Objective: Your dog must make eye contact despite the distraction of a cookie.

You Will Need:

  • Dog cookies or other large treats

 

 

This little brain game will teach your dog that looking into your eyes is what magically grants him a treat. Whether you own a puppy, an adult dog, or a rescue dog, this game is a great way to bond and help him view you as a source of rewards and pleasure! It also gets your dog thinking despite distractions.

The only thing you will need to play this game are some larger treats that protrude from your fingers (a dog cookie works well in this case). So let’s get started!

 

How to Train The Airplane Game

Find a quiet area with few distractions. When you’re ready to begin, hold a dog cookie in one of your hands, letting it protrude from your fingers so your dog sees it. Now, stretch your arms out as though you were an airplane, while keeping the cookie in clear view.

Here I am doing my best airplane impression. Notice the large cookie protruding from one hand.

Einstein makes eye contact! At this point, say “yes” and immediately drop the treat.

If your dog is highly food motivated, he’ll likely look at the cookie in your hand and perhaps even drool. If he’s the type of dog who gets frustrated, he may bark or paw at you, and if he’s a jumper he may attempt to jump up and grab it.

Ignore these behaviors and keep the cookie firmly held so he can’t get it.

Now, look into your dog’s eyes and wait patiently until he makes eye contact with you. The moment he makes eye contact, say “yes” and let the cookie fall to the ground so he can get it.

Bingo! Your dog has just discovered that eye contact is what makes you drop the “bomb” (treat).

As he gets good at this you can use smaller, bite-sized treats. This will help him pass the exam with “flying” colors (ha, get it?), as he won’t spend precious seconds chewing on a cookie.

 

Troubleshooting Problems

I make the smacking sound from “Look into My Eyes” (found in the Brain Training for Dogs course) so Einstein makes eye contact. When he looks into my eyes I say “yes” and drop the treat.

In some cases, your dog may not notice the treat in your hand. If so, try moving the hand with the cookie around a little to grab his attention. If you really need to, you can lower the hand, let him sniff the cookie, then raise it back up into position. This may lead to jumping, but ignore the jumping behavior and wait for him to make eye contact.

In the Brain Training for Dogs course, the “Look into My Eyes” game will teach your dog to make eye contact whenever you make the smacking sound we learned about earlier. Once your dog has mastered “Look into My Eyes,” you can use the smacking sound during “The Airplane Game” as a hint.

Increase the Challenge

Once your dog gets the hang of this game, you can make it more intriguing by replacing the dog cookie with even higher-value items like his favorite bone. You can even add a touch of unpredictability by hiding different treats in your hand so he doesn’t know what they are until you let them fall to the ground.

To add even more fun and unpredictability, randomly change the hand that holds the treat.

The Exam

When you’re ready, start the timer and complete three repetitions of the “Airplane Game” exercise in a row. This means holding up a treat with your arms outstretched, waiting for your dog to make eye contact, then dropping the treat—and repeating this two more times. As soon as you’re finished, stop the timer and check the grade table lower down this page to find out how well your dog scored.

Here’s a video of Einstein and me completing this exam:

You may have noticed that I use a clicker instead of saying “yes.” In the Brain Training for Dogs course I will teach you all about clickers and how to use them to take your training to the next level.

Einstein’s Tip: To complete the challenge faster, use small treats that your dog eats in one bite, and don’t toss the treat across the room, just let it fall to the ground or straight to your dog. This one’s a joint effort between dog and owner to get the A grade!

 

Exam Grade Table

Time Taken Grade Achieved
Under 11 Seconds A
11 – 15 Seconds B
16 – 20 Seconds C
21 – 25 Seconds D
26 – 30 Seconds E
Over 30 Seconds F

 

Printable Grade Table »

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