How to Get Your Dog's Attention

Learn how to teach your dog to look at you on cue, check in with you, and pay attention to you on walks. Turn attentiveness into a game, so your dog wants to focus on you.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #172

“Find It” also works as a variation on the attention exercise you just learned. Play while you’re taking your dog for a long, relaxed stroll. Toss a small treat on the ground ahead of you, making sure your dog sees you do it. Just don’t throw the treat so far that Dogalini pulls your arm out of its socket! Depending on your dog’s age, energy level, vision, and smelling skills, she will sashay or trot or run or pounce up to the treat. Or she may have to hunt a while before she finds it. (Yes, it is okay to give her a hint.) Once she eats the treat, keep walking. As soon as your dog looks at you again, toss another treat and let her find it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Every time your dog looks at you, she gets to hunt for a treat. In other words, she gets not only the treat itself, but also the fun of searching. Play regularly and you’ll see your dog start to keep an eye on you, hoping for another round. The more often you play, the longer you can stretch the average interval between treat tosses. Whereas the watched pot never boils, the watched human will toss a treat. Eventually.

“Find It” is especially effective during the pre-breakfast morning walk or the just-got-home-from-work pre-dinner walk, when Dogalini is likely to feel a bit peckish.

By the way, did you notice how in order to teach your dog to pay attention to you, you have to pay attention to your dog? Yes, that’s the secret decoder ring of dog training, right there.

You can follow me on Twitter, where I’m Dogalini. I’m The Dog Trainer on Facebook, and you can also write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and though I can’t reply individually, I may use them as the basis for future articles. Thanks for reading.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).