This One Thing May Increase Your Dog’s Listening To You.

Photo by Mario Rodriquez.

Want to improve the odds that your dog will listen to and follow your cues? Look into it’s eyes.

This is what two researchers from the University of Vienna, discovered when they conducted an experiment to find out how dogs decide when it is safest to disobey their owners. In the book,  “The Genius Of Dogs,” by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, the authors describe and explain that the experiment revolved around a dog’s ability to understand what we humans see with our eyes and what effect this has on a dog’s behavior.

I explain the experiment and the results in this episode #69 of the Raising Your Paws podcast.

Now, for fun, you can try a version of this experiment with your own dog.  It might be easier if you have another person with you to help, but I’m going to try it alone with my dog, Rosy.

Here is what you do.


You will need  a room that has a television in it.

Get a chair that you can easily turn around like a dining room or card table chair.

Get a book.

Place a small amount of one of your dog’s favorite foods in a bowl.  You will probably be replenishing the bowl so have more of the food ready.  Each time, only use a very tiny bit of the food.

Call your dog to the room.

Set the scene.

Tell your dog to lie down and stay.

Place the bowl of food on the floor about 2 yards away from your dog behind them.

If your dog is not used to having to stay until you release them to eat, you may need to tell them to stay again.

Position the chair so that your dog will be in between where you are sitting and where the bowl of food is on the ground.   (in a horizontal line, it will look like:  You – Dog – Food.)

Then, while your dog is lying down, staying put, do each of the following 5 things – one at a time.

You will need to reset each time, most likely, after doing each activity – adding more food to the bowl and giving the down/stay cue.  Count on your dog getting up and eating the food. That’s okay.

The point here is to see which of these activities, if any, has a greater chance of resulting in your dog maintaining the command and which ones, result in your  dog deciding to get up and eat the food.

You will Not be punishing or correcting your dog at all during this – it is all for fun. 

  1. Look at your dog in the eyes. Sit in the chair with your eyes, head  and body facing your dog.
  2. Read the book.  Sit in the chair with your head and body facing your dog but with your eyes turned down looking at the pages of the book.
  3. Watch TV.  Sit in the chair. Your body will face your dog, but turn your head and eyes to watch the TV.
  4. Turn your Back.  Sit in the chair  but turn it around so your back is turned away from your dog.
  5. Leave the room.  As soon as you put the food down on the floor, leave the room.

Hold each one of these positions for a few minutes and see what your dog does.

Does your dog stay in the down/stay?  For how long?  Do they get up to eat the food?

Remember, say nothing to your dog – this is meant to be a game. No punishing.  You want to see how your dog responds to what you are doing and where you are looking after giving the command. Do they obey or not?

Don’t feel bad and think that your dog is not well trained if they get up right away to eat the food each time.  In the study, 60 percent of the time, all the dogs ate the food no matter what the dog’s owner was doing.

The best results where the dogs stayed in the down position and held off from eating the food the longest, was when the owners were looking into their dog’s eyes. Now that’s intriguing!  Gives whole new meaning to the advice to keep your eyes on your dog.

What did you find happened with your pooch? Tell me in the comment section below.

I’ll do this experiment with Rosy and let you know how it goes with her.

My dog Rosy,

Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Podcast – episode 69. 

Title: Keeping your Cat Interested in Toys & Solving your Dog’s Reactivity to Other Dogs.

Does your cat get easily bored with its toys?  At first being very excited to play but then after a short while, not so much?

In this episode, I’ll tell you about a research project a cat behavior scientist from England, conducted, to find out why cats are famous for getting quickly bored with their toys – even if you put them away in the closet overnight.

Turns out there are four mechanisms at work when cats are hunting live animals that also apply to keeping interest in fake prey- their toys. I’ll explain the four to give you the guidelines you need to help your cats stay engaged in play.

Next, when out walking your dog, are there times that it starts barking and pulling and lunging at other dogs? Looking aggressive and reacting all crazy? You wonder, what just happened and why is my dog acting this way? Dogs can become what is known as reactive to other dogs. What is this, how does it happen and what can you do to help your dog stay calm? Get the answers to these questions when I talk to dog trainer, Emily Stoddard, owner and founder of the Canine Sports Dog Training Company in Chicago, Illinois, who specializes in dog behavior issues.

Plus, I’ll tell you a story about your dog’s intelligence, how they pay attention to you and the affect it has on how well they follow your commands. An added bonus, there is a built-in fun, experiment you can try at home with your dog.

Additional Resources for the Show.

Source for story about cats and toys:  Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Cat, by John Bradshaw. 

Emily Stoddard

Emily Stoddard’s website: Canine Dog Sports Training.

Canine Dog Sports Training on Facebook.

Source for the story about the dog experiment: The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.


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