Huge Benefits to Voluntary Eye Contact
The oxytocin - Coming when called Connection
Think about what you value in a dog. When people are ask about their heart dog, 90% of the time what they are comment on is the way the dog looks at them.
When that dog looks at them, they feel a connection that is indescribable.
Scientists ran a study and found that just exchanging gazes with your dog can raise pituitary oxytocin levels (in both species) which is known as the love or bonding hormone. It is the hormone that binds us all together, family, friends and our dogs.
So something as simple as an exchange of eye contact can raise Oxytocin levels resulting in a better bond and higher level of companionship. This is so important on many levels. The obvious one being a bonded relationship increases the probability of the dog staying in its house but it also increases responsiveness to commands.
But here is the interesting part of the study. When the owner had to initiate eye contact (saying the dog’s name, clapping their hands or ask the dog to look at them) Oxytocin levels didn’t raise. It is both parties choosing to look at each that binds them together.
So training that is teamed with rewards and causes the dog to want to look at us without cues or force (captured eye contact) increases the probability the dog will make eye contact in the future.
Coming When Called even when you don’t have rewards.
Now think about all the dogs you know. Divide them in your mind into dogs that are really good at coming when called even if the owner does not have rewards and the ones that don’t. If you compare how much time the dogs in each group make eye contact you’ll see the dogs that come when called well, offer a lot more eye contact to their owner and the owner reciprocates.
This is that bond at work.
YaY! Heres a fun game to increase the probability of voluntarily eyes gazes.
#1 Set up 4 stations of dog treats in different parts of the room or yard.
#2 Fix yourself a snack
#3 Eat your snack within arms reach of one of the reward stations
#4 Put your snack down & look at your dog
#5 when your dog makes eye contact with you
#6 Grab a dog treat and toss it for your dog to catch (ha! your dog will miss big time in the beginning.
#7 As your dog eats the treat, run to a different reward station and just wait for your dog
#8 repeat steps #5, 6 and 7 for a couple of minutes.
The more you play this game in different environments (indoors & outdoors) the better your dog will follow commands and come when called.