From Savannah with Savvy Dog Training: In this video this is how I taught Sydney to offer eye contact on cue to “look at me or watch me”. It is extremely important, not only for deaf dogs but dogs that can hear as well.
First, you’ll use a treat that your dog likes to get their attention. Make sure your treat is a high value treat (like Oscar Meyer Light Bologna cut into small pieces, or unseasoned frozen meatballs – cooked in the microwave before you use them and broken into small pieces). If you dog is not treat motivated you can also use a favorite toy like a ball.
Bring that treat to your eyes, and mark and reward. Repeat that several times (Note: if you have questions about marker training, you can check out my video on How To Get Started With Marker Training in ASL by clicking here ). Sydney is a deaf dog so I use the sign for “yes” as my visual marker (in place of the sound of a clicker to mark the correct behavior as soon as it takes place).
Holding a high value treat to lure my deaf dog’s eyes to my face.
If your dog can hear, a verbal marker or clicker is perfectly fine. Then, once your dog has the hang of it, you can add your verbal cue or hand signal (mine is two fingers pointing towards my eyes for look aka watch me) and do the exercise several more times.
“Look at me/Watch me!”
Finally, start to set your dog up for the final step, which is transferring the “look” to your actual eyes instead of just following a treat. I take a treat and extend my arm out to the side. I ask for the “look” cue, and when Sydney looks at my eyes instead of the treat (even for just a second), I mark with the sign “yes” and reward with a high value treat.
Eye contact is extremely important – especially for deaf dogs. When your dog gets good at the arm to the side, you can make it more challenging by putting both closed fists out like you are an airplane, hold them out until your dog makes eye contact, mark and treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
You can hold the treat out to one side – or both sides and when your dog finally makes eye contact with you, mark and treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
When I first adopted Sydney from Deaf Dogs Rock, I wore my treat pouch all day, had her leash attached to me and would give her a treat for any eye contact, even if I didn’t ask for it. Now she is conditioned to constantly check in with me for direction, and can be found staring at me sometimes. I like to use the look/watch me cue as the first step for almost any behavior modification, especially reactive dogs. If you can get your dog to ignore other stimuli and look back at you, you can do anything.
Good luck, like and subscribe, and be sure to reach out if you have any questions.