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Eye Contact, from Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons

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A couple of months ago I mentioned here that I was using exercises from Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog, by Emma Parsons with my LarryDog, who has some problems now and then with aggression. Not really, really serious but not to be denied either.

On page 38, a foundation behavior is taught, how to train a dog to use eye contact. Well, I had actually taught that to LarryDog several years ago but then I got busy and forgot it. He never did.

Once I picked it up again and rewarded him with my customary treats of 1/100 of a hot dog, he decided that he'd better keep me making eye contact. So I find him gazing at me at all sorts of times. (He IS partly a herding breed, Blue Heeler, so maybe that "eye" comes as naturally as it did to the Australian Shepherd we had before LarryDog.)

The point of this exercise is not just to have that eye contact habit, but that you can use it in stressful times. As an example, as I started writing this post, our Rottweiler out in the yard barked once at my sister-in-law who is staying with us for a few weeks. That one short bark was all Lola needed to have made her point, but it set off LarryDog. He was sitting under my computer, by the window, and he got up and prepared to launch into a long barking spell to amplify Lola's bark. Just in case the world was dangerous again.

"Watch me," I said, and he came over, sat, and gazed soulfully into my eyes. Not barking. Nice! I rubbed his chest -- is it an old wives' tale or true that this mimics mother dogs approving of their puppies? -- and he settled back down.