The K9 Companion class began as an entry level training course for dogs that are 6 months or older. The concepts, however, can be used for all ages of dogs including puppies. The class introduces you to reward-based training techniques that will help you communicate to your dog a basic vocabulary of commands and will strengthen the bond you have with your dog to help make him or her a better house companion. Please review all the weeks because information in latter weeks make be useful immediately. Certainly there are various sequences in which the exercises may be taught and you should do what works best for you and your K9 Companion.

The Attention Exercise

One of the most important goals of dog training is to get your dog's attention focused on you instead of everything else that’s going on around you. One of the best ways to achieve this is to train your dog, with a specific command, to pay attention or watch you. This is a command that we will work on as the weeks progress.

To start training the attention command, pick a phrase or word that you want to use whenever you want your dog to look at you. You can use "WATCH ME" or simply "LOOK". You will use this phrase consistently anytime you ask your dog to pay attention to you.

First, take a treat that you know your dog will love and get his attention while he is sitting in front of y
ou by holding it near his nose but don't give it to him. Next, move the treat near your face and wait for your dog to look at you while holding the treat. Say the command once and the second your dog makes eye contact, say YES give him the treat and tell him he’s GOOD.

Repeat this process many times with treats over the course of several days. The dog soon learns that when he makes eye contact, good things happen. Once you think he understands the concept you can sit your dog in a
ny position, stand up straight and do the exercise from the side. You can also just start to use your finger to point to your eyes, conceal the treat, mark the behavior (YES) when he makes eye contact with you upon the command WATCH and then treat.

Practice this exercise during your daily activities with your dog and you can give treats for your dog making eye contact (after you’ve marked the moment) with you anytime during the day. The dog will start to pay much closer attention to you because he never knows when he might hear that word YES get a REWARD. If you don't have a treat available, then gentle praise will suffice. (GOOD DOG…..VERRRRRY GOOD DOG…..)

This command can then be used as you are walking your dog. When you think your dog may be distracted by something, you say WATCH, mark with YES when he turns and looks at you and reward. As he gets better at this, extend the amount of time you require eye contact before marking the eye contact and dispensing the treat. Vary it and don’t be consistent. Keep him guessing as to when that treat will come. If he’s doing it right tell him GOOD as a “keep going” word He'll be watching you because he never knows when something yummy will come his way and you will be more interesting than the distractions that may come up on your walk. When this concept becomes habit your gentle praise will be enough of a REWARD and you will be pleased to have a dog that pays more attention to you than anything else!

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