The Eye's Have It Feature Photo: Roscoe Lying on the Carpet with a Toy In Front of Him

The Eyes Have It: Part One

John Bercow became worldwide famous during the Brexit debates.

Whatever you thought about him, he was ALWAYS right about one thing (although his spelling was off …)

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In terms of relationship and training, one of the most important things our dogs can give us is their focus.

How do you know if your dog is focused on you? Only if they are looking you in the eye – the eyes have it!

The Eyes Have It Part One: Close-up photograph of Roscoe, a German Shepard, staring at the camera.

If you can get them into the habit of focusing on you – you’ve got a better chance of getting that focus when you need it, e.g. recall, walking to heel, avoiding that sudden naughty impulse.

The Eyes Have It

Here’s a simple little game to help build up your dog’s focus on you. I first heard about it when I came across Tom Mitchell and Lauren Langman and their Absolute Dogs training course, which is a games-based way of training dogs (at time of writing I’m taking their excellent dog trainer course).

  1. Grab some of your dog’s best treats in one hand.
    (We naturally recommend our grain-free training treats – high-value crunch, just a few ingredients, and they’re small with no nasties to help avoid weight gain and allow you to be generous with rewards guilt-free.)
  2. Hold your treat hand near your face.
  3. When your dog looks at you, mark their behaviour with a ‘Yes!’ or similar and reward them with a treat.

It can be that simple – we’re marking the behaviour we want with a ‘Yes!’ and rewarding them for it too.

In this way, your dog will learn, if you repeat this often, that focusing on you is a good thing.

Roscoe’s Attempt at ‘The Eyes Have It Pt 1’

Here’s a quick video with me trying it out with Roscoe. I’m trying to build up his focus on me, so there’s a foundation to work with when it comes to looking at some of his other issues.

Whenever I try and do anything like this, the rest of the family will suddenly turn up. Roscoe did well to stay with me as long as he did, but it’s an excellent example of things not being perfect and carrying on.

Video of Roscoe demonstrating.

Top Tips

We want our dogs to win, so you may need to help them win initially by making it a bit easier.

After giving them some time to look at you, you may need to offer a quick prompt (noise or movement) to attract them to glance at you.

And it will probably be the slightest of looks initially.

When they get better, you can vary how long you let eye contact last – you’re not going for world record each time.

It won’t be perfect – weird little things will go wrong – just start and enjoy trying it out.

Have fun – you have fun, and they’ll have fun –  if you’re where the party is, then how could they resist?

Try and end on a high-note – definitely before they get bored and just wander off…

Want to know more? Check out The Eyes Have It: Part Two!

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[…] it really is all in the eyes. If you can gain your dog’s focus, this is the best start to enforcing good habits with […]


[…] It’s not perfect, but it’s progress, and I’ve learned that it’s precisely how Darren’s wrote about before, training with your dog it’s all about the eyes.  […]


[…] on the blog that Darren has been challenging himself and Roscoe to some training games – see It’s All in the Eyes and Playing Catch – to show training can be fun for both parties […]


[…] What you actually do doesn’t matter too much – have fun, enjoy your time together and watch how they focus on you. […]


[…] you haven’t tried out The Eyes Have It Part One, go there first and have a go at that initially because I’ve just switched it up to expert […]