Here is a how to video from start to finish in teaching your dog to play “Look at That” game. In the video I start using the clicker to exactly mark the desired behavior, then switch to using a voice marker “Yes”. The toy I use is a low level object just to capture their attention. I could have used a grocery bag or anything else. The LAT game is from Leslie McDevitt’s “Control Unleashed” a book that teaches you how to teach your dog how to stay calm and focussed despite many distractions and despite having a reactive, fearful or easily overstimulated dog.
There is no intention that the dog will ever interact with the trigger using LAT. When the dog can approach close enough to the trigger, we switch to another greeting/contact method such as targeting. LAT must be seen by the dog as a safe way to interact with the trigger (other dog, person, whatever she is afraid of) by simply looking at it. This allows the dog to get more information about the trigger.
If you are not sure where your dog’s arousal threshold point is, it’s better to err on the lower side so your dog can still think and offer the desired ‘look at you’ behavior. In every new situation, it pays to capture the look first, then add the cue once you know your dog is “in the game”. it gives the dog an alternative behavior to barking, lunging or other unwanted behaviors. It also helps the dog to get out of the fearful headspace.
The second dog in the video has already learned the LAT game and is now much more comfortable in public places and is only occassionally rewarded for staying calm. This intermittent reinforcement actually strenthens the calm behavior as long as my timing captures her being calm.