How to Train your Puppy in 3 Minutes per Day! Using Eye Contact

Teach your puppy eye contact - the puppy placesWe’ve all seen it.  Dogs working with professionals.  The dog’s eyes are locked onto his handler like he’s the greatest thing in the world!  How do they do that?  And what can they do with that kind of connection?

The Puppy Places‘ 3-Minute Puppy Training Series focuses on teaching you, the busy human, how to quickly and effectively train your puppy to be the best friend you’ve always wanted!

In this Episode

In this episode, we’re working with professional Paws with a Cause trainer Connie Bowne. Paws with a Cause is a service dog training organization that focuses on the needs of the wheelchair assistance community as well as hearing dogs and children with autism. This is an absolutely fantastic organization and I highly encourage you to get involved with them if you’ve got some room in your heart and in your home.  Check out the website for more information.

What we’re working on today

Now obviously, you may or may not be working on training your own service dog, but the fundamentals of how to get fantastic results like Paws with a Cause does, is useful for everyone to learn.

And fundamentals is just what we’re focusing on in today’s training.  We’re working on what Paws calls Eye Contact.  Think of Eye Contact as building your foundation with your puppy or dog.  I include dog here as well because these training concepts aren’t just for puppies.  They work on dogs of any age.  If you need to establish a connection with your dog, whether you just rescued him from an animal shelter (thank you!); or you’re simply seeking to strengthen the bond that you have so you can go on to bigger and better things; Eye Contact will serve you well.

What you’re trying to accomplish is to get your dog to look at you, or make eye contact with you.  Then you want your puppy to make eye contact with you despite other distractions such as his favorite treat.  As Connie mentions, if your puppy is looking at you, he’s not focusing on other things around him like barking dogs, cars going by, or the leaf blowing down the sidewalk towards you.  And when he’s focused on you, he’s primed for you to give him further instructions like sit, down, heel or jump through a hoop.

Make sense?  Eye Contact is the foundation that you build all your other training on top of.  Want to do Agility competition with your dog someday?  Eye Contact sets him up for that training.  Want keep your dog quiet and be able to send him to his bed when someone rings your doorbell?  Eye contact, paying attention to you when you ask for it, gets you started down that path!

Step 1 – Eye Contact with a Young Puppy

So let’s check out the first video.  Here we’re working with Alley, a young 9 week old yellow Labrador puppy.  This is a perfect age to start this training; you get your connection started right away.  But again, you can use this same method with an older dog who you’re trying to connect with.

Piece of cake right?  This simple foundation will reward you and your dog over and over again for years to come.  Remember, puppies of this age have a VERY short attention span.  So get a few quick successes then end the training session and have some fun!  Do this a 3-4 times a day and your puppy will be staring at you like you’re the most interesting person in the world in no time!

Step 2 – Eye Contact with a 7 month Old

Now let’s see what eye contact looks like with a little bit older dog.  Here we’re working with Monty, a 7 month old Yellow Lab.  Monty is a few months older than 9 week old Allie from the first video.  He’s got a good start into his training to be a Paws with a Cause service dog.

As you see in the video, Monty will hold a much longer eye contact than little Allie.  That’s what you’re shooting for at this age or at this stage in his training if you’re dealing with an older dog.  Keep working the techniques you learned in the first video; and when you’ve got a solid eye contact, start increasing the 3 D’s (Duration, Distance and Distraction), which we’ll cover after we watch the third video:

Step 3 – Eye Contact, the Finished Product

At this point, your dog looks to you for guidance.  Well, he’s looking to you for treats and rewards, but we’re going to teach him that he’s looking to you for guidance!  The point is, he’s making eye contact on his own.  He probably won’t stare at you constantly, but he should always check in, and hold your eye contact from any position and despite the three D’s.


The 3 D’s of Dog Training:

  • Duration – ask for longer and longer time in the behavior.  In this case, work on getting your dog to hold the eye contact for longer and longer.  Get him to hold for 10 seconds, reward.  Get him to hold for 12 seconds, reward, etc.
  • Distance – next increase your distance from your dog.  Move a couple steps away.  Does he maintain eye contact?  Great!  Step back to him and reward.  If he breaks eye contact, step back and start over.  Gradually increase the distance.  Be careful about also increasing duration at the same time.  Make sure that when going to your Distance goal you don’t go past his Duration ability.
  • Distraction – The Big Kahuna.  Want your dog to maintain eye contact, and thus engaged with you on your daily walk?  Well, what you’re really asking him to do is to maintain eye contact with you despite the sights, the smells and the sounds of that great big distracting world out there!  So, when you’re within your Duration and Distance boundaries (remember, these both increase as you get better and better), introduce a low value Distraction (don’t go straight for the cat or tennis ball), maybe drop a quarter on the floor.  You’re dog will most likely glance at the quarter as it bounces, but then look back at you.  Mark it with a Yes! and reward him!  That’s what you’re going for!  He of course is going to look at it, but then he comes back to you.  If he goes for the quarter, or keeps staring at it, give him an Uh-Uh, pick up the quarter and start again.

As you get solid with your eye contact, and really any of the training you’ll be doing with your dog, your use the 3 D’s to help solidify that training.

So, now your dog is staring at you adoringly, at your home, and on your daily walks.  What now?  Well make sure you sign up on our website, subscribe to our Youtube Channel, Follow Us on Pinterest, and Like us on Facebook. Because we’ll be bringing you more training tips in the days to come!

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