Can’t seem to get your dog’s attention? Try this!
If this is a familiar sight despite your best attempts, then it’s highly likely your dog doesn’t think you are salient. In other words, your dog doesn’t look to you for information and sees no benefit from responding to you.
Why is this?
Let me answer this question with another question: Is there any time during the day when you have your dog’s complete attention? For most of you there’s probably one outstanding example:
Clearly food is valuable to your dog, so it’s in his/her best interests to know where you are (and by association, the food) come dinner time.
So to be able to consistently engage our dog’s attention and be looked at as a source of useful and valuable information to our dogs we must offer something valuable. Chances are you already offer your dog plenty of valuable things in a given day such as food, treats, play and exercise.
So how can you use those things to get better communication between you and your dog?
Make yourself the gateway to all of these things!
This strategy of making our interactions with our dogs ‘transactions’ is sometimes called ‘Nothing in life is free’, where basically your dog does not get anything of value until he has earned it in some way. Typically, this just involves having your dog sit before he’s fed, lead attached, allowed to greet guests etc etc. This way your dog knows that you are the key to any and all fun so you become the first port of call.
A lot of people struggle to completely transition all their interactions with their dog into transactions of sorts. This strategy should NOT be all encompassing and should be used in conjunction with good dogmanship that encourages your dog to be calm and happy. Patting and stroking are used to express our affection towards our friends and it’s often automatic, so these interactions should NOT be transactional.
‘Nothing in life is free’ if applied correctly (i.e. taking your animal’s needs into consideration) should greatly improve your dogmanship by improving your ability to attract your dog’s attention as well as help you to curb some undesirable behaviours (such as jumping up on guests). It’s also a very safe strategy as encouraging your dog to sit before activities such as crossing roads and walking outside. It might save your dog’s life one day 🙂 .