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Get Your Dog’s Attention!

Dog owners often struggle with diverting their dog’s attention away from unwanted distractions. Many have difficulty getting their dog’s attention, period. Although this is a sign of deeper relationship and training issues, there are simple, fun ways to get your dog’s attention that will cost you only time and patience.

Shake that thing!

treat shaker
Etta Says peanut butter treats “on-the-go”.

This is one of my favorite ways to attract the attention of my girls–partly because it makes prep so easy!

Etta Says makes great, all natural, “on-the-go” dog treats. Some come in these nifty little tubes (pictured left). You can find the treats at Chewy for just a bit more than $2, which is another reason this is a great idea.

When my pups have depleted the tiny nugget treats, I save the durable, palm-sized tubes with the secure snap lids. Partly, that’s due to the fact that I tend to save lots of things, but these really come in handy! I refill the tubes with treats, usually freeze-dried liver or chicken, and keep a few full tubes on the counter. That way I can just grab one and stick it in my pocket when I take the girls out.

When I want to get my dog’s attention, I simply give a command pertinent to the given scenario, while I shake the tube. The treats make enough of a sound (as long as it’s not too full!) to make my dogs look. It is that simple!

This part is critical if you want a favorable, rapid response… *As soon as your dog looks at you, give him a treat.* The timing of the reward, especially in early stages of training, is critical to get the point across and, hence, your dog’s success.


Here’s an example of how I used this and how it worked out:

Sometimes it seems like no matter how much you work with your dog, no matter how well-trained she can get, there always lingers some nagging behaviors. When my girls and I are out in our fenced yard, if another dog walks by they still have difficulty containing themselves at times. So, I began using this shaker method.

While we’re out in the yard, whether we’re playing or just moseying around, if they get distracted by warding off a dog passing by, I simply shake the treat-filled tube. Without fail, they come running to sit at my feet! To help them learn to calm themselves in this situation, I simply say, “It’s just neighbors”, or “Good neighbor.” Doing this repetitively helped my girls to respond to the commands, often-times without even expecting a treat! They quickly began to associate dogs and people passing, with the command.

When starting out, though, keep in mind…

*As soon as your dog looks at you, give him a treat.*

For speed in this sense, it may help to have a treat already in your hand when you shake the tube. That way, you’re ready to give an immediate reward for the correct behavior response (looking at you).

The Power of the Tug

Another fine method for gaining and holding your dog’s attention, especially if they are play (prey) driven, is tug-o-war play. Have a tug rope, something soft and floppy but durable, that you use only for training or engagement purposes. That way your dog begins to understand this particular toy relates to specific behaviors or interactions. After a while of consistency, your dog will understand this and even anticipate these engagements as soon as you bring out that tug.

Most pups love to play tug! This activity is not only fun for them, and two-leggers, it is great exercise and builds bonds between the tuggers. Starting tug play when your pup is young is an exceptionally easy way to begin laying a foundation for everything–from basic obedience to advanced activities. Michael Ellis of Leerburg Kennels has a fabulous video titled, The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog, where he explains and demonstrates the key ingredients of using tug play in training.

Dog Focused
Image by Lee Chandler.

Back to my point… Once you gain an interactive, enthusiastic tug time with your pup, you may notice how his eyes will follow the toy wherever you hold it. Use that focus! With that, you can begin to teach your pup all sorts of great things–from heeling to the attention-getter you need.

Now Go! Have Fun!

Getting and holding your dog’s attention ought to be the result of laying a firm foundation in Pack Structure. In laying that foundation, one of the crucial, key elements is that your pup learns who’s the boss (you) and understands she must do something (or refrain from doing something) when appropriate and/or commanded. Essentially, she learns that her world is entirely and solely dependent on you. That is what pups need for overall healthy behavior and stable temperament. Once your pup begins to look at you before making decisions to simply react, you can be assured you are on the right track to a well-rounded, eager to be obedient dog.

These simple exercises mentioned here are merely a couple popular and useful proven methods to help you lay that foundation–no matter your dog’s age. And, as we have stated so many times before here at APupStop, *making training fun* is critical for success and sanity!

So, now go have fun with that pup!