Even though you have taught him not to snatch and grab at the food, he may be giving those treats in your hand, or bag, so much attention, that he is unable to think about anything else.
Alternatively, teaching him not to try and bust into your treat bag may have resulted in a certain indifference towards you.
Perhaps he is wandering around sniffing the ground or chasing his tail, rather than wanting to interact with you.
It is really important that you have your dog’s attention before you attempt to train him.
Fortunately it is quite a simple matter to teach your dog to make eye contact with you, and to watch your face, rather than your treat bag.
You can teach your dog to make and hold eye contact in easy stages. Have some food that he really likes, cut up into small pieces.
You’ll be starting by marking and rewarding brief glances at your face. You may have to be patient to begin with
Exercise – look at my face
- Have some spare treats in one hand
- Let the dog see you place a treat in the other hand but don’t offer it to the dog yet. Watch his face and be ready
- The instant the dog glances at your face – Mark and Reward
- Repeat from 2 several (5 or 6) times then withhold rewards for brief glances, you are waiting for a two-seconds of eye contact
- Repeat, gradually increasing the length of time your dog spends looking at your face
Be patient each time you raise the criteria – give him a chance to figure out what you want him to do in exchange for his reward.If your dog repeatedly fails to reach your new standard, simply go back a step for a session or two then try again.
Remember to keep to the standards that you set when teaching your dog to take food appropriately.
When you are confident in these standards and when your dog can look at your face for a good 5 seconds or more, you are ready to train together.
Behaving appropriately around food
The appropriate way for your dog to behave around food or training treats is for him to switch into work mode.
He should be ready to focus on you, and to play the amazing game that is dog training.
In the next article, we’ll look at the third part of this ‘working with food’ series where we teach the dog to recognise a ‘lure’ and differentiate between the lure hand and the feeding hand.