How to Teach Your Dog to Check-in With You
To teach your dog to check-in, start in a small, quiet room with a hungry dog and some treats your dog really likes. The idea is to be silent and wait for your dog to do the work, so just sit in a chair and ignore your dog.
After 1-2 minutes — get up from the chair and notice if your dog looks at you, as if to say “where are you going?” If they look at you say “Yes!” and reward with a treat.
By treating when they pay attention to you, you are rewarding your dog for looking at you and encouraging a “Check-in.”
Do several repetitions in a 10 minute training session. Ignore your dog and wait for them to check-in with you. After they catch on to the game, you probably won’t need to get up out of the chair.
Remember, when they check-in with you by giving you eye contact, say “Yes!” and give them a treat.
You want your dog to understand that checking-in with you will be recognized and rewarded. So practice this game in a larger room or other rooms of the house.
Play several times a day, for 5-10 minutes doing 20-30 check-in’s each time rewarding with treats.
Once they have figured out the game, you can practice in your day-to-day activities. When your dog isn’t expecting it, walk into the room and see if they will check-in with you automatically. If they do, say “Yes!” and reward them.
Taking it on the Road
When you and your dog are ready, take the training on a walk. Put a leash on and walk your dog towards the door as if you were going outside. Before opening the door, stop and wait for your dog to offer a check-in. As soon as your dog offers the check-in, praise them and give them the reward of opening the door!
Note: If after 10 seconds your dog has not offered a check-in, make a noise to interrupt their focus and try again.
Playing games like this is called a “Life Reward,” you give your dog something they want after they do something for you. Instead of always relying on treats, you can reward by opening the door and letting your dog outside, or even have them check-in with you before letting them off-leash at an enclosed park. To make sure it works, make sure your dog really likes the reward you plan to give them.
When you teach your dog to check-in with you, it’s like teaching them to say “May I?” They learn that you are the leader who let’s them get things they like if they first check-in with you.
Of course, you will not always be able to grant your dog’s request. In these situations, still honor the check-in with lots of praise and a substitute reward like a treat.
Remember training is a two way street! To be successful both human and canine must participate. You are expecting a lot out of your dog, so stay focused and pay close attention to your dog and the environment. If you are distracted and you miss the check-in the behavior might extinguish itself. In other words, your dog may stop looking to you for guidance and direction.