Getting your dog’s attention is one of the first things you must do to facilitate all other training techniques. And if you can keep your dog’s attention, then you’re really going to be able to accelerate the general obedience training of your dog and avoid a lot of frustration along the way. Keeping your dog’s attention is also paramount in the obedience ring, house training and invaluable in everyday life.

So those are the advantages, and now we need to look at how to go about attaining this goal. There’s no question that it isn’t always easy to keep your dog’s attention, and some breeds are certainly more difficult than others, but here are some tips on how to proceed with most dogs. First of all, you will need to use the sit command and have some tasty treats to hand. Your dog must already have learned how to respond to this command – he must understand what is required of him and respond promptly to the command. If you haven’t already taught him this, or if he still isn’t totally sure, then read my article about teaching your dog the sit command. So, tell your dog to sit in heel position, and use his favourite tasty treat to encourage him to look upwards at your face. Praise him immediately when he focuses his attention on you, give him the treat and releasing him from the sit command. Do this again and again, each time increasing the time where he is looking and concentrating on your face. You want to have his attention, so he is ready to respond to your next command. We should also look at the concept of praise and correction in training. On the whole, I advocate rewarding good behaviour and ignoring or preventing misbehaviour. I do not in general believe in punishing a dog for bad behaviour, but sometimes a sudden shout can be a good reminder to a dog that is doing something he knows he shouldn’t. It is important to remember that you can only praise or give correction to your dog WHILE he is exhibiting the behaviour in question. He is not a person and will not know nor remember what he was doing five minutes ago. This is a major difference between people and dogs and if remembered, will make training a much easier task.

So the key to this is “think like a dog”. Imagine you are an animal, a part of a pack, just like him. Don’t ever think of him as a human, still less a child or a baby, whatever his size and however cute he may be. You have to make this concept a cornerstone of your relationship with your dog and he will certainly benefit from it. He is a dog, an animal, and only by truly understanding this will you be able to satisfy his needs and form a meaningful, fulfilling relationship for both of you.