Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way he can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.


Many dogs get overly aroused and act silly when you get out their leashes to take them for walks. This exercise teaches dogs to calmly accept the leash before they ever get outside. If your dog is calm inside, you have a better chance of getting attention from him outside. Break this exercise down into as many parts as is necessary for your dog to be as close to 100% successful as possible.

◆    Wait for a SPONTANEOUS SIT, then MARK (click or say YEA or YEP) and REINFORCE (give a treat).
◆    Touch the leash, mark and reinforce.
◆    Jiggle the leash, mark and reinforce.
◆    Pick up the leash, 1 inch, mark and reinforce.
◆    Gradually pick up the leash farther each time, mark and reinforce each time you pick up the leash until you are holding the leash in front of you.
◆    Stretch out the leash, mark and reinforce.
◆    Stoop or sit down (no leaning and looming), mark and reinforce. If you are using a clicker DO NOT CLICK IN YOUR DOG’S FACE!
◆    Attach leash, mark and reinforce.

If your dog gets up at any point, simply put the leash down and calmly wait for the spontaneous sit before you try again. Your dog should remain sitting as you attach the lead. Then verbally release him (say FREE) after the leash is attached. Repeat as necessary.

If your dog makes a mistake, verbally mark the dog when he re-sits himself, but DO NOT give a treat. Use only praise as a reinforcement after a fixed mistake. He must be successful the first time you try a step in order to earn a treat reinforcement. If you give a treat after the dog fixes his own mistake, you can inadvertently reinforce the mistake. I always want to make sure the dog to gets positive feedback for fixing a mistake.

Spontaneous Sits and Eye Contact

Mark = say YEA or CLICK
Reinforce = give a treat
MR = mark and reinforce
SS = spontaneous sit(s)
EC = eye contact

SPONTANEOUS SITS (keep treats out of sight)

  •  Ask your dog to sit a few times. When he does MR. Be sure he remains in the sit as you deliver the treat. If you deliver the treat to your dog and he starts to get up, withdraw the treat, don’t say anything, wait for the SS again, then MARK and try to deliver the treat again.
  • Change positions so your dog has to get up. Now smile at him and wait for him to sit. Don’t cue him to sit either verbally or with your body language. Many people move in towards their dogs to get them to sit. This is somewhat threatening to the dog and is really just an extra cue anyway. Let your dog figure out sitting on his own pays off, then MR. I always move away from dogs to get them to sit.
  • After MRing your dog for voluntarily sitting a couple times, make it more difficult by now requiring a sit and eye contact, then MR.
  • To get eye contact, wait for your dog to voluntarily give you eye contact, then MR the moment he does so.
  • After he’s done several reps with eye contact, attach a cue to the eye contact, WATCH ME or LOOK works. You are not using the cue to get the behavior, you are just attaching it to the behavior he already does. After attaching it several times, you can try using the cue to elicit the behavior.

While using a cue to get the behavior is obviously not “spontaneous”, it is nice to have the behavior on cue as well so you can cue it if necessary.

SPONTANEOUS EYE CONTACT (keep treats out of sight)

I don’t like to lure eye contact as I feel the dog is only following the food lure. I usually start waiting for the dog to sit, then keeping my hands by my side or behind my back, simply waiting for your dog to voluntarily look up at you, mark and reinforce the moment that happens.

You can test or proof the behavior by holding the treat out to the side and waiting for your dog to ignore the food and look at you. This makes it black and white to your dog–“looking at this food does not pay off, but looking at me does.” You are teaching him right from the first trial to ignore the food and pay attention to you.

Some dogs get overly excited about seeing the treat off to the side and may jump to try to get the treat. For those dogs, you can do one of two things.  (1) Hold the treat higher so your dog doesn’t think you are trying to tease him into jumping to get the treat. (2) Wait for your dog to offer a spontaneous sit. Patiently wait for your dog to glance up at your eyes and MR. You can prompt your dog by simply shifting your weight a little, which is usually enough to get your dog’s attention.

This can be played independently of spontaneous sits or combined with it. Be sure to practice this with the dog in a down or stand as well as a sit.

  • Hold a treat out to the side and just wait. Eventually, your dog will look away from the treat and at you. When he does, MR. You may have to accept a quick glance initially. But try to MR longer looks with each trial.
  • Now do the same thing but switch hands or try both hands. Gradually work your distracting treat hand closer and closer to your dog, until your hand is right next to your dog’s face and he can give you eye contact. Practice both on and off lead.
  • It is not necessary to hold your treat out to the side forever to get eye contact. The purpose is just to make it very clear to your dog that looking at you pays off. Once your dog will sit and look at you, you can stop holding the treat to the side. However, holding the treat out to the side and moving it closer to the dog is a good way to test if your dog really understands that the eye contact is what he is being paid for.
  • Watch your dog (don’t stare). Smile and look happy but do not cue your dog to watch you in any way. Each time your dog glances in your direction, MR.
  • Each time your dog looks at your face, MR.

Engaging Your Dog

As a professional dog trainer teaching anywhere from 7-10 classes a week, and working with countless behavior issues, by far the most common issue I see is lack of attention to the owner. The dogs learn that they can get more reinforcement from the environment than they can from their people, and that’s where all the trouble starts.

When the dog gets more pleasure from engaging with the environment than the person, I know the relationship is damaged. The damage is almost always NOT a result of harsh punishment, but usually a result of old fashioned thinking, “I must be in charge all the time and dominate my dog.” This simply isn’t the case and in fact, the opposite is true.

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Marking Good Behavior (the secret of dog training)

Dogs in general are easy to explain— “How can I get what I want now!” Now it’s not that they are sitting around your house, twiddling their paws, planning ways to thwart you. But they do experiment with behavior—barking, jumping, chewing, nipping, playing keep away, etc., all to get your attention. It works and you pay attention to them. They’ve got you perfectly trained.

Even if you tell them no, glare at them, or push them away, that’s attention and reinforces the undesired behavior.

You can reverse that trend by paying more attention to them when they are being good. Don’t ever take good behavior for granted, especially calm sits and downs. If you don’t pay attention to them when they are being good, what do you think they’re going to do????? Be bad of course, because you’ll absolutely pay attention to them then. Continue reading

Mental and Physical Winter Exercise for Your Weim

Winter is tough on our weims. Not because they don’t want to be outside, but because we don’t much of the time! So you have to get creative about how you are going to stimulate them mentally and physically so they don’t go stir crazy.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to give up your training. If you’re made of tougher stuff than I, you can continue with your hunting training. I’m sure our active hunting members would be happy to help you with that. Continue reading