
Take your training on the road. In the photo above Krista and I are practicing at Porcelanosa in Ramsey, NJ. Ask permission from local store owners. Pet stores are a good place to start, moving up to local banks which for the most part are dog-friendly. Remember to bring a treat pouch so you can work hands-free, wear comfortable shoes, and have your dog go to the bathroom BEFORE you even think of entering the store. When training outside the home I make sure that my dog will WAIT until I give her permission to leave the car and before entering any building. Most pet-friendly shop owners will be thrilled to see that you have practiced this skill. And once your dog has begun getting in the habit of working for you it just gets better and better!
What treats do I use for training in public? Cooked chicken, beef and cheese cut up into very small pieces. When the weather is warmer I bring a small lunch tote with ice to keep things fresh.
Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), Consultant for Pet Therapy, Writer for AKC Family Dog and Gazette, Owner of Canines Can Do. Dorice has trained dogs since childhood and her dogs have received many national and international awards. She was mentored by master trainer, Bill Delaney and continues to study with international competitors and renowned trainers Betsy Scapicchio and Diane Goodspeed. She is a certified evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program and an evaluator for the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs. She was elected into the International Honor Society for Teaching, and participates in AKC and CKC performance events.