Look At That Game
The Look-At-That game was popularized by Leslie McDevitt in her Control Unleashed program. The basics of the game:
- Mark (say ‘yes’ or click) when your dog looks at a stimulus such as a dog, person, car, skateboard, or whatever gets your dog excited.
- Feed your dog a tasty treat.
- Play the game far enough away from the stimulus (car, dog, man in a hat, etc), that the dog finds the promise of food more exciting than the dog, gremlin, or whatever. When you say yes or click, your dog should look back to you for the treat. If they don’t, you are likely too close to the exciting thing to play this game.
Using this game, we can lower the dog’s overall arousal or anxiety about the stimulus and create a pattern where the dog learns that when they see something in the world, they can tell you about it to earn food. By marking when our dog looks at the thing, this game teaches your dog to focus back on you, avoiding the negative emotions and reactions that they might have otherwise.
This LAT game is just one piece of the training puzzle for anxious, over-excited, aggressive, and frustrated dogs and can only be played while a dog is well under threshold, i.e. far enough away from the exciting/scary/frustrating thing.
This game is not going to teach your dog how to meet people or other dogs. It is a game to help you walk your dog past things in the world.
I personally think the game should be called the ‘Notice That’ game, as sometimes we don’t want to wait until the dog looks at the other dog, man in a hat, squirrel, or whatever it is that is causing us stress. As soon as your dog glances at, flicks an ear at, or sniffs at the thing, mark (say ‘yes’ or click) and reinforce your dog with a cookie. Play this enough and your dog will hear you mark and OFFER to look to you for the food.
I play this game in it’s pure form for some dogs, and I mix it up a little for others. The exact flavour of LAT to play depends on many variables that are unique to you and your dog.
Having Trouble with LAT?
Dog Doesn’t OFFER to Look Back?
Don’t try to convince your dog to look at you. Remember, this is the Look At THAT game, not the look at you game. If your dog isn’t looking back to you for the cookie, you are likely too close to the trigger. Another common reason for this problem is that the dog doesn’t understand what the mark (‘yes’ or click) means. If you often have treats in your hand while you train or have unclean reinforcement mechanics, clean the process up and try again.
Dog Isn’t Eating Treats?
As above, you may just be too close to the trigger. Remember that this game is only meant to be played well under threshold. If your dog is generally not that food motivated, there are a lot of games you can play at home to help.