Look At That, Look At Me

One of my favorite games to play with my dogs is "Look at That, Look at Me." I originally learned it from the vet to help Hero with his fears and aggression, but it can be fun just to play in any situation where there is some kind of distraction to teach your dog an automatic check-in. When you see something that is likely to take your dog's attention (or if your dog notices something that gets them worked up); you say "Look at that!" in a happy and excited voice. They will (or already are) paying attention to whatever that is. Then you say "Look at me!" in the same happy or excited voice and give them a treat when they turn their focus toward you. You need to start playing this game with things that don't get your dog too excited that they can't pay attention to you. That can mean playing with low value items or far away from the stimulus. Obviously this only works if your dog is not so stressed that they don't care about food (although you may need to get better food too.)

Max and I play this a lot in order to earn breakfast. We sit out on the back porch with my coffee and his kibble. He wanders around on a tether and when things draw his attention, we will play a round. This is both desensitization (he is way too hyper about birds flying over our yard) and relationship building. We do a lot of rounds just based on his ears pricking up or his head turning in response to something he alone may notice, but we also do it for the things he is really distracted by, like large birds flying over head, squirrels in the yard, and people walking down the alley. Now that he knows the game well, we can use it in more stressful or potentially dangerous situations. For instance, the first time he figured out he could climb our fence he was interested in something and I used it to get him to come back to me for his treat (followed by a bunch more treats!)

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