Dog Training & Health Tips

5 Simple Ways to Get Your Dog to Pay Attention

Do you find yourself trying hopelessly to get your dog’s attention? Does “in one ear and out the other” sound familiar? Or does your dog find it easy to listen to you until he sees the dreaded mail carrier? Whatever the case, it’s important that our owners are able to capture and hold our dog’s attention. Just imagine the consequences if our dog ran onto a busy road and was not able to listen to us calling him back!

In this article, I will cover 5 simple tips you can apply immediately to help your dog become more attentive.

1.    Brain Training

Brain training is a super-effective way to increase your dog’s ability to pay attention to you!

Many of the games in my Brain Training for Dogs course are designed to improve your dog’s attentiveness. One of my favorites is “The Airplane Game,” which you can access for free. In this simple game your dog will learn the following important skills:

  • How to pay attention to you on command.
  • How to maintain focus on you despite distractions – unlocking the pathway to super obedience.
  • How to use his hidden intelligence to figure out puzzles.

2.    The “Smacking Sound”

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a noise we could make at any time to get our dog to immediately pay attention to us? Well, fortunately for us there is, and it’s called the “smacking sound”! But before we can harness its power, we need to teach our dog that this particular sound = food.

I make my smacking sound, then immediately give my dog a treat!

To do this, with your dog in a quiet room, make a smacking sound as though you were kissing the air, then immediately give him a treat. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing when you give him the treat (so long as he’s not doing anything bad like tearing up the sofa), the idea is simply to show him that whenever he hears the sound, he gets treats. After doing this for a while, you should notice that your dog looks at you for his treat whenever you make the sound. With continued practice, you can start using the smacking sound in everyday life when you want to grab your dog’s attention!

Keep in mind, however, that the smacking sound may be less effective at times when your dog is too worked up. For example, if he has seen something outside that he reacts strongly to, your sound may go unnoticed. One remedy for this is the “Look at That” game found in my “Look at That,” we will work specifically on teaching your dog to pay attention to the smacking sound despite strong distractions.

3.    The Importance of Incentives

Slices of plain cooked chicken are high-value treats. They can be used during particularly challenging training sessions.

How would you feel about the idea of working without getting paid? This is exactly how our dogs may feel when we ask them to perform mundane tasks without rewarding them for their efforts! That is why incentives are so important in dog training.

There are many different types of incentives, but food rewards are the most common. These rewards are given to a dog whenever he successfully performs a certain action. So let’s say we just started teaching our dog to “sit” for the first time. When he sits successfully, we would reward his effort by slipping him a doggy biscuit or piece of kibble. Now, the next time we ask him to sit, he will be eager to do so because he knows that he will get something tasty in return!

I cover techniques that allow you to stop giving your dog a treat every time he successfully performs a certain action, and also introduce other forms of reward.

4.    Reward Voluntary Check-ins

I reward my dog for voluntarily checking in on me in the yard.

When you are out in the yard with your dog, how often does he pay attention to you? Most likely, not very much, as he’s far too busy exploring the world with his powerful sniffer. Maybe it’s time for a little change…

Make it a habit when you are out in the yard to bring along some high-value treats (e.g. plain cooked chicken slices). Keep these treats handy in a pocket or treat bag. Now every time your dog happens to walk within arm’s reach of you, praise him and extend your hand to offer him a treat. If you do this often enough, positive reinforcement will work its magic and you’ll soon notice your dog checking in with you more and more. This is great news because it means he is learning that you are worthy of his attention!

5.    Right Place, Right Time

Choosing to begin training sessions at the right place and time can play a big role in whether or not your dog is able to pay attention.

It’s best to avoid training your dog when you first come home from work and he is all eager and excited to greet you, or when he’s all hyped up and bouncing off the walls after mealtime. Instead, wait until your dog is calmer and more capable of focusing, and use these times to your advantage.

You may also want to avoid training a new behavior in an environment where there are lots of distracting sights, sounds, and smells (e.g. the yard), as this makes it harder for your dog to stay focused on you. Instead, try training in a quiet room at first. It’s also a good idea to avoid rooms with windows if your dog is easily distracted by things he sees outside.

Einstein Says: Once your dog gets good at performing a new behavior, you can try taking him to a more distracting location for an added challenge. By teaching your dog to perform the behavior despite the added distractions, it will become more reliable.

Natural Remedies for Dogs with Allergies

Whether your dog suffers from food allergies, environmental allergies or skin-contact allergies, the end result is inevitably the same – a pretty miserable pooch. Runny eyes, nasal discharge, irritated ears, paw licking, and itchiness are all symptoms suggesting an allergy. Regardless of the type of allergy, your dog suffers from its triggered by an overreaction of your dog’s immune system. Basically, his body overreacts to certain substances that are either ingested, inhaled or come in contact with his skin. In order to fight these substances, the dog’s body produces antibodies that cause certain cells to release histamine. Histamine is ultimately what plays the biggest role in triggering the inflammatory response seen in our four-legged companions.

Treating Allergy Symptoms But Not The Cause

Most commonly, allergies are treated with prescription medications such as steroids and antihistamines. While effective, these drugs tend to only provide temporary relief and mostly mask the symptoms. On top of that, allergy drugs often cause annoying side effects. For example, using antihistamines like Benadryl can lead to unwanted drowsiness and urinary retention. Aside from this, owners are often frustrated because once these drugs are stopped their dog resumes the old itching and scratching cycle and they’re back to square one. Shutting down the immune system isn’t the real answer to the problem. This approach is ultimately a cover-up, basically the equivalent of placing a Band-Aid on an injury without fully treating it. Indeed, year after year the allergies get worse, not better.

Healing Dogs From The Inside Out

The real goal of treating a dog’s allergies from a holistic perspective is to balance and boost the immune system. Those interested in using an alternative, natural remedies will be happy learning that Mother Nature’s pantry has some valuable resources. Natural remedies aim to enforce the immune system, reduce the inflammatory response, and in some cases, even suppress the production of histamine without ever needing to touch Benadryl.

Seven Home Remedies For An Allergic Dog

These natural products may take some time to work, but they’re worth a try if you’re rightfully concerned about the use of traditional medications and their side effects. While natural treatments are often considered safe it’s important to consider that they still can have “drug-like effects”, especially when dosed or administered incorrectly. It’s always best to consult with a holistic vet for the proper use and dosage recommendations. Also, it’s a good practice to inform your regular vet about any natural supplements you are giving. Here are some of the best natural remedies for dogs with allergies:

1 Quercetin

This natural remedy is known as “nature’s Benadryl” for many good reasons. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many plants and is known to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine properties. In addition, quercetin is also known for suppressing the production of certain inflammatory molecules responsible for triggering inflammation of the respiratory tract and bronchoconstriction. Quercetin supplements can be found in the form of capsules or concentrated powders.

2 Bromelain

This enzyme is derived from pineapple. When added to quercetin, bromelain increases its bioavailability and works in synergy making it more effective. Bromelain also suppresses the production of histamine and prostaglandins. This enzyme is often added to quercetin supplements.

3 Stinging Nettle

Like quercetin, this natural remedy inhibits the release of histamine and its biologically active compounds lower the inflammatory response. Often used in the form of a tea or extract, nettle reduces itching, and best of all, it can help desensitize the body over time making the immune system less reactive according to veterinarian Sara Skiwski.  

4 Essential Fatty Acids

These fatty acids support the immune system and lower the level of inflammation in the body. Fish oils, such as those obtained from wild salmon, krill, haddock, and cod are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other beneficial sources are plant-based Omega-6 fatty acids found in evening primrose, blackcurrant seed oil, and borage. Veterinarian Randy Kidd suggests a combination of both sources of fatty acids for a more potent effect.

5 Vitamin C

This healthy vitamin does more than prevent colds. When taken daily in the correct dose it helps lower the levels of histamine in the blood

6 Coconut Oil

More and more dog owners are reaping the benefits of adding coconut oil to their dog’s diets. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which can help to suppress the body’s inflammatory response.

7 Oatmeal Baths

While oatmeal baths don’t cure allergies, it’s worth mentioning them because they work great for providing relief. A cool oatmeal bath is soothing to dogs with dry itchy skin and skin allergies.

Other Helpful Solutions

Make sure you feed a natural, high-quality diet free of wheat, corn or soy, reduce unnecessary vaccinations and invest in natural products that have a low potential for toxicity. You may also want to consider acupuncture or homeopathy for chronic or severe allergy cases. All these steps combined with natural supplements pave the path towards a stronger immune system so your dog will be on his way to many healthier and happier days to come.

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