Teach your puppy to pay attention

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Positive Interrupter Noise/Attention Noise-

This is a noise that always sounds the same and means “stop what you are doing and look at me”. The difference between a recall and a positive interrupter is with a recall you want your dog to come running to you, while with the positive interrupter you want your dog to stop doing what he is doing, so you can give him an alternate behavior to do in place of the one you don’t like. An example: your dog is chewing on the wall; you can make a kissy noise and direct the dog to his chew toys.
Having a noise that always sounds the same to get your dogs attention or interrupt
unwanted behavior is easier to condition than using the dog’s name. I like to use a
kissy noise or a whistle. You can condition this noise to the point of muscle
memory- red light stop, green light go, when you make the noise your dog stops what he
is doing and looks at you reflexively.

This noise is great for interrupting your dog from “staring” at other dogs or interrupt your
dog from being spooked by another dogs staring. If you were to say “hey!” or “No!” not
only do you startle your dog while he is worried about the other dog (creating more
tension and arousal) but you also “pair” punishment with the other
dog, which is not a great way to make the other dog seem reinforcing!

Video tutorial on how to teach the Positive Interrupter noise:


(Attention away from distractions shows up in the attention video at 4.15 mins into the video)

Exercise 1: Click your dog for voluntary eye contact. Anytime your dog looks at you click and reward. This is to condition looking at you to be reinforcing.

Exercise 2: Condition your interrupter noise. Make the noise (a kissy noise or a whistle), pause, and then move to feed your dog a treat. Do this until the dog is perking up when he hears the noise (similarly to a clicker), if your dog is not paying attention to the noise it could mean the treats you are using are not reinforcing or the dog is stressed or distracted by the environment). You want to work on this very important behavior in a non-distracting environment to build a strong foundation before moving on.

Exercise 3: Make the interrupter noise and ‘click’ or say ‘yes’ for eye contact. If the dog doesn’t look you can try making a blowing noise to get your dog to look up at you- don’t actually blow at your dog or your dog might be tempted to bite at the air… you will be just making a strange noise to initiate eye contact that you can click.

Exercise 4: Next step, make the noise while your dog is looking the other way, CLICK when the dog orients towards you, and FEED. Don’t forget you can also praise your dog after you click. You can ask for longer and longer periods of eye contact if you wish. Once your dog is turning around every time you can click for eye contact rather than then initiation of the dog turning around.

Exercise 5: Proof the interrupter noise by having the dog on leash and on a harness with a distraction ahead (perhaps a toy just out of reach, or a treat just out of reach) make your noise and CLICK when the dog turns their head to look at you. Once your dog is turning reliably you can click for the dog turning and then making eye contact. You will find if you are doing it correctly, that the dog will seem to no longer want to pull towards the distraction, even avoid it. Now start proofing with higher-level distractions, and proofing in different locations. If for some reason the dog doesn’t turn back towards you. You can work more on conditioning the noise, as well as start off further away from the distraction. If you make a mistake and start too close, simply back up, without jerking the dog, using gentle even pressure to move further away from the distraction to the point where your dog can be successful.

Remember, don’t ONLY make the attention noise around things your dog doesn’t like or is fearful of, or you can poison the cue. Your dog can learn to associate the noise with the “presence of something he doesn’t like”, so if you are using the noise for a shy or reactive dog make the noise to get your dogs attention away from food, smells and people or dogs he likes as well.

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