We all are aware of the main training “tricks” that pop into our heads when getting a new puppy/dog. Tricks such as “sit”, “stay” and “down” for instance- just to name a few. One thing that is vastly overlooked is Engagement drills. Doing engagement is easy training for new dogs to the home or puppies. The earlier the better, and it is one of the first things you should do when getting a new puppy/dog. Here is a guide to easy engagement training for dogs.
Intro to Engagement
I realized the importance of this and its actual existence when we had a colleague of mine who runs his own successful dog business come over to see my dog Lilou. He is excellent and knowledgeable – check out his Instagram and his website at the bottom of the article for more info and some cool videos of his work.
Dog trainers and dog owners obviously have their differences in the natural approach. Me being more of a dog owner, I was guilty of the same things as many of you reading this- BUT HAD NO IDEA. With many dog owners- (me included)- we are guilty of focusing heavily on teaching general house manners and obedience at first naturally. We commonly ignore the fundamental building blocks of training the dog to be overall motivated to learn.
The thing that dog trainers like my friend Andy Z know right off the bat are you need to establish a strong foundation. Just like with many things, if the foundation is not strong everything will be more difficult going forward and things are more likely to collapse. Having an engaged pet is about teaching them the above all principle to start -paying attention to their human. We need them to realize that we have something good for them, if they listen to us, they will be rewarded. It is in their best interest to listen to us and pay close attention.
Easy Engagement Training for Dogs
Engagement can be easy training, however has many facets and is encompassed by anything that is motivating the dog to listen to their human. Things like even feeding them from your hand, for instance, is an example of them primitively correlating that good things come directly from you. I will go over 2 easy drills you can do with your dog for 10-15 minutes a day- or if they are hungry enough. Everything is easier when the dog is hungry.
Eye Contact Drill
– One of the easiest types of engagement drill is maintaining eye contact, simply enough. Start off by standing near them, and if possible do not let them know you have a treat. We want them to pay attention to YOU, not just a treat. If possible, get them to sit down or they be inclined to sit down on their own- this is fine.
– Say their name or a separate trigger word such as “eyes” to get full attention. Now take one step back without them losing focus. They may look into your eyes at first only for a moment- treat them the moment when they make full eye contact. With them curious about what is going on and watching you, now Take 2 steps back. If possible, hold the eye contact a bit longer, then walk back to them and praise. Keep repeating this as many times as you can. The longer they watch you and pay attention, the easier it will be to have their full undivided attention when training them for more complex commands later. Engagement is a fundamental aspect of learning 😊
Note: You can try to do this exercise in a “down” position to relax them if your dog struggles to stand still. You can also treat them randomly if they are laying down on their own and looking at you throughout the day. This feels too easy I know, but they will figure out extremely fast how easy and rewarding it is to simply just look at you. It will start feeling like a steal of a deal for them.
Playing Hide and Seek
This exercise is a fun way to practice engagement with your dog. In my opinion, this fortifies engagement in a different way than eye contact. Hide and seek, however, achieves the same fundamental foundation we want your pup to have. Start by putting a toy or some food on the ground or something to distract them. At this point, you could also use a family member to distract the dog as well. With a treat in your hand, go hide somewhere like you did when you were a kid. Now you should call the dog.
If you have been engaging with the dog in the past, they should be immediately curious about hearing you but not seeing you. The dog will work to find you as soon as possible knowing there are good things to come. This is also great for their mind regarding problem solving and using their scent to assist stimulates their mind even further. It is just another way to engage with your pet in a more fun way and they LOVE when they find you.
Conclusion Engagement drills
To me, both engagement training piggyback off of one another. As I stated earlier, there are many facets to engagement with your dog. I think incorporating these 2 things are not only easy but fun too. I personally saw improvement in many aspects of training just from doing these simple things. My dog Lilou would listen when called better, follow me more around the house, and honestly just seemed more willing to work with me. I think getting the importance of eye contact first builds up that idea and value of listening to you. The game of hide-and-seek maintains that need to engage with you through wanting to find you. If you are too busy some days to do this, your kids accomplish these tasks successfully as well. Happy learning!
Andy Lopez Dog Training info