“No-Look” Reinforcement Training – Whole Dog Journal

Remember once you had been a child and your mother would catch you doing one thing you weren’t speculated to be doing, though she wasn’t even taking a look at you? How did she do this? It was magic! 

When we had been little, we thought our dad and mom should have eyes on the again of their heads, and this may increasingly properly have influenced our conduct. We might by no means make sure that an authority determine like a guardian or instructor couldn’t see what we had been doing, so with the intention to keep away from punishment we would attempt to be on our greatest conduct, simply in case. 

If you’ve executed any coaching together with your canine in any respect, you will have in all probability managed to coach your canine to concentrate to you when you’re listening to him, as seen within the first photograph. Its much more advantageous to show him to be attentive to you when it’s a must to take your eyes off him, with the intention to handle another process. Read on! We’ll present you ways!

The identical precept will be utilized to optimistic reinforcement strategies. A toddler – or, in our case, a canine, can be taught that he will be rewarded for good conduct even when the conduct takes place whereas a guardian isn’t trying immediately at him. Let’s contemplate how we are able to use this “magic” to acquire and maintain our canine’s consideration, even within the midst of some fairly thrilling distractions. 


You could have discovered to reward your canine for taking a look at you or for tossing unprompted glances your method. This vital conduct is sometimes called “checking in,” and I encourage everybody to reward it generously and incessantly in order that your canine learns to look to you for steerage in any variety of conditions. (See “Train Your Dog to ‘Check In,’” WDJ March 2017.)

When you’re instructing this primary ability, one component particularly simply stands out: Every time you reward your canine for checking in with you, you’re additionally checking in with him. In different phrases, you’re looking again at him.

While your canine’s consideration is an glorious factor to strengthen, you possibly can improve the ability of the check-in conduct by including only one extra component of problem, which I’ll describe proper after I clarify why it’s value your whereas to strive.

Through coaching, most canine be taught to concentrate to us after we’re listening to them. They be taught that after we’re centered on them, they’ve an excellent likelihood of receiving some reinforcement. So they concentrate! They look ahead to cues, or they provide behaviors they know have been rewarding up to now. Clever pooches! 

This is why once you follow the check-in conduct, you quickly discover you’ve bought a canine looking at you or making an attempt to get in entrance of you to ensure you can see them being a Very Good Dog. 

But what occurs after your consideration is turned elsewhere? Well, most frequently, your canine goes again to no matter he was doing earlier than, as a result of “Oh, it seems we’re done here.” From your canine’s perspective, your lack of consideration or eye contact normally means the chance for meals or play has stopped. 

If you’re engaged on a conduct that requires your canine’s consideration, corresponding to loose-leash strolling (staying near you moderately than straining on the finish of his leash to greet an individual or one other canine), you may discover that as quickly as you’re executed delivering a deal with and also you flip your gaze away out of your canine, he goes proper again to doing the conduct you’re making an attempt to eradicate. If you’re not taking a look at him, he’s off the hook and he disconnects. Take these eventualities, for instance:

  • You’re instructing your canine to face politely subsequent to you when you cease on the street to talk with somebody. During coaching, as you stand with the opposite particular person, your eyes are in your canine as you reward him for good conduct. The session goes properly and also you finish it. Later, once you assume your canine has the conduct down pat, you cease and speak to somebody. As   your eyes and a focus are centered on the particular person, not your canine, your canine jumps up on the particular person. 
  • You’re standing in line at a newsstand together with your leashed canine by your facet. You’re glancing at him usually and he’s being a Very Good Dog as you reward him for good conduct. When it’s time to pay in your purchases and, only for a couple of moments, you flip your consideration away out of your canine and to the cashier, your canine begins to drag away, eager to go try one thing on the road a couple of ft away.
  • You’re in a gaggle coaching class and your canine is doing splendidly when you’re working with him. As quickly as you flip your consideration towards the trainer who’s talking to the category, your canine turns his consideration to Fifi, the lovable little quantity who’s mendacity down quietly a brief distance to the facet.


These are simply examples; you possibly can in all probability assume up extra eventualities from your personal experiences. What’s taking place right here is sort of regular. If we solely ship rewards to our canine when it’s clear we’re listening to them, then it stands to purpose that they may determine fairly rapidly that if we’re not paying direct consideration, there’s no risk for reinforcement from us they usually’re free to seek out it elsewhere, whether or not by way of social contact, getting to smell round, or different vital canine stuff.

Here’s a easy approach that may assist you make sure that your canine turns into a professional at checking in with you – and sustaining that attentiveness – even once you’re not taking a look at him.


The first train sounds simple sufficient, however it may possibly really be a little bit of a problem. It includes being together with your canine on-leash and feeding him treats with out ever taking a look at him – like, in any respect. Your consideration will likely be centered on one thing else, anything, so long as it’s not your canine. You can use your peripheral imaginative and prescient to steal glances if wanted. You will:

It may really feel odd at first, making an attempt to present your canine a deal with when he’s not paying consideration and also you aren’t taking a look at him. Shorten the leash somewhat if you must, and use your peripheral imaginative and prescient.

1. Stand quietly together with your canine in a low-distraction space. It will be within the heel place if that is vital to you, nevertheless it’s not needed for the needs of this train.

2. Look ahead or to the facet, however don’t have a look at your canine.

3. Have some treats prepared both in a pouch, a pocket, or in your hand. You can depend on utilizing about 15 treats for this train.

At some level, he’ll get clued in and understand that you’ve reinforcement prospects accessible, though you aren’t taking a look at him. Make positive your treats are extra precious than no matter distractions are current.

4. Feed one deal with after one other to your canine – blindly, with out taking a look at him. Some canine will stay shut sufficient to you to make this simple. Some received’t and can already be wandering off someplace (as a result of he is aware of you’re not taking a look at him!). That’s why we wish him on-leash, so he can’t get any farther than the size of the leash.

5. Don’t name him, don’t make kissy sounds, and don’t have a look at him, even if you happen to really feel him shifting round. He’s not going anyplace, he’s on-leash. Use your peripheral imaginative and prescient to seek out him and feed him.

In a nutshell, you can be delivering free treats straight into your canine’s mouth with out taking a look at him. Don’t peek! If you attain down and his muzzle isn’t there, use your peripheral imaginative and prescient and your hand to seek out it.

Once your canine is on board, and you’ve got practiced the bodily ability of discovering his muzzle with out searching for it, it is best to have the ability to take note of different issues whereas concurrently feeding him treats.

If your canine isn’t participating in any respect, strive both growing the worth of the deal with, shortening the leash somewhat to maintain him nearer, or shifting to a quieter house to lower the extent of stimuli within the surroundings. If you continue to haven’t any luck, contemplate beginning this train in a seated place (you, not your canine).


This step is an adaptation of an excellent instructional nugget I picked up from the fabulous Emma Parsons at Clicker Expo in Washington, D.C., within the spring of 2019. I name it an adaptation as a result of the unique train incorporates using a clicker, the place a clicker is clicked instantly earlier than a deal with is delivered. I don’t require using one, and in reality I choose that nothing by any means provides the canine a touch as to when a deal with will likely be made accessible to eat.

This train includes the blind treat-delivery ability (described above), and it throws in an extra-special characteristic: Counting fingers when you proceed to feed your canine.

The blind feeding and the counting duties usually are not related in any respect. There is not any order or sequence between the 2 actions. The counting is simply an additional exercise so that you can follow with the intention to develop and refine your means to multi-task. 

Before you tackle this added stage of problem, nonetheless, be certain that your blind feeding expertise are tremendous strong, as a result of the final factor you wish to do is lose your canine’s consideration. Here’s what the train will appear like:

1  Set your self up as you probably did within the earlier train: You have your canine, on-leash, and a handful of treats in a low-distraction space.

2. Start blind feeding your canine, such as you had been doing above. Deliver the treats in a gradual, calm method.

3. Have somebody stand a number of ft in entrance of you the place you possibly can clearly see them, and ask them to flash random fingers from one hand in a gradual, rhythmic trend. You will announce what number of fingers they’re holding up on the identical time that you’re busy feeding your canine the treats.

Multi-tasking: Practice “no-look” feeding your canine whereas concurrently calling out the variety of fingers a helper holds up. Can you feed and depend on the identical time?

In different phrases, it’s not a matter of calling out a quantity then feeding a deal with, calling out the following quantity and feeding a deal with, and so on. They are fully separate occasions occurring randomly. What you’re aiming for is having the ability to feed your canine repeatedly and likewise occasionally calling out a quantity you see earlier than you. There is not any loop, no predictable sequence. You’re coaching your self to multi-task.

Part of your mind must be busy feeding your canine with out taking a look at him. The different half must be engaged with counting fingers and saying the numbers out loud. One exercise could possibly be continuing at a quicker velocity than the opposite; they’re two distinctly various things so that you can concentrate on.

Why? Because in actual life together with your canine, you’re centered on many alternative issues directly. If your consideration is super-focused on one thing aside from your canine, like utilizing the ATM machine or keeping track of these off-leash canine heading your method, you want to have the ability to educate your canine to remain related with you nonetheless (and preserve that conduct over time).

As a bonus, you’ll be aware that by way of these workout routines, you’re not directly instructing a sort of “stationing behavior” whereby your canine learns to remain shut if you happen to’re standing nonetheless. He additionally learns to concentrate on your actions whereas on-leash. This sort of consideration is particularly useful in a crowded space or underneath very thrilling situations like an exercise the place there are many different canine.

As an extra and surprising bonus, I can virtually assure you’ll chortle and giggle by way of many of those follow periods. It’s the dog-training equal of rubbing your tummy and tapping the highest of your head on the identical time. Enjoy the method, and reap the rewards once you lastly have a canine who checks in with you even when your consideration is elsewhere! 

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