Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Bond Gaze for Adult Dogs

Bond Gaze – A Quick Way to Bond with your Dog

How to teach your dog to look up to for direction

Your bond with your dog is so important.

This is the attachment relationship between you and your dog and is essential in creating safety and security for your dog. When you have a strong bond, your dog looks to you for direction and stays close to you. This makes every aspect of training so much easier as your dog WANTS to pay attention to you. 

Many behavioural issues stem from poorly established bonds between the dog and mentor, so it’s worth putting in the time and effort to establish and maintain a sound, loving relationship. 

For example, recall is a very good test of your bond with your dog – a well bonded dog will be much easier to recall! 

Some easy ways to build a strong bond with your dog include:

  • Providing guidance and boundaries
  • Lots of contact, love and play
  • Controlling access to resources
  • Training techniques designed to bond your dog to you, such as my signature ‘Joining Up’ and ‘Umbilical’ techniques 
  • Maintaining a calm, confident disposition for your dog
  • Teaching your dog a simple bond gaze

One of the quickest and simplest ways to start building a trusting bond with your dog, is by teaching a Bond Gaze. This is when your dog looks up to your eyes, looking to you for direction.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this simple activity! 

Why is the bond gaze so important?

A bond gaze will activate oxytocin in both you and your dog, as well as stimulating dopamine (and other reward hormones). It is a rewarding, pleasurable activity and by encouraging the release of oxytocin in your dog’s brain when they look at you, you are teaching your dog to love you and bond with you. This is very similar to our human bond with our kids and family, in fact it has been shown that the concentrations of these bonding hormones are similar to those we show to our own families. Dogs have special neurons in their brains that look for human eyes.

The reason this is so important and an effective training aid is that it: 

  • helps build contact and focus
  • reinforces your dogs learning state as it is calming and reassuring
  • can be great for settling distracted, hyperactive dogs
  • is part of their being able to “ask” for something and talk to you – part of the reciprocal shared language
  • enhances their impulse control, learning to delay gratification

Once you’ve taught your dog this technique, it will begin to happen voluntarily.

How to teach a bond gaze

  • Get your dog into a Sit
  • Hold a treat in your hand up at your eye level to direct your dog’s eye line toward yours – click and reward (with food) gentle eye contact
  • Ensure your treat hand is near your eyes so they see your eyes, not just the food – click and reward the eye contact not just looking in the general direction
  • If they are not looking into your eyes, wiggle a finger on your lure hand so the movement draws their attention and/or give a slight whistle/noise or call their name to get their attention 
  • CLICK the moment you get their eye contact, then follow up with a treat
  • Don’t put your hand in your pouch to get the treat during this process as they’ll follow that hand with their eyes
  • Repeat a few times in this first session 
  • Practise as part of your training 2-3 times per day 
  • Remember to keep your eyes soft, not staring.  You are rewarding your dog’s soft eyes too, not hard staring which is a sign of fear and/or aggression. Some dogs start out a bit wary of eye contact until you build their confidence, so soften your eye.  
  • Once you’ve got it going well, you can introduce a Watch command. Then you can stop using a treat to get their eyes up to yours and instead just hold your hand up at your eyeline and say “Watch!” and wiggle a finger if necessary. Soon you won’t need to use the hand at all, and will likely find your dog looks up to you for direction automatically without any command needed!

You will love the effects of this training and how quickly it develops the bond in both of you – gazing into each other’s eyes is a great oxytocin producer! Remember a hard stare does the opposite and dogs that have had rough handling will be a bit wary initially.

Want to have the best possible bond with your dog?

Building a strong bond to last a lifetime with your dog is the foundation of my Virtual Dog School. With my signature training techniques, you’ll teach your dog to bond tightly with you, focus on you and look to you for direction – this makes every other aspect of training so much easier! Once you’ve established this strong bond, we take you step-by-step through all the training techniques to teach basic commands, and even correct behavioural issues.

Learn More. 

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