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Benefits of the Eye Contact Game

This article was previously printed in "Front & Finish" dog training magazine.

By Chris Bach and The Third Way – The Next Generation in Reinforcement Training

Jet was very happy to see me on Sunday morning and raced up to me. She bounced around for only a split second, and then sat like a statue and calmly made eye contact. Calmness is another incredibly useful by-product of the Eye Contact Game. For a dog or puppy to make eye contact, they must be motionless. In order to sit still the dog must be in a calm state. A calm puppy or dog can think and learn. The Eye Contact Game rehearses calm behavior and gives "being calm" reinforcement value.

In addition, because you also must be calm and smiling in order to play the game, you are rehearsing calm and happy behavior, too. The more you and your dog rehearse calm, happy interaction, the more natural and more reinforcing it then becomes. Dog training is infinitely more effective if the dog and the trainer are calm, relaxed, and happy while interacting with one another.

We use the simple, yet powerful little Eye Contact Game to teach your dogs or puppies three very important and useful lessons:

  1. Never focus on the food. You will not earn it unless you are focused on me.
  2. If you are calm, cool and collected you have more opportunity to be reinforced than if you are acting wild and out of control.
  3. That "OK" means all is done, but being done is much less desirable than continuing.

A trainer should also keep in mind, whether working with an adult dog or a puppy, that the indicator is used exclusively to signal correct behavior. It is not a release, but rather an invitation to continue and earn more reinforcement. It is never used to GET ANYTHING, such as attitude, attention, speed or animation. "Reinforcers" such as food, toys or play are never used to get anything, either. Their purpose is only to reinforce appropriate behavior. Utilizing the indicator and reinforcers in this specific manner is what gives The Third Way trainer such splendid results.

Another feature of The Third Way that is totally unique, and the real key to our extraordinary results is that the dog learns it is pointless to focus on food or other reinforcers unless cued or released to do so. Next month I’ll reveal how we accomplish this. Until then, KEEP SMILING at your wonderful dog!

(c) THE THIRD WAY ~ Chris Bach ~ 2002. All rights reserved.