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Attention is the key that makes the rest of training possible. Good attention is the foundation for the all-important Recall (Come) and gives you the ability to instantly redirect your dog to better behavior. This is especially true in the case of barking, lunging, staring, or reactivity to other dogs or people.

To train attention, you can teach your dog two games: The Name Game and The Attention Game.

The Name Game: The Name Game simply teaches your dog to make eye contact with you when he hears his name.

  1. Say your dog's name once in a clear tone.
  2. Use your clicker or bridge word ("yup") to mark the exact second that your dog makes eye contact.
  3. Follow with reinforcement (treat, throw the ball, open the door, etc.).
  4. Begin with minimal distractions and gradually add distractions and different locations.
  5. If your dog doesn't respond, try again with less distractions and better reinforcement.
  6. A few short (1-2 minutes) sessions each day will have your dog spinning on a dime when he hears his name!

The Attention Game: The Attention Game teaches your dog that paying attention to you is a good default behavior.

  1. Step on the leash or tether it to something solid while you quietly observe your dog.
  2. When your dog looks at you, use the clicker or bridge word ("yup") to mark the eye contact and deliver reinforcement (treat, release him to his dinner, open the door to go on a walk, etc.).
  3. As long as your dog keeps looking, keep reinforcing with tiny treats and verbal praise.
  4. If your dog looks away, stop reinforcing immediately. Quietly wait for attention.
  5. When he looks back, click and reinforce as above.
  6. If he doesn't look, do nothing-just keep watching.
  7. If you can count 5 full seconds, you may need to move to a less distracting environment or use better reinforcement.

By training your dog to pay attention to you, you will be able to give them something to do other than bark, lunge or jump at other dogs or people. The next time you see your dog starting to misbehave, ask them to pay attention to you instead!