Getting a puppy’s attention can be difficult. Keeping his attention is even harder!
When it comes to learned behaviors, Jane Killion from Puppy Culture gives her opinion that “attention is the mother of all behaviors”. Before teaching other basic commands such as “sit”, you must be able to get and hold the puppy’s attention. You can tell your puppy to “sit” until you lose either your voice or your sanity, but if you can get his attention at the sound of his name, he will understand that you are about to tell him to do something.
Learning that looking at you in the face of distractions is an actual behavior that he can be rewarded for is one concept listed in Puppy Culture. At 8 weeks, Killion begins teaching attention. The first step is to reward any eye contact. Once the “glance” is established, gradually add duration for each glance. Once duration is established, throw in a few distractions. A 60 second time limit is recommended for each exercise, so allow the puppy a period of rest and play between each step.
The distractions help to increase duration as well as teaching the concept that your puppy will always have you in his peripherals. If something crazy were to happen, he will look at you rather than freaking out. Now, for a puppy of 12 weeks, the craziest thing will probably be a leaf dancing in the wind. Rather than freaking out, he will think “Oh look a leaf! Wait! Mom said ‘sit’. Look at mom. Can I get it?!”
Since attention is so central to teaching future behaviors, we reinforce it heavily at Syrah Goldens. While working with a puppy, we are constantly saying the puppy’s name before each command. This not only teaches names, but also establishes that foundation of eye contact. Once that foundation is established, everything else will come a little bit easier. For more in depth information, please visit www.puppyculture.com.