Training Tidbits: Look at Me
Whether you're getting a new puppy or adopting an older cat, you know you're in for some training time. Most people remember to teach the basics such as sit and stay, but there are some very important training techniques that are useful not just for showing off -- but for creating happy, calm, and well-behaved pets. This series aims to go into some "training tidbits" for both cats and dogs that can help your pet focus during training sessions, and when out and about.
What Is Look at Me?
"Look at Me" is an attention-getting behavior. It is designed to teach your pet to focus on you when you are asking them to, and can be great to use in highly distracting areas, or at the beginning of a training session to create focus. Similar to calling your pet's name, it's a simple trick to teach.
How Do I Teach It?
Start by grabbing some high-value treats your pet loves. For a dog, this can be something such as a soft chewy liver treat, piece of hotdog, or some lunchmeat. For cats, warmed up smelly pieces of chicken or turkey tend to be incredibly enticing and motivating.
Once you have the smelly, tasty treat ready, begin by waving it in front of your pet's nose to get their attention. Then, bring the treat to your forehead, slow enough that your pet can follow it. Once they make eye contact by looking up (at you and the treat), praise (or click if you clicker train) and reward with the tasty item. Repeat several times.
Once your pet has this task down, you can start adding in the words "Look at Me" every time you repeat the trick. From there, you'll want to phase out the motion of moving the treat from your pet's nose to forehead. Instead, ask your pet to "Look at Me" and then reward from your hand when they do.
Over time, you can replace the reward with something else such as a toy or praise/pets, but you'll want to continue offering a treat until they are consistent. Once your pet has "Look at Me" down, you can use it to help grab their attention in other situations. This little technique is perfect for starting a training session, or whenever you need focus!