How to Get your Dog’s Attention

By Jody Frederick

A good pack leader never looks back. Marcia Herman

THE SETUP: The instructor divided the training hall into one-fourth and three-fourth sections, using chairs. All the dogs and owners sat in the small section except for the dog and handler doing the heeling exercise. In the larger space, handler let the dog off lead. The owner was instructed to walk around the perimeter of the space reward the dog with a click and treat each time it was in proper heel position. The owner was told when to turn and when to reward and was specifically told not to look down or look back at the dog, regardless of what it was doing.

WHAT HAPPENED: One dog in particular was very distracted. He heeled well until he found something more interesting. The owner kept walking. We had been told to shield our dogs from the off lead dog and tell it to “Go away” and not reward it by allowing it to play or interact with our dogs. The dog was still paying no attention to its owner. The instructor told the owner to leave the room and go out of sight. The dog walked around a little longer. All of a sudden, he realized that his owner was nowhere in sight. As soon as he started worrying, the owner came back into the room and resumed walking around the space.

THE RESULT: Once he realized that the owner might leave him behind and that he was only rewarded for paying attention to her, the result was a very focused dog in a perfect heel position, happily being rewarded. Why were the handlers told not to stop and wait for their dog or to look back and wait? Because a true pack leader doesn’t! When the pack leader moves, the pack follows. The leader doesn’t stand around waiting.

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