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One of the most common issues people ask me for help with is getting their dog to pay attention to them either to get them back when off lead, or to help with other things like walking on a loose lead
What does engagement mean?
First, let’s clarify what this means. When I am looking to see how well a dog engages with the owner I am assessing if they look to the owner and how much either on their own or when their name is spoken. Does this happen only at home or also on walks of all varieties? Does the dog also offer eye contact, come when they are called and focus on the owner when there are distractions.
Why is engagement important?
Engagement with your dog is one of the most useful tools you need for any aspect of the dog-owner relationship. It is the base for everything that follows, bond, trust and achieving those training goals. The training goals you have will vary hugely depending on your level of requirement from pet owner to training enthusiast, working dog owner or dog professional. Everyone needs engagement to get to where they need to be.
Through promoting engagement your dog will begin to naturally check in with you, why is this important? A dog that OFFERS this behaviour has achieved a stronger skill. Offering behaviours means you are not prompting your dog, prompting your dog too often can result in a dog that ignores you which is the opposite of the goal. There is strength to any exercise where the dog offers it versus being asked to do it.
Engagement means your dog is more likely to come back to you when off the lead, to ignore distractions looking to you instead and walk better on a lead. Without engagement, all these exercises will be more difficult to achieve.
Where do you start?
There is quite a lot you can do to help your dog’s engagement improve so that no matter what the distraction is around them they will listen to you.
Take a look at this video to watch a free talk about this with demonstrations on what training exercises you can train.