Eye Contact and Focus; a Behavior Broken Down

puppy training, labrador training

Thanks to DrMark for the photo

One of THE number 1 things I refer to in dog training, whether it is basic or advanced training is eye contact and focus.

Eye contact and focus is a key behavior in and of itself.

It is also crucial for good heeling and leash manners but that is more of a complex behavior because it relies on more than one thing, giving eye contact, being in heel position, moving, and often ignoring things going on in the background.

So first, let’s start off with basic eye contact and focus.

You can add more complex behaviors as your dog is successful and moves along in his training.

Right now it is crucial to build a strong foundation of eye contact!

I start with puppies as young as 8 weeks, getting them to show me this behavior.

It truly is the foundation of my obedience and almost everything I do revolves around it to some degree.


I often get asked, why should I teach my dog to give me eye contact?

There are several reasons actually.

If he is nervous; eye contact and staring at you can be calming for dogs.

If you have a dog that is dominant and wants to be in charge, eye contact is a good way to reinforce that you are the leader.

Eye contact and focus REQUIRES your dog to ignore everything else!

Your dog cannot stare at you, while barking, lunging and looking at something else!  Often, my dogs have no idea what is going on around them because they are too busy staring into my eyes for a reward.  This allows me to take them many places and work around other dogs because they have another coping skill.  Instead of staring at another dog (bad behavior) they are staring at me and ignoring everything else!

And, if you ever plan to compete; eye contact and focus can be crucial to your success.

It is a basic behavior that can get more and more complicated as your training progresses.

What You Need

  • Your dog
  • A leash
  • Great treats or toys
  • A clicker
  • Your eyeballs

Getting Started

Get your dog and put him on a leash if you so desire.  He doesn’t have to be on a leash as long as he won’t wander away.

Put some great treats in both hands and a clicker in one if you are clicker training.

Show your dog that you have treats in BOTH hands by letting him smell your hands and the treats; and then bring both hands up by your eyes.

Your dog is probably going to go from looking at one hand, to the other; from one to another (because he knows they hold the treats) then he is probably going to get irritated and STARE into your pupils; it is at this exact moment that you want to click, praise and treat!

Try to wait and make sure that his pupils meet your pupils since THIS is the behavior you want to reinforce.

Looking at “my face” is not good enough for me!  I want a dog that stares into my eyeballs; this way I can see exactly what he is looking at!

Frustration usually leads to the behavior in the beginning, and then you can quickly ask for it by giving it a command.

Be patient and don’t give in too early or you won’t have a dog that truly understands the concept.

It can be common for your dog to run through a gamete of behaviors if he has previous training and this is new to him.  Ignore him if he lays down, barks, or otherwise acts frustrated.  Wait until those eyes meet yours and click!

german shepherd training, puppy training

Even Babies Can Learn that Eye Contact is Reinforcing!


If he absolutely WON’T stare into your pupils you can do some cheating in the beginning.

If you put a treat in your mouth, he will likely look at your face so that you can reward him.

You can also spit treats from your mouth at him so that he will look up at you.


I don’t prefer these methods because I want a dog that looks directly into my pupils and doesn’t just vaguely look at my face.

I do, however, realize that some dogs are uncomfortable establishing direct eye contact so these tactics may be needed in the beginning.

But work toward actual pupil to pupil contact!

Once your dog understands the behaviors and becomes reliable you can add a command to the behavior.

I use “READY” because in competition when the judge says “Are you ready?”  I can kind of cheat and say “Ready!” while still giving a command to my dog to tell him what to do!

Once he understand the command; I begin to proof his understanding and its meaning.

I wiggle my hands up and down with treats in them and only reward him if he continues to stare at me.

If he breaks I can choose to tell him “No” or “Wrong” or “Ehh” so he knows that behavior is wrong and won’t be rewarded or I can simply wait for him to do what he has learned.  Either way is acceptable and I do either depending on the learning level of the dog.  I would never tell a puppy “wrong” as it might confuse and frustrate him; but I might tell my 2 year old female when she makes a mistake so she can stop whatever it was and move on to a new behavior, but she knows the game!

Once my dog has mastered ignoring my hands waving about, I will add more and more distractions; throwing toys, jumping, walking, letting another dog into the room… whatever the distraction I want my dog to be able to keep and maintain eye contact.

Then we will extend the time that he holds it; and finally ask for it in different environments (inside, outside, front yard, car, church parking lot).

Your dog should truly understand that “Ready” or “Watch” means to give you eye contact no matter what and to SUSTAIN it until you tell him otherwise.

Use GREAT treats and reward for a job well done and do this often!

I often make my puppies work for their meals while giving me eye contact!

I made my 16 week old puppy give me sustained eye contact outside of a boarding kennel the other day.  He was not allowed to watch the barking running dogs, he was rewarded for ignoring everything and just staring at me!

In order for your dog to succeed in the real world you must train often and work in more and more difficult environments!




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  1. Donna Kerr says:

    Thank You for your answer to my problems from my Chihuahua! They are very helpful!



  2. joyce cook says:

    chet. have a dog who I rescued from my neighbors,horrible living conditions.He is part CORGY AND CHHUAHUA. He has a bad habit of sneaking up on people and wanting to nip them on the back of the legs.Everyone in our household has been nipped. I keep him on a leash in the house and when the family comes over I put him in the bedroom ..I don’t have a problem with him nipping me or does my companion. They are wanting me to keep a muzzle on him, and when we go somewhere my companion doesn’t want him to go with us unless he has a muzzle on him. I haven’t got the muzzle yet but I may have to.Could you give me some idea how to break him from doing this? joyce


    Minette Reply:

    Since I cannot see your dog, I cannot give you advice on biting and aggression issues.

    I would tend to agree that a dog that bites should be muzzled if there is a chance he will bite someone.

    Otherwise he can lose his life and you can lose all of your possessions in a legal battle.

    I recommend that you contact a veterinary behaviorist to come to your home, witness the behavior and put you and the dog on a behavior modification program!


    Kate Reply:

    Joyce, maybe your dog is going into “herding mode”


  3. Sidney says:

    Hi Minette, concerning eye contact my dog will look at me every few minutes when walking and of course I treat her for this but when there is a distraction I can not get her attention, is there any way to reinforce the eye contact before or during a distraction? Thank you


    Minette Reply:

    You have to put it on your terms, she gives it when you ask for it, not when she desires.

    You have to build a good foundation at home and toward having her STARE at you for a minute or two at a time.

    Once she can do this then you can add small distractions to your training and work your way up to big distractions.

    We as competitors have our dogs stare at us for a 10-20 minute obedience routine where the dog almost NEVER breaks eye contact and there are kids and people and dogs running around barking etc.

    If you train for it you can get through anything, but it takes work!


  4. suzanne says:

    I wondered how you got a dog to do this – I thought it was more a breed behavior.


    Minette Reply:

    Any dog can do it! It just has to be taught and rewarded!


    Robin Ruth Henderson Reply:

    Hi Minette,

    time ago I wrote about my 12mth old…maybe a bit more…Neo that was exhibiting bone aggression. Been working with him in a rather unconventional manner and do not think trainers would think much of my ‘methods’…but they worked. He’s gone from a large black silly pup to an adult dog that just has to give me presents…and these are his bones, his toys, anything he has appropriated from the top drawer in the kitchen where I keep “stealies”. He exhibited this behaviour of his own accord…opening the drawer and taking my tea towels. I substituted the tea towels and I decided to see where it would lead. He opens the draw ( and only that drawer), selects an item and skips off down the yard to hide it…and when he wants my attention or when he sees I am below par or upset, he gives me something of “his” then sits in fron of me with such wonderful eye contact as if trying to guage if it pleased me….of course it does every time!
    No more does he challenge me for any of his food and not even the biggest juciest bone…if he has it and I want it back he’ll give it to me but not without a game first….so go figure.
    We’ve gone from a potentially dangerous food aggressive dog to one that will do anything I ask and so easy to teach. I’ve taught him to “give thanks” – head between his paws before he eats while I recite the “Thankyou God for…”…with his food bowl a few inches from his nose. Recitation over he looks up at me, and waits and will not touch his food until I tell him “Good Boy”. Do not know what I’ve done right…maybe nothing…maybe my dog has grown into what he was bred to be,I don’t have a clue except that his ‘brother’ that I had for years was the same..bringing him up was hell until all of a sudden, a different dog when he matured a bit. but as the Cat Stevens song goes: “I love my dog and my dog loves me…”…. and he’ll even give up his food for me! Go figure. I am no dog trainer, I’m a cat person, I have one of these dogs for protection.. but am assured that none of the other owners of pups from those litters have done as well as me..HUH???? I don’t think I’m the one who deserves the medal.


    Dawn Stoner Reply:

    Robin, it sounds like you have the gift and the respect of your dog. I’m working on that with my little german shepard puppy that came from a breeder at 4 months old and was never house broken. She’s a nipper and likes to bite my hands. Every time she does, I put my hand in her mouth and she stops biting after a few seconds. I think she realizes she doesn’t want to bite me, but she’s teething and she can’t help it. In the past two days of playing, 5 of her baby teeth have fallen out. I might have to start her on baby food before too long. LOL. Thanks for sharing your story.


  5. Paul says:

    RE: joyce cook

    just want to share a few principles on the “dog biting problem”, and dog ownership.

    it is a complex thing to resolve, but there are reasons why dogs bite…
    1. the age they where taken away from their mother, has an enormous effect on what they will turn out like in later life, to illustrate this: when pups are between 6 and 9 weeks old, the mother is constantly correcting bad behavior, disciplining each pup by turning it onto it’s back, holding the pup by the throat, and growling at it. the pups very quickly realize they have done something wrong and “self-correct” ( nice word that ! ).
    in contrast to this, pups that are removed from their mother at 6 weeks old, NEVER receive this discipline and grow up lacking, a example of this is: they may be hard to toilet train as pups, hard to train in social rules as they grow older, they become very dominant in themselves, ignoring their owners commands when they choose too.

    2. smaller breeds are more prone to being dominant because of their owners INACTION. because of their small size, they are ALLOWED to get away with a lot of things, instead of being corrected immediately. example: when a dog jumps onto your lap unexpectedly, more often than not the person allows a little dog to do this, but what would happen if the dog was a 130 pound bullmastiff !
    Question: “so what does the dog learn from this ?” Answer: “the DOG is in CHARGE !”

    3. teaching the dog “socially acceptable behavior” is MANDATORY, this is how pack animals survive in the wild, they have a social structure that WORKS, the dominant male ( sometimes female ) has the RESPONSIBILITY to enforce the rules for the good of the pack.

    basic dog ownership involves supplying:
    1. the spiritual things ( unconditional love, joy, respect, acceptance )
    2. the emotional things ( play, environment, socializing, relaxation )
    3. the physical things ( food, water, accommodation, healthcare )

    when you give respect to the animal, you will acquire respect from the animal, if this happens, then the animal will “go the extra mile” in trying to please you, training will be fast paced because the animal is WILLING and WANTING to LEARN.

    spending a lot of time with your animal is very IMPORTANT to THEM ( it reinforces your respect and acceptance of them, ), and having patience with them in training is a must, remember they are not as smart as humans ( a highly debatable topic when you look at the condition of the planet )

    “dog training” should be rephrased “human training” as it is the owner that needs the initial training, not the dog. if we have previously made mistakes in training ( remember training is 24/7 from the dogs perspective ), we cannot blame the dog for doing what we have allowed him/her to do, as the dog believes it to be socially acceptable behavior if we DONT CORRECT IT, so retraining is required, and the more time we spend together, the more the dog will learn, it is never too late to correct anything, besides dogs love learning new things, it gives them satisfaction to see their owner is pleased with them 🙂

    don’t forget about “unconditional love” it means “giving of our time and energy, for the benefit of others, without the desire for compensation” and one of the most appreciative of all animals is the dog, they have incredible loyalty, and will always live to please you, and when they know you are happy about them, they become so full of joy, that their tail, literally “wags the dog” 😉


    Minette Reply:

    I don’t think I could have said it better myself 😉


  6. mary says:

    thank you for the aviced about the eye contace i try to do some thing like that and he would not so im going to follow your step one thing at a time and let you know how it turns out


  7. roy says:

    Hi Minette I have a 2 year old labrador,I had the dog as a 1 year old had to do all training with him,the biggest problem is 80% he comes back to the whistle but when he gets a strong sent hes gone and takes no notice of the camand. HELP”” Regards Roy


    Minette Reply:

    In short I would say that if he is not listening 95% or better he is in danger of being hit by a car or getting lost. I would use a long line until he is better! Read this article



  8. kat rose says:

    Love what Paul had to say!!!Re: Joyce Cook. I myself believe there is a difference between a nip and a bite. I have an aussie that when children run by him at close range he will nip at their anckle never drawing blood or having a child cry. This seems to be slowing down as he will be 2 next month. I have read that aussies will do this when wanting to heard or play. I would say there needs to be a deffinate play time scheduled. Perhaps if this is happening after dinner time that is his play time, so play with him before he thinks about nipping. I myself would never give up on a nipper, a bitter yes.


  9. Marlon says:

    Dear Minette,

    I was wondering if you could give a tip on keeping focus while walking. My Dog understands me and can stare at me while he is sitting or standing, but once I try to make him walk he completely forgets about looking up and doesn’t do it unless he stops again.

    Thanks for your great article


    Minette Reply:

    Use a treat to get his attention and then put that treat near your belly button or hips (close to the dog but just above his line of sight) and lure him slowly forward with the treat.

    At first he will be focusing on the treat and not as much you, but this will teach him he CAN move forward without dropping his head and after he has done it a few times you can move the treat up higher and then ask for focus.


  10. Robin Ruth says:

    Hi Minette,

    This article about eye contact was extremely helpful to me. Thanks!.

    I am a 69 yr old woman and live alone. I have a 2yr old Neapolitan Mastiff- protective breed. He is the second one I’ve had.
    I can put his food bowl in front of him and he gives me eye contact and will not touch it until I say “Good Boy!” and point to it.
    He will do this with a big juicy marrowbone too…but…once he has been allowed to have the bone (he only does this with bones) I am absolutely not allowed to touch it. I gave him the bone. He put it down and warned with a growl. I walked behind him ignoring him, going inside as usual, (there is only a small amount of space),he stood over his bone with ears directed at me. I reached the door and as I turned to go inside he lunged and attempted to bite my hands …maybe because my hands still had the smell of the bone? He realised immediately what he was doing and backed off because I said “Ehh”.
    This is very strange behaviour from him because he is a “soft” dog as Neos go, exceptionally compliant and friendly in all other ways.The other one, by comparison was a “hard” Neo, very willful, but I trained him and he was my best friend.I know that, as Top Dog,I should be able to take anything from my dog, but once I’ve given Jupiter a bone..it is his! He is otherwise obedient. This bone behaviour has me worried. Are bones more exciting for dogs than other food? I don’t know what I am doing wrong. Any ideas please?


    Minette Reply:

    I would seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist and stop giving him bones till you can get someone out.

    If I say the wrong thing (since I can’t see it) he could possible kill you.

    Take this very seriously and get a professional (not just any trainer) out asap.


  11. Robin R says:

    Thanks Minette,

    There are no professional trainers where I live in rural Queensland, Australia. I will refer to my dog’s breeders out west 16000km round trip who have their dogs tested at and that participate in K9 pro Sports with Butch Chappel and have won many awards. They will know who to go to…cannot believe I didn’t think of that! No disrespect meant but its a fact that not everyone wants to work with this breed and it is much misunderstood. The word “mastiff” has some really bad implications and frightens people and evokes images of maulings.

    I don’t think he will kill me after having saved my life twice, once when he was only 7 months old and if he hasn’t killed the two cats that sleep with him.
    I see the sense in and really appreciate your advice about not giving him bones until this is sorted.
    That’s a good one since its only about the bone.
    This dog works for me in every other respect.

    Apologies if I asked too much. I realise that one needs to actually see the interaction between owner and dog.
    So, in the absence of the dog behaviorist, no more bones for Jupiter until his owner understands him and herself better.
    Part of it may be that I’ve not spent enough time with this dog having been laid up. Neos are like glue,just have to be with you all the time. Rest assured that I am not a frail old lady being stupid by having a dangerous dog.
    I love this site! if you don’t/can’t provide the answer you advise who to go to.


    Minette Reply:


    Having read that I would suggest conditioning him that when you say “Drop it” you throw other better treats in the opposite direction of what he might be guarding.

    In the beginning just throw treats to the ground (with him not having any object and say drop it). Use chicken breast or something really good.

    So he learns that “Drop it” means you are going to throw treats on the ground. Make sure he has to get up and walk a couple of steps. And, make sure it is several treats and not just one. Throw them so they are scattered (taking him time to find them)

    Continue to do this for weeks.

    Then if in the worst case scenario he grabs something hopefully you can get him out of the room by saying “Drop it” and he will come running into a room to eat the treats.

    To keep you safe I would do this so you can shut him in another room while you safely remove the item.

    For instance, I have a food aggressive dog and I know he would attack me over food. So I teach him that drop it means I throw food in the bathroom. So he usually leaves the object and runs toward the bathroom. I throw in enough treats to keep him busy while I close the door (making sure I am safe and he doesn’t eat his treats fast and comes charging out to see me handling his goodie) then I remove the bone or treat whatever he has grabbed and as I open the door I say drop it again and scatter more food, helping to keep his mind fresh on how fun I am and hopefully helping him forget about his toy/treat.

    And, if he rushes back in that room I am no where near where it was!

    Instead of being a bad experience, Drop it becomes a good and fun game.

    Just keep yourself safe 🙂


  12. hilary says:

    My female Border Terrier gets so excited at agility classes she cries and whines continually waiting for her go. Even a toy wont distract her. I’m sure she thinks she should be the only one using the equipment.

    I’m going to start teaching her eye contact to see if it calms her down.


  13. Robin says:

    Hi again Minette,

    That was such good advice!

    I am sure he will catch on quickly when or if the need arises again since I already throw a couple of tightly screwed up brown paper bags with food and treats way down the paddock to make him ‘chase’ his food just as a game and he likes to take his time with it. I rang Jupiter’s breeders long distance and they advised almost the same tactic as you have. Much later perhaps the next step could be to figure out what treats will make him actually, willingly swap for his bone…its only about bones, no other food is as important to him! His breeders have a gorgeous breeding bitch that is fixated on bones. She will share any other food with her yard mates, anything at all…but not bones. Even if each of them are given a bone, she will fight them for theirs too. The only way she gets hers is in her crate and covered. Wonder what goes on in her wrinkly big head?! I wish I could speak “Dog”!

    Once again, THANKS Minette. I’ll be safe. He has already learnt that he may not bring a bone into his room where he sleeps. He’s a smart boy. I’m lucky he is so obedient in all else. We are going to be fine, and thank you for your advice, good wishes and care!
    Looking forward to Butch’s next visit to Australia, whenever that will be, I’ve never been. From the videos it should be a fantastic experience just going to watch.
    Best regards,


  14. Reece says:

    Hi there,
    Ive been a big fan of the Koehler method and feel many critics completely miss the 100’s of positive reinforcements he exhorts (along with the three months of leash training) before any of the infamous corrections are used. However, I’m always trying the learn and have found your site and the book ‘help, my dog had an attitude’ are opening up my mind to some great ideas – thanks 🙂

    Anyhow, Koehler tells us not to look into their eyes and many other sources talk about eye contact as something that is/can be construed as a challenge. Needless to say, this article is quite unsettling to my established thought patterns. I’ve tried to discourage my dogs from looking me in the eyes through staring them down and here’s an article showing how to encourage it! Ae you able to reconcile the differences in approach for me? Pease don’t think I’m trying to justify my current (rapidly changing) ideas, I’m seriously trying to understand. Reading between the lines of a number of your articles it appears that your dogs are quite naturally submissive and I feel that mine are anything but. I’ve been trying disallow any ‘dominating behaviours’ in order to help them know their place but am getting a feeling that I’m missing some of the fun of keeping them in the first place. My boy (neutered) is looking at me right now and seems to want to play. He’s a recent rescue and I don’t want him to think he calls the shots so I’m ignoring it. But could I use the eye contact for other purposes? Do I play (after a sit/down stay) anyway?

    Cheers, Reece 🙂


    Minette Reply:

    When you put eye contact on command and YOU ask for it, and your the owner it is not a challenge.

    If you stare at a dog in a truck that you don’t know, that is a challenge.

    I get eye contact for obedience, it is the best way to keep my dogs from aimlessly staring at other things and teach them to pay attention to me and only me!

    If you look up some obedience routines on you tube you will notice that the really impressive dogs give eye contact and focus!


    Reece Reply:

    Thanks Minette, I’ll give it a go!


  15. We have a bed and breakfast. Just lost two jack russells,(due to age) and we got and adorable malteese Love him but he barks at everyone (very sharp bark) just cannot get him under control about barking. He is very loveable and we enjoy him except for the harsh bark that disturbs guests. I will try some of your treat methods but not sure they will help. any other suggestions. must concur the problem soon, big summer season comning. will try the eye contact. but not hopeful it will work HELP Arlene


    Minette Reply:

    I guarantee you will not be successful unless you are determined to be. If you think you will fail at something chances are you will make that happen. But if you are determined to succeed no matter what you will put in more time and effort.

    Dog behavior problems take lots of time and effort, they are not easy to conquer, especially barking… it takes lots of determination and work.

    Read this article as well, but eye contact is the foundation to all good obedience http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/top-5-reasons-dog-quiet/


  16. AUDRA Bentley says:

    I ha e a german shepherd puppy he is only 8 weeks old I was wondering when is the earliest I can start working on focus training with him. Right now if I try to show him a treat he just starts sniffing around everywhere looking for it. If you have some tips for working on this it would be great


    Minette Reply:

    I start immediately!!


  17. Barbara McWha says:

    Minette – I really thank you for all your articles. They are always on the money! I’ve learned so much from you and look forward to your articles. Keep up the good (and helpful) work.


  18. Kate says:

    This was unbelievably helpful! My daughter and I practiced in the house for 5 minutes, then took him on a walk. He passed a dog, 4 kids, and several shopping bags of food and looked at us every time we told him too. He didn’t lunge at anything the entire time. Thank you!!!!!!


    Minette Reply:


    I’m so glad it helped!!!


  19. Lucy says:

    I’m 17 years old and have an eight month-old Golden Retriever, and I have been training him since he was eight weeks-old. He doesn’t seem to have any “work drive”, or will to please. I have tried every single reinforcement I can think of, his favorite treats, attention, letting him sniff the bushes,… He isn’t interested in toys so I can’t use them. I can’t seem to find anything he finds more reinforcing than the environment, and that makes working outside very difficult. He’s very good indoors, where there are no distractions. I’ve tried teaching him eye contact everyday, but he just isn’t interested. When we’re in the house it’s quite good. But as soon as we’re on walks, he completely ignores me, even in places with hardly any distractions. He walks very well on the lead, but as soon as there’s something he’s interested in, he just ploughs ahead and I get dragged along, he’s a big dog. I understand this is normal behaviour and that it takes training, but we have been training non-stop for over six months and there has been almost no change, I just can’t get through to him. We go to training classes with another positive trainer, and he told us that my dog was lethargic and had no interest in training, despite my efforts to make it as fun as possible for him. At home, he just flops around and sleeps. He never runs anywhere. His recall is pretty good, but he never runs enthusiastically towards me, he just plods over, takes his time, despite me jumping up and down, calling him, clapping my hands and doing everything I can to get him interested.

    I help a few of my friends train their dogs, and I never have had this problem with any of them. My best friend has a Belgian Tervueren, and her eyes practically light up the moment we get the clicker out. Another of my friends has an over-excited Labrador and even though she’s a handful, she really wants to please, she’s motivated and enthusiastic during training.

    With my dog, it’s as if he doesn’t care if he pleases me or not. I have never been cruel in any way to him and have always tried to keep him happy and healthy.

    I’m probably not explaining this very well. Basically, when we have a training session, he happily accepts any reward he gets for a behaviour, but after that, he isn’t particularly motivated to try again, he doesn’t care WHAT he did to get the reward. He just isn’t bothered.

    Is this normal? Could it be that I just have an dog who isn’t interested in training? Or is it possible to motivate a certain drive in dogs?

    Sorry if my writing’s all over the place, I don’t really know how to describe what’s happening with my dog… I am ready to work as hard as possible to get him trained, but if he isn’t interested, how can I GET him interested?

    Thank you.


    Minette Reply:

    Most dogs don’t !

    Rin Tin Tin and Lassie do not exist!

    You have to teach them and find the right motivator.

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/teasing-bad-lesson-building-excitement/


  20. Jo Watson says:

    Ummmmm, I was wondering if you had some advice on how to break a Bichon from trying to constantly lick you. She knows the command (no licks) and will stop for that second, but if she is close to your face, she will immediately try to lick again. I want to teach her to stop the first time I tell her, no licks, and have not been able to achieve that. She was 2 years old on the 5th of August, 2013. Thanks, JO


    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/caution-dog-control-licker/


  21. Suzanne says:

    Just a couple of comments.
    1. I NEVER tell my dog NO or wrong in training. Most of what the dog does wrong is handler error.
    2.I too sometimes use meal times for training, but this causes stress. I think it is better to do a little training, and then give the dog is dinner.


    Minette Reply:

    I think nope or wrong can help give them important information as to what they did wrong. Like in agility if my dog pops out on the 3rd pole I simply say wrong and we do it again. She knows at that exact moment that is the behavior that was incorrect. I don’t scream it or get angry it is just another piece of information.

    I have friends that ONLY feed their dogs while they train and their dogs have never eaten out of a bowl. I will try this some day. But I know my dog prefers training with me for her food than just scarfing it down from a sterile bowl.


  22. Patrick says:

    I am very fortunate. My 2-year-old Boxer almost completely ignores distractions. When she does notice something (usually children), she looks directly at me for instruction.
    A simple “Leave it”, and she’s back on task. If I give her the “Say Hello”, she happily greets her new friend.


  23. Minette says:

    I would separate for feeding. Even though you can work on a dog’s resource guarding with you; you can’t always change how they feel about having another dog around when they are eating.

    I would also make sure there are is no food or resources around when the grandchildren are there, as dogs often equate children with other dogs when it comes to resource guarding.

    And, work on obedience and things like down stays and sit stays because those things will help when you have children around and will help stop some of the aggressive behavior as the dog looks to you for commands.


  24. Barbara McWha says:

    I have just spent an hour reading your “lessons” and advice again. No matter how many times I read them, I learn something new. Just wanted to thank you for all your sage advice. You are a real asset to us owners and to the dog community. Keep up the good work and thanks for being “there” for us all.


  25. Maeve says:

    Thank you – this was exactly what I was looking for!

    I realized that my rescued Chihuamutt girl was avoiding eye contact unless she already knew I was happy (like when I’m cuddling/petting her) but would completely avoid even looking toward me the rest of the time… Meanwhile my (also rescued) Chow/Jindo girl, who has a sensitive personality, was actually much better at eye interaction (and is vastly better at obedience, ever looking to please me).

    I Googled dog eye contact and found your article.

    I started doing this by calling their names for attention, because that’s how I do treat time in my house (you hear your name, the treat is for you. If it’s not your name, don’t try to take it – sort of important for a multi pet home). Adding your method, I started bringing the treat hands up to my eyes and then – for briefly sustaining some eye contact, I was both “smiling with my eyes” and verbally approving while giving the treat .

    WOW! I saw positive results in the very first treat time. By the way, treat time name game also includes my two cats. I added this to their treat rules, too. Of all the beasties, the Chihuamutt has the hardest time still, but I just started and I feel like this is such a great method already.

    Surprised that my cats got it and are good at eye contact? Cats can be trained, too, and mine have been trained for behaviors since kittens. Eye contact has always been a useful tool for all my animals, but it didn’t occur to me how lacking that was for the recalcitrant Chihuamutt until now 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this great method!


    Minette Reply:

    I’ve had the opportunity to work with Cheetahs, so I know that cats are just as smart, if not smarter than our K9 friends.


  26. Jack says:

    Thanks so much! Excellent suggestions. Should work well with the walking distraction problem, since our dog already knows the “look” contact and stares straight into my eyes I give her this command.


  27. frank says:

    Susanne on getting your dogs to look at u is easy my dogs are four mo. Old male Shepard’s. All I did was sit on the floor with them I had them sit on the floor in front of me put one treat in each hand . held each one in front of each eye with two fingers and told them to look when they did I gave them the treat . each time I had them look a little longer up to about a minute


  28. Thoma Sawyer says:

    Hi I have a 4 month old Yorkiepoo and we have used your eye contact method before on my older Yorki it worked well and no issues however the pup has had a severe relapse and is now just doing whatever he wants I am at wits end he has new started pottying in the house again nothing has changed don’t know what to do.


    Minette Reply:

    You have to find his motivator and go back to square one on the potty training. I also suggest our companion dog course which has videos on teaching the eye contact and focus. Email Dana at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com and she can get you enrolled. It begins soon!


  29. Linda says:

    Hi, Is there a disc to watch to train my Yorkie puppy of 4-5 months old for all kinds of training especially biting more when over excited .Thankyou .


    Minette Reply:

    There is a search bar at the top of the page you can search articles. 🙂


  30. karen says:

    Thank you so for your articles. I was looking up to confirm that my dog was, indeed, learning to wink. He came to me fully trained – I was not. He does very well until we’re outside or with distractions. I’m going to expand on the eye contact we stumbled upon and go from there. I so very much appreciate the information about mealtime training, eye contact, etc.!


  31. Marlene says:

    My 9 month old Pomeranian barks Everytime any one comes around even if he has seen them before. I live in. an apartment behind my landlord and they say he iis aggressive though heel only stands and barks. I have to admit he does sound aggressive.He will walk by my side to.take out garbage but then runs. back ahead. of. me. I have taught him to sit, stay and not to bark at night. I taught him to say erf and he is very good at night. I am 83 years old and I am afraid they might as me to get rid of him. I won’t do that. He has never been. around. Landlords. children are terrified of him. Can you pleaasse help me.


    Minette Reply:

    He needs to be on a leash if he is outside with you. You have no control if he is not and they most certainly can have a problem with this on their property,

    Use the search bar at the top of the page to search for teaching him quiet on command.

    And, I suggest you enroll in our dog aggression coaching program you can email Dana at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com to be put on the list for when it begins again.


  32. Helena Arrechea says:

    I have a 7 year old bearded collie. she is quite obedient but eye contact is almost impossible, how can you tell behind all that hair. She does well except that she barks at other dogs that pass by,she is inside behind a window in my store. If they that is their owner decides to come in no problem she will come sniff and usually play or ignore, How can I stop her barking, I’ve tried NO, which she understands but the territorial temptation is too sytrong. I have also brought her where she can’t see people but she pulls trying to see them and it breaks my heart punishing her because she loves to watch people go by What else can I try? thanks


    Minette Reply:

    hair cuts or clips do amazing things


  33. shelby marlo says:

    Shelby again, I still have time before puppy class. I want to thank you for the behavior and training boost I get from your site. I do the same with DR OZ, and many other insightful and compassionate people. Many are very reaffirming and I am always seeking. I was at the Sue Sternberg seminar last week here in LA. Sociability vs Aggression in Dogs. She is another of my mentors. Maybe you could add some of her insights. Her HBO Documentary “Shelter Dogs” needs to be seen. Also thank you for the TED talk with Ian, I would not have known.


  34. Jasmine says:

    Hi, my husband and I recently got a dog from a rescue group. He was abandoned and physically abused.

    We are trying to teach him eye contact with a clicker. He has bonded quite well to me but has a fear of men (my husband).
    My husband is the one that does the training so they can bond. When he calls his name he might briefly look at my husband and he would click and treat, but most time he would rather not have a treat at all than looking at him. When he does he looks extremely guilty like he was not supposed to or he will get beaten or something. He doesn’t play with toys, barely motivated by food, doesn’t seem to care to please us. We train him just before meal time so he’s hungry, but we are having a hard time sustaining his eye contact. Can you give us some suggestions?

    My dog is a 3 year old terrier mix btw.


    Minette Reply:

    skip yet another meal and use a great treat like home made dried liver. Everything is motivated by food. Also look into our companion dog program… I teach this technique through video


  35. very informative makes a lot of sense I foster pups and you can see that the mom missed a lot of the teaching, I’m sure the pups were taken away sadly very early


  36. Marian says:

    It sounds more like ‘nipping’ than actual ‘biting’ (though I agree it is still unacceptable in domestic circumstances, Joyce. This is what Corgis were bred for – herding cattle by nipping at their heels, in which case it’s something that is bred into him and you need to bear this in mind when trying to break him of the habit


  37. Minette says:

    I would email our customer service rep and ask when our next aggression course will start. info@thedogtrainingsecret.com


  38. Brett says:

    Hi Minette, I have a Boston terrier I rescued who I was told had correctable leash aggression. Turns out it sounds much more than that and he has a form of initial aggression toward any dog he sees. Not cats, not humans, but only dogs. In all other situations he is an absolute sweetheart and great inside. It takes a good hour or two to calm him down to even get close to it and the only method that has worked has been using a cage or crate to separate him and other dogs so he eventually learns he/she are not a threat. My best guess is this is some form of PTSD from being attacked.

    I guess my question is, is this eye contact method a good place to start before I get into real socialization? I have a clicker and have started with the method. Any additional insight would be greatly appreciated.


    Minette Reply:

    What is “real socialization?”

    I have a Malinois that would like to be dog aggressive, but he is also a sport dog so he has to be around multiple other dogs when we compete. I have always used eye contact when other dogs are around.

    I don’t believe in “real socialization” it isn’t worth him killing another dog or being injured.

    To me “real socialization” is eye contact and focus and having him ignore other dogs in his environment.


  39. David says:

    Wow, the longevity of this thread is impressive. I have a 11 month old Spinone. Sweet as pie but more stubborn than a mule. She is well training and knows basic and advanced commands, she just refuses to comply with commands. Her leash behavior has grown out if control. Thinking we were in the peak of adolescence, I decided to go back to “Focus” and reinforce the command to get her to follow commands and ignore distractions on the walk. I ran with her for almost two miles and began to work with her. We walk for an additional mile and every time I’d say focus, and she didn’t comply, I’d stop the walk and wait for her compliance. She did everything she could to avoid eye contact. Refused to take the treat as if it would mean she was giving in. It was not a struggle over dominance as she is not at all aggressive and we do not use harsh correction only force free. My question is, will she grow out of this or am I doing something wrong? Should I resort to more forceful correction? I know she is testing me and my patience and I know she is doing in on purpose. Thanks!


    Minette Reply:

    Dog’s don’t just grow out of behavior… except sometimes destructive chewing.

    Go back to the eye contact, reward sooner and often even if she barely makes eye contact and teach her it is a game.

    It isn’t about correction, it is about teaching them to play the game. Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dog-train-video-game/


  40. Susan Ryan says:

    When you are working on training focus is it ok to encourage your dog who is staring into your eyes, i.e. by saying quietly “good dog’ or ‘good’ while they continue to stare. We are only at the first minute or 2 and I’m not sure if I should remain completely silent or can let them know they are doing the right thing.


    Minette Reply:

    absolutely, especially as the time gets longer.

    At first it might distract the dog but eventually it is a great idea


  41. Linda Feeley says:

    Ah thank you so much, this was a great concern for me, when out and allowing him out for a run, as hes half great dane, and irish wolf hound, so hes becoming a big dog, and he would nip our ankles hands as if to say , come play with me, but of course if this was done outside in a park, which it had done, I was really worried,,, as he would be put down. Otherwise hes a loving lovely dog, most of his habits have been sorted. pulling I use a thing on his mouth, now he walks like a dream except when he just lays there and swirls round on the lawn.
    Now I can sort the nipping by trying that.

    Now its the nicking stuff off the side, and running outside with it. playing with it clothes for example and ripping it apart, I know its his playing time. he takes out knives out of the sink, and gets them in his mouth, or stuff out of the bin. Tears is apart. wooden spoons are just ripped apart. He has enough of his toys. But its always twice a day, with his high energy times just before his bed time. and just after hes woken up.

    Hes very nosy too, up and the window, on my desk, on all my paperwork, but I have to work. Big dam paw prints on them. Loves looking out of the window, or seeing himself in the mirror.

    Hes quite bright, in that he knew how to open doors in one week , then it was to open the gate, that is when he got the taste of taking himself on adventures, of which i had to make a stop too. ie netting for holes in the bushes, locks and bolts.


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