Dogs are often easily distracted. Distractions can range anywhere from an interest to something that is frightening to something that triggers an aggressive reaction. The training plan for today can help you teach your dog to trust you and that you are more fun/interesting than any distraction out there.
The look at that game was coined by Leslie McDevitt in her book Control Unleashed, a very worthy read for any dog guardian. At first the game seems counterintuitive but it works you’ll just have to trust me :-). It can also be quite confusing so check out the awesome sketch by Lili Chin to help you understand it better.
Look At That!
What is it?: Teaching your dog to look at an object or being that worries/triggers her.
Why Teach it?: Think about a situation where you might have been scared. Perhaps you’re walking thru a dark forest and you can’t see anything but you can hear the leaves rustling and a branch next to you cracks. Your fight or flight instincts kick in. Suddenly you find that there is something hindering your escape. Your only option left is to fight! This is the exact situation most dogs have been put thru in their daily lives. So instead of keeping them from looking at the scary, worrisome, or exciting object we are going to encourage it. However, we are going to interrupt them before they hit their trigger threshold and reward them for looking at the object. Look at That teaches your dog to let you know there is a trigger around without doing anything about it themselves. It also helps your dog to understand that their trigger brings food or something they enjoy and they in turn will begin to feel better about the trigger and more confident. For more information about thresholds check out this article by Suzanne Clothier.
- Start by gathering some yummy cookies and your clicker. Set yourself up at a good distance from the trigger.
- Wait for the dog to look at the “trigger” and click the very moment they look! Now give the dog their reward back at you. Repeat! *** Make sure you click before the dog begins to fixate on the object so that they don’t have the opportunity to become overly aroused and react ***
- Continue to play the game until they are offering halfhearted glances at the trigger. At this point you can now require that they look at the object and then look back at you for the click and treat. Take a break.
- In your next session you can move somewhat closer to the trigger (perhaps a few feet depending on the previous session). Start over at step 2 with the training until your dog is offering you step 3.
***This game works best if you can set up the situation and control the distance, activity and excitement.***