Keeping your dog’s attention can be a challenge. With all the distractions of city living, such as squirrels, hot
dog stands, the local mailperson and other dogs, it can be hard to keep your dog’s focus on you. The great
news is that you can teach your dog focus and attention through simple games. You can even teach your dog
to have the best recall at the dog park! Be the recall master of your neighbourhood by getting started with
these simple games.
This game teaches your dog that focusing on you is more rewarding than focusing on anything else. It helps to build automatic check-ins on leash and, with practice, off leash.
1. Sit in a low distraction area with your dog on leash in front of you.
2. Use your reward marker (clicker, “yes”, “good”) and treat every time your dog moves their head towards you.
3. Slowly increase your criteria for a click until you are clicking only when the dog looks directly at you.
Once you have mastered this in the sitting position, play this game while walking. Start in a low distraction area and slowly move to higher distraction spaces. Once you have mastered it on walks, head to the park and practice it on a long leash (15 feet). Start with the standing version and progress to the walking version.
This is a great game to play with the whole family. Much like hide-and-seek, Find Me teaches your dog to look
for you and come to sit in front of you. It is a great prep game for building a reliable recall.
1. Play a couple of rounds of Eye on Me in a standing position.
2. Turn your back to the dog and wait for them to walk around to you. Click and treat as they make eye
contact with you.
3. After mastering the above step, wait to click until your dog has made eye contact and sat down. If they
are struggling with the sit, say sit for the first few rounds.
Once you have mastered the above start taking one step away when you turn around. Slowly increase the
number of steps you take until you can sprint across the room and your dog will come find you. Now you can
take the game to a park, working from a short to long leash.
This game teaches your dog to immediately turn and sprint back to you when called. It is a great game to build a reliable recall.
1. Toss a handful of food a few feet away from you.
2. Just before your dog finishes the last treat, say your recall word (see tips for success #1)
3. Click as your dog turns their head towards you.
4. Offer them a really delicious (way more yummy than the treats you just threw) treat from your hand, right
Start this game inside with little distractions. Slowly increase the distance you throw the food away from you. As your dog mastered the game inside, move outside to a fenced area and then slowly to places with more distractions. When your dog is reliably coming back, play the game at your local park on a long lead. When you are ready, play with the long lead only dragging on the ground and then eventually without the lead.
Here are some tips to make your training a smashing success!
1. Choose an uncommon word for your recall. This will ensure that your dog doesn’t hear the word during
daily life when he doesn’t need to respond to it. You can also make a point of saying your dog’s name
in a distinctly different tone than you would normally use when not recalling them (for example saying
“Fi-do!” while making the first part of the name higher in pitch, then lower – like a doorbell would
2. Keep the treats hidden in your coat or pocket. This prevents your dog from only responding when you
have food in your hands.
3. As you master the games, vary the rate of reinforcement. This is the ratio of the number of times your pup responds to cues to the amount you give treats. For example a 1:1 ratio is one treat for one completed cue, 1:4 ratio is one treat for every four completed cues. By slowly increasing the ratio you gradually wean your dog off of treats while still reinforcing the behaviour.