“Danny, watch me!” I tapped my finger a few times against the tip of my nose, drawing my puppy’s gaze back in my direction. My roly-poly, floppy-eared, flat-coated retriever was becoming way too distracted—by people rushing by with energetic dogs, cars honking, squirrels scampering across our path. From a young canine’s perspective, it was sensory overload, and I was struggling to control him.
Ever since he was eight weeks old, I’d been bringing Danny to my office with me and training him in a nearby park during my lunch hours. My dog trainer taught a technique called “getting your dog’s attention.” “Watch me!” tells the pup that something important is going to happen, and after he looks up, holding his gaze to you for a few moments, he hears and obeys the command, and then gets rewarded with praise and a yummy treat. When I got his attention in this way, Danny became more receptive to listening to and learning all of the obedience commands—how to do the things that would keep him safe. Wait. Heel. Stop. Sit. Good job! Then we started to make progress.
It was an incredible feeling: having Danny look straight at me, his soulful eyes meeting mine with joyous expectation of good. And we got results. He became more and more attentive and responsive. He was praised and rewarded, and we navigated through his puppydom with grace and aplomb.