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Dog Training And Eye Contact

Updated on May 28, 2010

Eye Contact And Dog Training - The Missing Ingredient

If you have ever had the privilege to watch a well trained dog and his or her owner interact you have likely left thinking that they have almost an uncanny ability to communicate with each other in some telepathic way. In reality part of the teamwork involves the owner tapping into the instinctual behaviors of dogs as pack animals. Something as simple as how you are making or maintaining eye contact with your dog can help or hinder your training efforts in huge ways.

Be The Leader

You can establish yourself as the pack leader without having to be aggressive or dominant with your dog and certainly without the need of any type of inhumane submission training. Pack leaders or alpha dogs are confident and assertive, not aggressive or cruel. Start by using your eyes to send messages to your dog that you are boss. Make direct eye contact with your dog and see how he or she responds. If the dog drops his or her eyes, looks down or away, they are acknowledging that you are the leader and they are not going to challenge your authority. If your dog stares back or initiates a lot of direct eye contact in a noncompliant situation they see themselves as the leader.

Being the leader means several things, but most importantly that the dog follows you, not the other way around. You should make sure that you walk through doors first, initiate play times and attention and control the training session. Never stop an activity or training routine because you dog seems to want to, rather do one more command successfully then quit on your terms.

Using The Old Evil Eye Routine

The alpha dog or pack leader doesn't have to use aggression to manage the pack members and typically he or she just has to employ the use of what is often called the "evil eye". You don't have to use a horrible expression, but maintaining steady, direct eye contact when your dog is not behaving will clearly signal to him or her that you are not impressed. If your dog recognizes you as the pack leader the response will be immediate. He or she will disengage from the problem behavior and drop their eyes, moving towards you in a submissive type of posture.

This gives you the opportunity to praise the dog for behaving the right way, allowing you be the benevolent alpha leader and recognizing the dog's good decision making. Make eye contact in short, normal bursts to signal that they are doing just what they are supposed to do. Your dog should return the eye contact in the same way.

Positive Eye Contact

You don't want your dog to avoid your eye contact when they are doing the right thing, so it is important to train them to look at you. Usually this will only be necessary with very timid and submissive dogs or dogs that have been in abusive homes. Calling their name and rewarding them with a treat when they make eye contact, even briefly, is the first step. The next step is to have them sit, get at eye level and hold a treat between your eyes and theirs. The dog will look at the treat and at you, immediately at this point provide the treat as well as gentle praise and petting. Before long your dog will be looking up at you for a treat and at this point it is mission accomplished.

Reaping The Training Benefits

Once your dog sees you as the leader and understands that he or she will be rewarded for the right type of eye contact your training will become much more effective. Your dog will know to look to you for either approval or disapproval, depending on your eye contact with them. This hidden communication between you and your dog allows you to give cues and clues if the dog is tentative or uncertain of what you want.

The result of this eye communication is a well-developed sense of teamwork between you and the dog. The human, however, has to learn to read their dog's body language, including their eye contact messages, to develop a better sense of what is going on for their dog at any given time. It does take a bit of effort but it is well worth the time to learn canine eye language and signals.

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very helpfully thanks

    • romper20 profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Wonderful hub Julie, keep up the great work!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Ohhh that gave me a good laugh! Lol

    • explorer9360 profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice tips. Going to use them. Thanks

    • Julie-Ann Amos profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie-Ann Amos 

      9 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      Well if you're using the EVIL eye remember to curl up one side of your top lip too. That really freaks them! But remember to be sure YOU are dominant to your dog before you try it, or he may see it as challenge from an underling and bite you!

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      9 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Another good hub on dog training which I had occasion to use half through reading it. My dog jumped up on the couch and I made him get down with an assertive command and the evil eye. Seemed to work.


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