The Eyes Have It
Over two thousand years ago, Cicero referred to eyes as "interpreters of the face". More recently, French writers spoke of eyes as "mirrors of the soul". These references, though philosophical, suggest some interesting connections to practical dog training.
Dogs express their moods and intentions overtly with body language. They stiffen and stand erect before expressing aggression. Their ritualized down posture displays submission. But, their eyes send subtle messages, which can reflect calmness, excitement or uncertainty. Being aware of your dog's state of mind can help you to develop willing workers, confident in their demeanor, and predictable in their behaviour.
The foundation of all dog training is getting your dog's attention. You should encourage your young puppy to look into your eyes. Sit on a chair and take a treat in your hand and slowly place it in front of your puppy's nose. Their keen sense of smell will make them willingly follow your hand. Slowly move the treat towards your eyes. When the puppy sits and look up, say with a soft voice, "Good Watch". Give them the treat and break eye contact.
As the puppy matures they will look into your eyes for longer periods. Without visible food or reward, ask your puppy to sit in front. Say, "Watch Me". When your puppy stares into your eyes, slowly and gently stroke your fore finger along their brow and muzzle. You want your puppy to develop intense concentration, and to display a calm willingness to maintain eye contact. Gently say, "Good Watch", and reward with a treat or a toy.
Continue to shape their attention by asking them to "watch" from sit, down and heel positions. Their body language and their eye contact will become increasingly more intense and focused. Your dog will sit still, understanding if it maintains eye contact it will be rewarded with food or play.
As the dog matures it will use eye contact to display attention in everyday situations. If a stray dog approaches say, "Watch Me". Your dog will look into your eyes instead of being distracted by the loose dog. If your dog becomes excited at the Veterinary office, say, "Down","Watch Me" and expect them to focus on you. The confidence, calmness and expectation expressed through your eyes can help your dog to remain composed and steady.
Train your dog to look into your eyes for guidance and reassurance. Eyes are mirrors of a dog's mind - look carefully!Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists