Getting a new puppy is a lot like sitting down to paint a new canvas. You have a pretty good idea about what you want your art to look like, but have a hard time figuring out where to start. The same can be said for dog training. You want to teach them all sorts of things like sit, stay, off, down, and maybe even something flashy like “sit pretty.” However, you’re going to have a tough time if you can’t get your dog’s attention or focus on you.
When training your dog, the first thing you should teach them is “Look at me”. This command is a solid foundation for training and will give you an opportunity to really communicate with your dog.
“Look at me” might sound a bit strange as you’re probably thinking commands like “come” or “sit” should be the first to be taught. However, once taught, “Look at me” can be combined with a variety of situations in which having your dog’s attention could be highly beneficial. Teaching “Look at me” to your dog as the first step of their training journey is an easy and fool-proof way to get your dog used to listening to you and following the commands they are given in the future.
How To Teach “Look At Me”
Getting your dog’s attention during training or in your day-to-day life is one of the most essential and beneficial skills you can have, as this allows you to establish a strong line of communication with your dog. In the beginning, it can be frustrating to ask your dog to do something and have them either look the other way or be confused by what you are asking. Teaching the “Look at me” command as the first part of your training regimen will give you the ability to get your dog’s attention focused back on you in even the most distracting or unsure situations.
To begin, hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose. Bring the treat to your face and hold it right between your eyes. The moment your dog makes eye contact with you, say “Look at me” followed by “Yes!” and give them the treat. Repeat this several times so that your dog begins to correlate that looking at you equals a yummy treat.
After several successes, remove the lure from their nose to your eyes and simply ask your dog for the “Look at me” command. You may have to wait a moment as they will search for the treat in your hand or nearby. The moment they make eye contact, reward them with a “Yes!” and a treat.
A great way to solidify this command in the early stages is to combine a Clicker with the verbal cue “Yes!”. Using the clicker, simply press down at the same time to create a dependable click noise at the same time as your verbal praise. At times, our voice inflection can change and can be confusing for our dogs to understand. Having a solid click sound coupled with our “Yes!” is an easy way to let your dog know that they will be receiving a treat when they hear a click, “Yes!”, or a combination of both.
“Leave It & Look At Me” Combo
Now that you can get your dog’s attention on command, you can integrate this into “leave it” training as well. Think about it like this: your dog is engaging in a behavior such as barking at people walking by. You both want your dog to stop that behavior and focus on you instead of the distraction. So, you can generalize teaching “leave it” things other than food or objects.
To teach “leave it”, check out my full article with steps and distractions here. Once you’ve got that covered, you can ask for “leave it” followed by “look at me.” This is great because you are rewarding your dog for their attention. Leaving something is great, but getting their eyes on you solidifies that they are no longer interested in the distraction because youare more important.
In practice, this would look like walking down the road. Your dog stops to sniff a piece of trash. You say “leave it”, and once your dog stops paying attention to the trash, say “look at me.” As you go, you can say this all in one phrase but it’s important for your dog to know what each command means separately. You can use this with barking at people while walking, chasing cats, smelling gross things on the ground, dropped food in the kitchen, etc. Directly your dog back to you is your goal.
Starting training can be a daunting task, especially when it comes time to establish a true line of communication between you and your dog. The “Look at me” command is a great way to set up that relationship as, no matter the circumstances, your dog will know to check back in with you through eye contact. When your dog is looking at you, you have their full attention, which can be essential in a safety situation or training opportunity.
In the world of dog training, there are numerous schools of thought on whether a retractable dog leash should be used when walking or training your dog. With most trainers advocating against them, I personally believe that, with the right hands, retractable leashes can be safely integrated into your training arsenal.
As with any training tool, a retractable leash is completely safe to use with your dog as long as it is used correctly. Keeping the leash short when you are in an unfamiliar area or around potential safety hazards will help keep you and your pup safe while also having the freedom of a longer line.
There are many benefits that come with using retractable leashes as they allow your dog to have more area to explore while still being tethered to you. As always, safety comes first. To protect your dog, it is important to know how retractable leashes work and how to use them properly.
What Is A Retractable Leash?
Dog leashes come in a plethora of lengths and are made of an astounding variety of materials. Retractable leashes are longer than most traditional leather or nylon leashes as they consist of a housing that holds the corded leash. The leash itself is rolled up onto a spool and released as your dog walks farther away from you. The most common length for these types of leashes is from 10 to 20 feet long.
Since these leashes allow for your dog to roam farther from you, they also come with a locking mechanism that holds the leash in place at the desired length. To activate this feature, you simply push the brake button and flip it into the locked position. This will prevent the leash from rolling back in or out of the spool, keeping the leash at the selected length.
There are some retractable leashes that have an additional locking mechanism that allows you to select the length using a dial. The Dial A-Distance Retractable Dog Leash has settings for 1 to 15 feet long and will lock automatically at the selected length. Other leashes, such as FLEXI Classic Retractable Dog Leash, uses the traditional lock that clicks into place at the length of your choosing.
Altering your leash length to match the environment is the key to correctly choosing and using a retractable leash. If you are going to a park with a lot of space, opt for a longer leash length as this will allow your dog to explore and sniff to their heart’s content. If you’re going to be in a busier area, lock the leash at an appropriate length where you will continue to have control over your dog
How To Use A Retractable Leash Safely
Since retractable leashes are longer than most traditional leashes, safety hazards can arise if they are not used properly. So the question then comes, when is the right time to use a retractable leash versus a traditional 4 or 6 foot lead? Knowing the environment you will be walking in, the behavior of your dog, and your experience using retractable leashes are all important considerations before choosing this device for your walk.
In my experience, I prefer to use a retractable leash when I’m going on a trail or expansive park where I will remain a long distance away from other people or dogs. This allows my dogs to smell and move a bit faster than I want to go, letting them decompress and get some exercise. My dogs will also recall back to me if there is a distraction or danger so I feel confident that their distance won’t cause any issues.
In regards to pulling, it is essential never to use a retractable leash with a dog who will run to the end of the leash or pull dramatically. Larger dogs are especially guilty of this as when they throw their weight against the leash, the chances of the lock mechanism breaking or the leash coming completely unwound are much higher. In this case, it would be best to use a strong, 6 foot leash such as the Braided Leather Dog Training Leash to have overall better control over your dog.
All in all, use your best judgement if opting to use a retractable leash with your dog. There are many benefits including the option to train from a distance or letting your dog have more freedom to sniff around in the appropriate environment. For dogs that pull, are not yet leash trained, or will not reliably heel, using a traditional leash is a better option.
If you have recently purchased or adopted a new puppy, crate training can be an invaluable tool to have during your new dog’s adjustment period. Training a dog to enter their crate on command and remain calm while in the crate are the primary objectives when it comes to crate training.
To crate train your puppy, begin by luring them into the crate with a treat or piece of kibble. Once they enter the crate, praise them and give them the reward you used to lure them.
To have your dog to enter their crate upon command and remain comfortable while they are crated, it is important to set yourself and your dog up for success. Make sure you have a crate that is suitable to your dogs’ size and that you take adequate time getting them used to both going in the crate and staying in there without any issues.
Step One: Getting Your Dog Familiar With The Crate
With any new animal, there is a period of adjustment for both the owner and the pet. Coming into an unfamiliar environment with new people, smells, and distractions can be stressful for a new pup. And that’s where the crate comes in. By using a crate, you are able to give your dog a “spot” of their own where they can feel safe and relaxed.
To start, open the door or doors of the crate. Let your puppy (or older dog!) check out the crate. If they are disinterested, use a treat or toy that they like to get their attention. You can use this treat or item to slowly lure them into the crate by placing it in front of their nose. Once they place one paw, or all four, inside the crate, reward them by saying “Yes!” and give them the item you used for luring.
The next step is getting your pup to go farther into the crate before giving them the reward. Using the lure, try to have them place all four paws inside and wait a moment before giving them the treat or toy. Praise them with “Yes!” and allow them to leave the crate if they would like to. At this point, they are probably getting the hang of it and will begin to realize they get treats while they are in the crate!
If luring is difficult for you or your dog, another way to encourage your pup to enter the crate is to throw a treat or toy towards the back of the crate. Once the dog begins to investigate the crate and goes inside, reward them immediately. As you go, increase the amount of time the dog is in the crate before giving them a treat or a reward. The goal is for them to see this area as a safe place where they are praised for hanging out.
Step Two: Teaching A Command For The Crate
Crate training your puppy also involves assigning a verbal command to the action you are requesting. Now that your dog understands that the crate is a place to receive treats and praise, it is time to give them a cue to enter the crate. I personally use the phrase “Load Up”, but other examples I’ve heard owners use include “Crate”, “Kennel”, or “Into Bed”.
You can begin using your preferred phrase or word when luring the dog into the crate in the acclimation stage as well since the steps are quite similar. Once your dog has all four paws in the crate, say “Crate” or your phrase and give them a treat. You can also say “Yes! Good Crate” or something similar to let them know that you are happy with them being in the crate.
You will need to practice luring them into the crate while using the command by adding distance and timing to your training sessions. Start by backing up a few inches from the crate and using the command for going into the crate while gently luring with the treat. As they begin to understand what you are asking, move farther away and reduce the use of the lure to have them go into the crate.
Step Three: Handle Challenges And Reward Good Behavior
No attempt at training your dog something new is without some pitfalls or challenges along the way. At our house, we tend to divide our perception of time between “good days” and “bad days”. With crate training, there can be some resistance in the beginning as it will take your pup some time to get used to being confined but, with patience, they will begin to look forward to going into their special spot.
The question I most often receive regarding crate training issues is on how to handle or stop whining or barking in the crate. At first, this can be challenging as your new dog adapts to the routine of being in the crate, as they would rather be with you or getting into trouble!
The best solution to this is to simply ignore your dog while they are exhibiting this behavior. It’s important to understand the context behind the whining or barking as they may be trying to let you know that they are hungry, need to go potty, or simply need some exercise.
For dogs that are having accidents in their crate, try taking up any soft items such as blankets or towels. Dogs like to eliminate on soft surfaces and may see this fabric as a place to use the bathroom.
Overall, your goal is to create an environment in which your dog feels safe, secure, and comfortable. Rewarding them for good behavior, such as entering the crate on their own free will, going up when commanded, or simply relaxing in the crate when the door is shut, are all ways to let them know that this is a positive, repeatable behavior.
Recommended Crates & Kennels
Picking out a crate can be daunting at first, especially if you have a puppy that is going to grow significantly as they age. Do your best to estimate their adult size and purchase a crate that can be used with a divider.
Traditional wire crates come with a removable tray that can be easily cleaning or sanitized in the event of an accident or trip to the backyard dirt pile. I generally clean my dogs’ crate trays after I bathe them to reduce as much dirt transfer as possible. For my ever-growing puppy, I use MidWest ICrate the and have the divider placed at the halfway point until she gets a little bit bigger.
Reducing the size of the crate for growing puppies is ideal, as the more room that they have, the more likely they are to have accidents in one part of the crate. Make sure there is adequate room for your puppy to lay down and stretch out, but not much more.
For road trips or long car rides, I suggest the Portable Folding Soft Dog Travel Crate crate as it provides a secure place for your dog to rest in the car and fits in most vehicles. You can err on the side of a small size here as your dog won’t be spending as much time in it as the one they have at home. Soft-sided crates have sprung up on the market in the past couple of years and are great for dogs that are older or are less likely to chew on the fabric.
For anxious dogs or dogs who might try to chew on the wire crate, Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel is a great option as it’s both sturdy and secure. These let in less light and noise, which can provide a perfect haven for a stressed dog during a thunderstorm or nearby fireworks.
No matter which crate you end up selecting or may already have, the number one thing to remember here is to reward your dog for going into the crate and making it a safe place for them to be. Using your lure, get your pup to enter the crate on their own and mark this occurrence with a “Yes!” and your chosen command. Before you know it, your dog will love going into the crate, and you will be able to keep your eyes off of them, if even just for a moment!
Hey there, thanks for visiting my blog. My name is Taylor, and I’ve wanted to start this journey for some time now. As a certified dog trainer and prior vet tech, I have thousands of hours of experience training dogs, solving behavior problems, and spending way too much money spoiling my own pups.
To all of my current and aspiring dog owners – you have come to the right place.
Puppyhood is hard. It’s fun and fluffy and also full of accidents, mistakes, sleepless nights, and a whole slew of things you simply wouldn’t have thought of before. When I brought home my most recent addition, an eight-week-old Australian shepherd, I was convinced there was not a single toy or training aide I hadn’t thought of. Until she had no interest in anything except my pant legs. If only there would have been some preparation checklist somewhere I could have referenced! Well, now there will be.
Having trained dogs as a hobby and, more recently, professionally, I’ve felt the growing pains of bringing a new dog into your home or having to solve new issues that arise, seemingly out of nowhere. My goal is to use both my knowledge and experience to create digestible and straightforward content that will help you on your training journey. I have thousands of ideas, tips, and tricks of the trade that can solve even the most complicated behavioral issues or simple training hiccups.
Some topics I’ll cover on this blog include:
Types of Chews, Toys, & Treats
I want to create a space for learning, expression, and growth for both us and our pets that we share our lives with.
As we go, please feel free to email me any comments or questions that pop into your head, as I love making new connections with both humans and animals. If you have any ideas for content you would like to see, product recommendations, or partnership questions, I’d be happy to go over any of those with you as well.
Thank you for coming to the Canine Compendium, and together, we will create the most inclusive and extensive dog content on the web, all in one place!