What is an auto check-in?

An auto check-in is when your dog turns his attention to you, without prompting.  Auto check-ins are particularly useful in distracting environments or when your dog is anxious.  Reinforcing your dog for looking at you will teach them to focus on you and ignore other things in the environment.  Historically your dog may have had no reason to look at you in these circumstances.

How to Teach an Auto Check-In to Your Dog

Begin in a low distraction environment where you are one of the best things in the room.  Let your dog the explore the space around him.  Remain silent until your dog looks in your direction and then mark and praise the behavior.  Quickly give your dog a tasty treat after the marker. 

Reward Check-in behavior when it happens spontaneously so that the likelihood your dog will look at you again voluntarily is increased.  Over time this behavior will happen more consistently and all you have to do is keeping rewarding and praising when it happens.

Dog Training in Practice.

Step 1. Start inside the house. Moving outdoors means that your dog will be bombarded by sights and sounds.  You want to begin in a space where it is easy for your dog to be successful.

Step 2.  Increase the challenge level incrementally.  Move to the doorway where your dog can look outside but isn’t quite immersed in the hubbub.  You can increase the intensity of the distraction, you can move the distraction closer, or you can increase the length of time your dog must look at you to earn a click. 

Step 3. Generalize the behavior. Expand your dog’s ability to Auto Check-in one environment at a time.  Mark auto check-ins early, before your dog fixate on a distraction. 

Communicate Clearly with your Dog!

  1. For the best and quickest results use a marker (clicker). 
  2. Begin by marking any behavior that resembles a check in, even if he’s not making eye contact.
  3. Get the food to your dog quickly before asking for any additional behaviors.

Training Tip: Avoid prompting!  Trying to get your dog’s attention may not work, especially distracting circumstances.  It’s easy to teach your dog to ignore you so skip places that are too energetic to begin and utilize management strategies to minimize arousal.

Troubleshooting: If your dog is having trouble checking in with you move to a less distracting environment or increase the value of the reward.  Work up to more distraction gradually.  If your dog has become reactive at any point stop and allow for a period of decompression before trying again.

Have you Taught your Dog an Auto Check-In?

This skill is such a versatile tool! If you’ve already taught your dog an auto check-in let us know below how and when you utilize it. If you are interested in learning more about this handy behavior register for our next Zoom Q&A, most Saturdays at 11 am. You can also watch the live stream on Facebook!