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Do you wish your dog checked in with you more? That your dog paid more attention to you or engaged with you more often?
Have you ever found yourself saying something like:
“He doesn’t listen.”
“They never pay attention to me!”
“It’s like I’m not even there.”
“She ignores me.”
You are far from alone. We hear statements like these frequently from pet parents. The good news is, we can start moving that needle pretty quickly.
Back when I used to do in-person classes, I would have people ask me how to get their dog to pay attention. During our conversation, I would watch the dog. I was observing the dog’s body language, their response to the environment, and how they are navigating the space.
More often than not, the dog did engage with the person. And there is another construct. What does “engage” look like? The dog looking at the person, the dog making contact with the person, the dog offering the person a default behavior, or the dog bringing over a toy.
The issue? The person didn’t see it. The dog’s efforts went unnoticed and unpaid.
So, ask yourself. How many times a day does your dog engage with you?
How many times a day does your dog look at you?
How many times a day does your dog touch you?
How many times a day does your dog bring you a toy?
How many times a day does your dog offer you a sit or a down?
How many times a day do you see it?
And how many times do you reciprocate it?
I suspect it is happening more than you expect.
Observation skills are so important!
When we start to build our observation skills, notice the things our dogs do and acknowledge them, we start to see the lines of communication open with our dogs. I’ve seen people work so hard to teach their dogs skills, but there is a second part. You need the skills to see them using their skills!
Learn to notice your dog when they are doing the “right thing”, not only the “wrong thing”.
If you see your dog engaging with you, acknowledge it, and I bet you will see them do it more often. Sometimes a “Hey, friend! It’s good to see you!” is all they need. Sometimes a jaunt outside or a small treat. Sometimes a scratch in their favorite spot.
- Create a list of the ways your dog tries to engage with you. Knowing how your dog checks in gives you a better idea of what to look for.
- For 24 hours, try to catch each time your dog tries to engage with you. Keep a tally somewhere, or have a jar of 50 pieces of kibble. Each time they try to engage, give them a piece of kibble. See how many you have left at the end of the day.
- To learn more about the role of observation in addressing pet behavior issues and fostering harmony in your home, join us for our free Roadmap for Behavior Solutions workshop!