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Question regarding eye contact for those of you with some training experience!
Back story: attention is the first thing I worked on with Raffi when we got him. Starting with quietly standing and waiting for him to make eye contact, then marking and rewarding. Progressing to longer eye contact and more distractions. I never put a command to it but try to reward even with just a pat when he offers eye contact throughout the day.
We have recently started training classes. As you would expect, attention is one of the first things that was introduced in class. Raffi does very well at this during class too, with all the distractions around us. The instructor mentioned this week starting to add a command like "watch me".
Is there a purpose or benefit to adding the command? My thought was that I want him to offer attention without being asked (I followed "Attention is the Mother" from Puppy Culture, for anyone familiar with that).
I have been considering continuing his training (Rally, obedience, or agility) since he picks things up so well. I have only done agility and only non-competitively with a previous dog, so that part will be new to me. Is there a purpose to having the watch me command for advanced training? I am trying my best to introduce "proper" positioning and signals from the get-go so that it will be easier to jump in to whatever ends up suiting us best.
Haha, my question is more like a story, so hopefully what I am asking makes sense!
 

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No idea about advanced training, but it's occasionally handy in normal life.

I like having a command (I use "look!") to regain attention/remind my dog what I expect with distractions on walks (cough, squirrels, cough - but also other dogs). I also randomly reward unprompted "look" on walks. I use a hand signal for "look!" when I am trying to get her to pose nicely for pictures :D
 

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I use the cue, "focus," during rally trials when things get distracting, such as a loud noise outside the ring, or a judge who follows too closely. It's useful to have a cue for eye contact to reorient your dog back to you, as well as training the dog to offer attention.
 

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Like Click I find it helpful to have a verbal cue. Something may draw their attention away from you when you need them to focus. Without a verbal cue you would have to wait until your dog decides it should look at you. With a verbal cue you can get your dog back quickly.
 
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I had an entire six week class that was on focus. Sailor was in a class with predominantly Australian Shepherds. We started off badly because Sailor was not food motivated. I had to find a high value squeaky toy. There was a boxer in the class with the same problem. The boxer was fascinated with Sailor's squeaky toy, so we shared it. Although we did all the homework and never missed a class, I did not feel that we had accomplished much. Sailor was still prone to watching butterflies, instead of making eye contact. The show off Aussies acted like they were trying to drill holes in their owner's eyes by staring. Lo and behold, I was out with Sailor a few weeks after the class had ended, when a stranger walked up to me and said that he was astonished at how my dog watched my every move and was always looking at my face. I was so sure "nothing took" that I had not noticed the change in my dog's behavior. You can bet I made sure to be more attentive and to reward Sailor for his newly learned behavior. I was aware that he learned in a slower fashion than the Aussies, and that once he got something, he really got it ... but I missed seeing his light bulb come one.
 

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I love that story, Charmed. I, too, marvel at the herding breeds in our class. Their focus is INTENSE, even at a very young age. Peggy just looks at my hands all the time. Eeeesh. Going to have to work on that.

I never formally taught Gracie to look at me, but people would comment on it all the time, how she checked in with me constantly, even when I was oblivious.

This is one of my very favourite photos of us. Sums it up perfectly. I was simply trying to snap a timed self-portrait and had no idea:

463933
 

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PeggyTheParti, that photo is beautiful. It captures so much; Man, nature, the many moods of the sky, solitude and of course, that devoted pup. I am sure this photo evokes different feelings in everyone who looks at it. Thank you for sharing.
 

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Getting their focus is valuable in any training. It’s helped me manage a very reactive dog and is also a foundational part of agility training.

We use the command “look at me”, but any words paired with the behavior works. Gracie is my young (13 month old) mini poo I’m training for agility. I also have two older dogs that compete in agility. At a trial, as Skylar mentioned, there are a lot of distractions and it is important to be able to refocus them on you.

Peggytheparti, that’s a beautiful picture!
 

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I think it's great that you've trained in a default watch. I love it when my dogs look at me too spontaneously. But I think a cue is also needed because your dog doesn't stare at you every second when you're out and about. At least I hope not. That would not be good for his neck and he wouldn't get to look at other things. So while your dog isn't looking at you and you might need him to at this very second, what are you going to do without a cue? So I would definitely recommend training in a cue so it's there the second you need it. Reinforce the cued responses more than the spontaneous ones...with better treats and more fuss. Down play the un-cued responses a little bit. Give a smile and a pat but really make a fuss over the cued responses. You can use whatever verbal cue you want. I just say, "watch." I'd just start pairing the cue with his spontaneous offerings so he can make an association that way. Don't try to elicit the behavior until you're pretty darn sure he's paired the cue with the behavior in his own mind or made the association. It sounds like you've got a great head start. Good for you! ?
 

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It doesn't matter what you call it but definitely call it something! It is useful for many life situations where you need to get your dog to disengage from a distraction. It is also essential to have that behavior installed if you want to do any performance sport.
 

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We use "ready!" in obedience class. When you're at a trial, the judge will ask "ready?". You answer "ready" and on "forward" order from the judge, you start heeling with a command. If "ready" is your cue for attention, you have your dogs attention without losing points for an extra command.

We sort of mix ready and heel while we're learning heeling. First it's a sit with ready, then we add one step where the dogs should keep looking at us. So "ready" as a command is necessary in training.

You want the command "ready" to mean, "look at me until I release". So it's different from offered attention.
 

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Javelin has started to bark when I say ready, particularly at the start of heeling so generally now I answer the judge's "Are you ready?" by saying yes or by nodding my head. As I said above you can use whatever word you want as long as it means what you want it to for the dog.
 
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