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Rebecca, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 18095
Experience:  Veterinarian for more than 30 years
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I have recently bought a 6 month old cocker spaniel pup and,

Customer Question

I have recently bought a 6 month old cocker spaniel pup and, whilst I consider myself a good trainer, am struggling as there is no eye contact .... she never looks up at me or anything at all. I have had her eyes checked and vet says they're fine but she doesnt follow anything above her head level. Can you help me?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Rebecca replied 5 years ago.
I am sorry to hear you are having problems with Cassie.

My name is Rebecca. I am a veterinarian, and will do my best to help.

Do you know anything about her treatment and training until you got her? She may have been trained, or inadvertantly rewarded, for this behavior. Dogs have a period of critical learning and socialization from 8 weeks to 8 months of age or so, when they learn things like where to eliminate and how to act around others. What they learn in this critical period can be hard to overcome as they get older. Just as it is easiest to house train a dog when it is young, some learning ( like socialization, bite inhibition, etc.) is best learned then. If she was taught not to make eye contact, or was rewarded for not making eye contact, it may be hard for her to unlearn that.

Some dogs are born with submissive type personalities. In the wild, in a pack of dogs, eye contact with dogs of higher status is not accepted, and would be corrected in a lower status dog. If her personality is that of a dog that in a pack would not be the "top dog" she might naturally know not to make eye contact. To some dogs, eye contact is threatening.

Another thing would be to have her neck checked. If she never raises her head, there could be a physical reason not related to her vision.

If her neck checks out OK, no pain or pinched nerve, etc. then you can start to train her to look up ( maybe avoiding eye contact) with rewards above her head, which she gets if she looks up.

Please let me know what else I can help with or answer.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I knew all this I wanted advice on how to deal with training to aid my pup. More than you gave which was basically a negative analysis of what might have. Caused it
Expert:  Rebecca replied 5 years ago.
I am sorry. Your question did not ask specifically what you wanted help with, so I tried to cover reasons why she would be like this. I did suggest training her with positive rewards get her to look up. Get a treat she really likes, and hold it above her head and give it to her for raising her head. If she has had previous bad experiences with looking up, you may also have to be very slow and gentle at first until she gets the idea. You may have to start with her just raising her head very slightly, and work up from there.

Training and rewarding the command "Watch me" by holding the treat right at your eyes, to get her to make eye contact with you would come after she is willing to raise her head for a treat without hesitation.

Before I start any of this, I would have her neck checked out to be sure that she does not have some reason that she can't raise her head. There are some congenital conditions that can make dogs have painful necks even as young as she is.

Is there anything else, besides her not lifting her head, or making eye contact that you wanted help with? I am sorry if I misunderstood what you wanted.