There are several ways to train a dog to pay attention, but the “smacking sound” remains my favorite technique. This simple exercise will teach your dog to pay attention to you on cue, which can come in handy when you’re out and about and need to prevent his attention from wandering.
Before we begin, you will need to choose a noise your dog finds attractive. Because many dogs respond well to a kissing, smacking noise (as though you were kissing the air), I will be using a smacking sound throughout this course; but you can substitute this for any other sound, such as a whistle or a pop.
Whichever sound you choose to use, make sure it’s something you can rely on so you don’t have to depend on an object when you’re out and need to get your dog’s attention fast. You should also make sure the sound is loud enough for your dog to hear even when you are outside and things are a bit noisier.
Now, with your dog in a quiet room, make a smacking sound (even though you may choose a different sound, for ease of instruction we will refer to this as the “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 will be able to start using the smacking sound in everyday life whenever 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 the Brain Training for Dogs online training course. In “Look at That,” we will work specifically on teaching your dog to pay attention to the smacking sound despite strong distractions.
If your dog appears distracted, consider whether you need to move to a less distracting/quieter room or use higher-value treats such as pieces of cheese or freeze-dried liver.