It’s called Up & Down as that’s what we’re asking the dog to do, head down to find a treat dropped on the floor then look up at us to make eye contact and we reward that eye contact by dropping another treat for the dog to find and eat.
As we are just starting out – practice this exercise indoors first in an area free from distractions. Whenever you teach a new skill, always do it in this easy place first before practicing in different places.
This is one of the simplest and most effective games for teaching your dog that making eye contact with you is a good thing. Two things to remember with this exercise, say ‘Find-It’ as the dog is sniffing on the ground looking for the treat and then say ‘Yes’ when the dog looks up at you – this gives the dog direct feedback that it was looking up at us that is being rewarded.
Saying ‘Yes’ like this is what’s called a reward ‘Marker’. Understanding that ‘marking’ the moment your dog performs the desired action is so important in dog training. If you omit the marker word and just feed a treat you are not actually communicating to the dog what it is they did that earned the treat and often the dog will not associate the reward with what you were hoping – they are highly likely to try to move / jump towards the hand holding the treat and think they are being rewarded for that and you risk encouraging your dog to grab at or jump for food.
Practice this exercise using 10 treats / pieces of your dog’s normal food 3 times a day for a week. Sit or kneel on the floor so you make it easy for your pup to look at you. Once you’ve practiced a few times you can start practicing standing up. Notice how I keep the food behind me and reward from either hand randomly.
Doing this at meal times using your dog’s normal food is a great idea. Measure out the food and then use it for the exercises and at the end you can just scatter what’s left on the ground for your dog to find. Dog’s love to work for their food, they are naturally good problem solvers and love to use their thinking skills to work out how to get you to give them the food!