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When it's chow time, I make him sit and wait to be told he can get the food. He stares at the bowl, not me. I try everything. When he does look up at me, I praise like crazy, but he only glances. It's not where I can get him to hold eye contact. How do I achieve this? I can't get him to look at me at all when we work on training. I try treats and it works briefly. Should I save training for when he is REALLY hungry? If he is tired, forget about it. He is SO LAID BACK! It drives me a little batty. Help!!


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Start teaching this without any distractions first. Teach it solidly and *then* start adding distractions - like his food. Yes, his food can also be his reward for the look and same with a toy, or anything else that motivates him, but for initially teaching him, use a clicker (or some kind of marker, a consistent word if you choose that) and treats for luring and rewarding. Note that you add the cue (command) after eliciting a steady response. There is no need for me to write it again, so I'll quote Pat Miller, who teaches it well enough in this Whole Dog Journal article:

"The owner starts by holding a treat up to her face to encourage eye contact. When the dog looks at her, she clicks! and gives the dog the treat. Then she moves the treat a few inches to the side of her face, and waits. Sooner or later the dog, who is watching the treat intently, will glance toward the owner’s face as if to ask why the click! is not forthcoming. At that instant the owner clicks! and feeds the dog the treat. She repeats this until the dog is looking at her face quickly, and for increasingly long periods (up to several seconds) to elicit the click! and treat. Then she moves the treat a few inches farther from her face and continues the game. At this point she also adds the “Watch!” or “Pay attention!” cue that she will use to get the dog to maintain eye contact from then on. It is important to click! consistently before the dog breaks eye contact while gradually lengthening the contact time, so the dog comes to understand that “Watch!” means “maintain eye contact until released.”
Eventually, the treat can be anywhere, while the dog’s gaze remains riveted to the owner’s face for long periods."

-Pat Miller, WDJ’s Training Editor, is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, and past president of the Board of Directors of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She is also the author of The Power of Positive Dog Training and the just-released book Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog.

The entire article: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/7_2/features/Focus-On-Cue_5606-1.html
 

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I don't clicker train, but I did start when he was a puppy holding a treat up to my eye telling him look. As soon as he made on contact he got the treat. I started making the eye contact longer before giving the treat.

I have noticed the older he gets the more he will watch me for input on what I expect him to do. If he's unsure of a situation he focuses on me...with the exception of unfamiliar dogs at the park. We are still working on it though.
 

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Thank you for the advice! I have never clicker trained. How do you phase out the clicker?


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The clicker, or marker, is only used to teach/learn new behaviors. Once the behavior is learned, the clicker isn't needed any more for that behavior—although varied praise and treats and other motivating rewards will always be appreciated. Whenever you want to train a new behavior, or fine-tune an old one, use the clicker.

The clicker just marks the precise moment (consider the viewpoint of a dog. you need to help them figure out *which* thing you are clicking/marking - is it looking to the right, looking to the left, is it when his paw is off the ground, or is it when he looks at your face? That's why we use the clicker. It needs to mark the precise moment he does what you want. You can't reward after he has already averted his eyes so you mark that very moment his eyes meet yours).

Remember how you added the cue *after* you have used the clicker to mark the behavior/movement? You do that once your dog is consistently offering the "look" or whichever movement you were marking for. Now they do it on cue. At this point you may want him to learn to hold his focus on your longer; think of it this way:

Look - treat
look- treat
look- treat
Look - count to one - treat
look - count to one - treat
look - count to one - treat
Look - count to two - treat
look - count to two - treat
... and so forth

How many times you do each step, depends upon you and your dog. Keep sessions very short. Train new things with zero distractions. End it before your dog gets bored. If your dog is messing up, this means you may have moved too quickly and will want to take a step backwards and start at the last point your dog succeeded. This is true in training any behavior/skill/trick.

There has been much written on the subject and I'm just a person on the internet. Here is one of several informative sites: Karen Pryor Clicker Training | The Leader in Positive Reinforcement Training
 

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Instead of a clicker you can use a verbal marker. Same principal, you jut dot need a clicker.
Correct. Just like you would use a visual marker for a deaf dog. Clicker is just a marker that is very precise and unlike any other sound. If you use a verbal marker, make it a short clippy word or sound that is unique.
 

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When it's chow time, I make him sit and wait to be told he can get the food. He stares at the bowl, not me. I try everything. When he does look up at me, I praise like crazy, but he only glances. It's not where I can get him to hold eye contact. How do I achieve this?
You're moving way too fast - break it down into much smaller steps. If he's only glancing at you now, there's no way you're going to get extended eye contact out of him without working up to that.

I also make my dogs sit and wait to be released to eat after I put their bowls on the floor. If he's able to hold the sit after you've set down the bowl, release him the SECOND he glances at you. Do that for every meal for at least a few days. Once he learns that eye contact is what "makes" you release him to eat, he'll start offering it sooner. Don't ask for more eye contact until he's looking at you right away when you set down the bowl. You want him to be successful at each step before you start to increase the difficulty. From there you can wait for 1 or 2 seconds of eye contact, then 3 seconds, then 5 seconds. Work up gradually.

I can't get him to look at me at all when we work on training. I try treats and it works briefly.
Then work on eye contact outside of training. When I get a new puppy I wear my treat bag from the time I get home from work until bedtime. I mark and reward everything puppy does that I like and want to encourage. This is called "capturing" behaviors - you're not giving any commands, you're just reinforcing behaviors the dog is offering naturally. The more your reward him for eye contact, the more he's going to look at you.

Start requiring eye contact for EVERYTHING. Going outside (door doesn't open until he looks at you), coming into the house (ditto), before you throw a ball or initiate tug play, before putting his leash on, before you give him a bone or bully stick, everything you can think of. This will make eye contact a default behavior. I also teach my dogs to look at me with the "watch" command, but most of the time I expect them to look at me even when I haven't told them to, and because they have such a strong foundation of being reinforced for doing so, that's what they'll do in the absence of a cue. I can walk to the back door with them and just stop and stand there doing nothing and they'll sit and look at me because they know that's what makes me open the door.

In our house bully sticks are the most prized treat. I would stand there with one in each hand and wait for them to stop staring at it and look at me, then "yes!" and I'd hand it over. Gradually, over time, I worked up to where I can put it right in front on their nose, I can wave the sticks around, but they must keep eyes locked on mine in order to get it. If they grab at it before I've released them to take it, if they stare at it instead of me, they won't get it.

This game is great for teaching a default leave it and default eye contact:


It's a default because you're not telling the dog to leave the food alone, you're letting him figure out that backing away from it is what makes you give it to him. I did this with Halo when she was a puppy, she had some of her lunch kibble every day playing this game. Once he learns not to paw at your hand or try to get at the food, you can add eye contact - he needs to back away from the food and look at you, and then you can start feeding him from your hand.

How old is he? We got Halo at 10 weeks old, and she started puppy class 3 weeks later. The first week she was not so good, but by week 2 she was able to hold a down, off leash, in a room full of people and other puppies, and give me eye contact with food on the floor in front of her:



And here I have food in each hand:



The more you can make eye contact work to get him what he wants, the stronger the behavior will be.
 

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I used a clicker to help train focus, and I definitely didnt start by holding his food bowl. I started by holding a small treat and holding out my arms in a T shape. He'd glance at my hands, but eventually would look at my face, and i'd click and reward. Another thing that worked well, was putting treats in my mouth (yogurt drops, hot dog bits) and randomly spitting them at him. He'd never know when food would come from my hands, or my mouth, so he paid more attention to my face ;) I gradually worked up the duration of focus I wanted.

Edit: Agree with everything Debbie said. Great advice there.
 

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Hand feeding. Skip the bowl, and spend the next two weeks feeding him out of your hand. After the first few days, start carrying the food in between your eyes, say Look at Me, and wait for eye contact before you feed it to the dog.


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i've never clicker trained. when i wanted my dog to look at me
i called his name. i saw a video where a Monk of New Skeet
held his hand/fingers at the level of his eye. then he called
the dog by name and rubbed his first finger, middle finger
and thumb together (as if he was getting something sticky
off the finger tips he was rubbing together). the dog learned to
look at the Monk when his hand/fingers were in that position.
 
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