Teaching Your Dog to Sit with Attention
by Robin MacFarlane
Focused attention is a way to keep your dog looking at you when you need to pull your dog's mind away from other distractions.
Teaching your dog to Sit with Attention, means that your dog will continue to maintain eye contact for the duration of the Sit command. It can be a valuable way to manage easily aroused dogs and those who struggle with impulse control.
For instance, if you have a dog that barks and lunges at other dogs as they pass on your walks, having a solid "Watch Me" (Sit w/Attention) command gives you a way to redirect your dog's action and maintain focus back on you.
This focused attention is a way to keep your dog looking at you when you need to pull your dog's mind away from other distractions. The reason it works so well is that eye contact is the first sign of recognition that your dog's mind is elsewhere. When you can teach your dog to maintain eye contact with you, you are teaching your dog to maintain focus on you, thus, helping to tune out the surrounding distractions.
The concept can be a bit challenging to understand if you've not been exposed to it before. I want to point out that you do not have to teach your dog this skill as a standard part of a Sit command. This is an option.
I build in the idea of eye contact and attention with my personal dogs, but not everyone wants to have to maintain this type of training. If you automatically build in eye contact as part of the criteria with your Sit command you are now obligated to keep that contract with your dog. Your dog is not supposed to get distracted, but then neither should you.
For that reason, if you only want occasional eye contact for specific situations it would be better to teach Sit as the behavior to only place the butt on the ground and maintain. Then teach a "Watch Me" command separately. Now you can instruct your dog to focus and maintain eye contact as needed for those situations you feel warrant it.
However you decide to teach this concept, remember that your dog will experience some confusion as you go through this process. It is your responsibility to help your dog understand the concepts. Be patient, assist the dog in looking toward you and be sure to reward the eye contact behavior.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.