This is an offered attention exercise designed to help teach your puppy that offering some behaviors will earn rewards and that others do not. Puppies do not necessarily come pre-programmed with the idea that offering behaviors can be a means to an end. We can, however, teach them that a seemingly incongruous action can cause a treat to be given to them even in a situation where trying to get the treat directly does not. We are essentially letting our puppies discover how to “train” you to give them a treat!
Begin this game by sitting next to your puppy holding a handful of treats (if your puppy bites your hands to try to get to the treats, you can put them in a container). It shouldn’t be a secret that the treats are there- we want the puppy to know what the end goal is. Wait until your puppy looks at your face (even accidentally or for just a quick second) and then mark and give your puppy the treat! As your puppy gets better and better at this game you can eventually shape it into the full attention that you want.
This game can be practiced in short sessions, hopefully multiple times throughout the day. This would be a nice exercise to begin training sessions with! As your puppy begins to be able to offer attention (looking at your face) for multiple seconds you should begin to make the amount of time spent giving you attention before they get the treat variable. Dogs are so good at judging time and sensing patterns; we don’t want to be predictable in our training of this exercise.
While playing this game, abstain from using any verbal cues or directions. Allow your puppy the time to figure out the rules of this game on their own, and always keep it fun! This should be a game, not a chore. This game will be a nice foundation for focus or impulse control exercises that we will work on later throughout the course!
After practicing this game for a couple of days, take it on the road! Work through this exercise in different rooms in your home and when outside on the go.