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Thread: Improving eye contact

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    Senior Member weathered's Avatar
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    Default Improving eye contact

    Some History: We recently acquired a 3yo BLF. She has had some training: at least CC and FF. She handles a little, but is slow to sit and casts incorrectly often; she will not look at her handler well when sat. She displays signs that she was trained with a heavy hand. Despite this, she is an energetic retriever.

    We have decided to start completely over with her. Step 1 OB. We are noticing she has very poor eye contact in a front sit. Refusing to look at her handler is going to cause some problems going forward. Any suggestions to improve eye contact?

    We are integrating her into our home so she is bonding with us. She is not being treated with a heavy hand by us. We have had her about a month now.

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    Senior Member gdgnyc's Avatar
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    Could you describe your training style for obedience?

    Also, if I were you, I would spend time bonding with the dog. I would also do training that rewards eye contact with you and shape it for duration.
    "I love the rod and gun and where they take me."

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    Build up her momentum, you can use some of the Bill Hillman stuff. Get her excited then have her sit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by weathered View Post
    Some History: We recently acquired a 3yo BLF. She has had some training: at least CC and FF. She handles a little, but is slow to sit and casts incorrectly often; she will not look at her handler well when sat. She displays signs that she was trained with a heavy hand. Despite this, she is an energetic retriever.

    We have decided to start completely over with her. Step 1 OB. We are noticing she has very poor eye contact in a front sit. Refusing to look at her handler is going to cause some problems going forward. Any suggestions to improve eye contact?

    We are integrating her into our home so she is bonding with us. She is not being treated with a heavy hand by us. We have had her about a month now.
    You might try training with treats for a while. Dog will start watching your hands which is helpful in later training

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    Senior Member TBell's Avatar
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    Hi Weathered,

    You have the right idea by starting from the very beginning.

    This is also a socialization issue. I agree with Steve that by using the Hillmann theories of excitement.

    I would also use Hillmann's suggestions from his puppy videos of the handler being the only source of joy in this dog's life. This dog has a distrust of humans, and you will need to earn that trust and respect.

    Below is how I would begin before I got into any real 'training' with her, as yard work is NOT what she needs at this point.

    Isolate this dog from other people and dogs so that only her handler will feed, air, and play with her.

    When you go into her kennel in the morning, tell her to 'sit'. Once she is sitting, stand there looking at her until she makes eye contact. When she makes eye contact with you, IMMEDIATELY say 'good' and give her a treat. (NOTE: I agree with Bill about treats, but you do not want her to watch your hands. Already have a treat in your hand or keep in a pouch behind your back. You want EYE contact first, then say GOOD, and give reward.) Now release her with your release command and let her out to air.

    Keep a pocket of treats handy. Use them to reward her when she looks at you and to make her obey commands. Use a key word such as 'good' when she complies.

    Now I would take her back to her kennel and get her a bowl of food. Do the same thing and say 'sit'. Open the kennel door and place the food on the ground. Do NOT let her eat it until she looks you in the eye and then say 'good' and release her to eat the food.

    Use the same routine each time you open her kennel door. Say 'Sit', wait until she makes eye contact, say 'good', give her a treat and then release her.

    For the first few days, I would take her out for short walks. When she makes eye contact give her a treat. You can also place a small bumper in your back pocket on these walks. If she starts making eye contact for longer periods, you can alternate saying 'good' and bringing the bumper out as a special reward. Use it like Hillmann does for excitement, not necessarily the retrieve.

    Wave the bumper like a toy to create excitement getting her really pumped up and then make a small toss. Only do this a couple of times each walk and then put her back in the kennel.

    Use the same routine each time you feed or get her out of her kennel.

    You will be her only source of joy. You will make retrieving a bumper fun for her again, but only after she makes eye contact with YOU. Do you get the idea? Transfer this excitement to the yard. Keep it fun!

    Females are funny and do not usually like yard work. You must make it seem like a game and not work for her. You will have to study principles of motivation to gain her trust and get her to work for you.

    Good luck in your project!

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    Senior Member weathered's Avatar
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    She is living in our house when we are home, crated at night, in a kennel run or airing yard when we are not home. She is being treated as part of the family. We do have other Labs that have the same indoor/outdoor routine. She really doesn't interact much with the other dogs. She is very submissive with the other dogs and we have had no aggression from any of the dogs- which has amazed me that there haven't been things happen to work out the pecking order, but I think she is at the bottom. I started out with treat training with simple obedience, no real corrections given, just repeated command and helped her to the position as needed. She is very food motivated. When she started being consistent and not fearful when I gave a command I switched to a choke chain and e-collar (not used). Lots of verbal praise and petting when she did well, which is most of the time. I tried having her in front sit and waiting till she looked at me, said "good" then petted her. She does like attention, so praise and petting is rewarding to her. She literally turns her head away, looking to the right, any time she is sitting and I'm not beside her.

    We are following Lardy TRT, but going slow and using a lot of praise. My husband and I train very similarly, she reacts the same to both of us, we will both handle her. I do know some of Hillman's technique; the excitement bumper and then sit. She does get excited about retrieves. She is wanting to go outside to work now when we take the other dog out to work. I feel we have made progress with her trusting us. She follows us everywhere, indoors and out.

    Sounds like more treat training is in order. I know some obedience folks hold treats in their mouth so the dog is looking at their face; so I'll search for info about that.

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    Tammy said it a little better than I did

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    Sounds like more treat training is in order. I know some obedience folks hold treats in their mouth so the dog is looking at their face; so I'll search for info about that.[/QUOTE]

    Have her set facing you at about 10 feet. Have a small piece of wiener in your mouth. Telll her to look! and snap your fingers or move your hands at chest level to get her looking at you. Then spit the wienie on the ground and let her get it. repeta to get her to learn the look command
    BillB

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    Senior Member DRAKEHAVEN's Avatar
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    Give Her a reason to make eye contact.
    Teach her a sit whistle is NOT the precursor to a burn, a slow sit is the precursor to a burn.
    Discipline is no excuse for a lack of enthusiasm !!

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    I agree with Tammy on a lot of what she said but I would not recommend asking the dog for any behaviors other than making eye contact. In the kennel example I would just walk in, wait for her to make eye contact, say "good", and open the gate (or feed).

    You have to work on one thing and one thing only for a while, in order to establish that habit, before moving onto other commands like SIT, here, heel or anything else. You may need to let her smell a handful of treats then raise it to your face a bunch of times to teach her where to look in order to get fed. Get your hands out of the game quickly if you can though. We want her automatically looking at your face.

    Once she starts doing it let her learn on her own that the eye contact is what gets the vending machine to give up the candy bar. Say nothing to her and wait for her to look at you. If she happens to sit then fine, reward the combination of sitting and eye contact, but it has to be eye contact as the primary and sitting as a by product.

    I would leave out the praise as well (if she's been struck before she may get nervous) and she'd probably be eating all her meals from my hand as rewards for eye contact.

    The dog needs to learn to trust you and engage with you before any of your other training can be successful. I wouldn't do anything else except work on this until I had it. Engaging in other behaviors and exercises just gives too many opportunities for her lack of attention to get rewarded.

    It won't take long if you focus exclusively on this one aspect of her behavior.

    Here's a video of me starting out with a little puppy. Ignore the "OK" command cue. That's me building in the release command for later. Notice I reward in both a standing and sitting position, each time pup's eyes meet mine. You'll even see me reward twice for one sit because he looked away for a second and when he refocused on me, I paid again.

    Last edited by DarrinGreene; 04-07-2014 at 11:48 AM.
    Darrin Greene

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