It is impossible to communicate with your dog, or with another person for that matter, unless you have his attention. Teaching your dog to make eye contact is teaching your dog to look at you when you are speaking to him, a necessary foundation for all training.
Start by sitting your dog in front of you, facing you, and telling him to stay. Take a piece of food and move it slowly from in front of your dog's nose up to the bridge of your nose, between your eyes. As you are moving the food, give your dog a command ("Max, watch"). If your dog breaks his sit-stay or jumps up to grab the food, sit him again and start over. When your dog makes eye contact, praise him quietly, give him the food you had been holding up to your eyes, and release.
When your dog has caught on to the idea, ask him to watch for a gradually increasing length of time. Start by asking him to watch while you silently count to five. If your dog looks away and breaks eye contact, move the food back to his nose to get his attention and start over. Don't ask for more than 10 seconds this week.
It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Nowhere is this more true than with dogs. Dogs say so much with their eyes. There is more to this exercise than just getting your dog's attention. It is a special way to make contact with your dog. Not only are you getting your dog's attention, you are also giving him yours. It is a mutual sharing. Whenever you are with your dog, try to make eye contact. When you do, smile at him. That is an easy way to express love.
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