How to get your dog's focus and attention

To train your dog successfully, you need them to take notice of you.


Getting focus and attention from your dog is the first step to training. Without working on their attention to you first, your dog will likely be distracted and more interested in other things, which won’t set them on the path to success. 

Most dogs are quite food motivated, and this works in your favour for training purposes. Your dog will love being rewarded with tasty treats for focusing on you.

Use high value rewards, like boiled chicken, sausage or cheese cut up into tiny pieces. This food is quite unusual and a special treat for the dog, so they will be very eager to learn and give you their attention.

Even if your dog already knows their name, it’s important to start simple and progress from the beginning. 

Two steps to getting your dog's attention

1) Teach your dog to look at you when you say their name

Our dogs hear us say their names countless times each day. Sometimes we want something from them, other times it can mean nothing. That’s why your dog needs to know that when you say their name, they should look at you and give you attention.

Say their name and reward them with a tasty treat the moment they look at you. Repeat this several times, at least twice a day for about a week until they can reliably look at you when you say their name. 

Avoid using their name unnecessarily over the next couple of weeks until you know that they fully understand that they should look at you when you say their name.

2) Response to marker word

Once they are responding well to their name, you can then introduce a marker word. This is whatever comes naturally to you when praising your dog, like ‘yes’, ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’. 

We introduce this word so that when we are training our dog and they do a nice behaviour that we like, we want them to look at us so we can give them a reward. With enough practice, you should notice that if they do something good and you say their marker word, they should look at you, expecting a treat or other reward. 

Ready for training

After a couple of weeks of dedicated focus work training, you should find that your dog is focused on you and ready to learn. 

As you progress, your dog will know that when you say their name, it means “Hey, look at me!”. As you continue with training, use your dog’s name followed by your command, and then followed by your marker word and reward. 

For example: 

“Rover, sit” 
[once the dog has sat] “Yes” 
*Give the dog their treat*

With consistent training, it won’t be long before you’ll have a dog who can’t take their eyes off you.

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