Jump to section
You’re careful about what your young children watch on TV because you don’t want to corrupt their innocence, but what about your canine pal? If you could only have him cover his eyes during a ris·qué scene he’d stay virtuous forever! Okay, perhaps that isn’t the best example. But getting him to cover his eyes at the very least is a party trick that is guaranteed to get guests laughing.
On top of that, seeing to it that he uses his brain to learn new tricks in this manner will help him learn other commands easily too. It’s also a quick and simple way to help him blow off steam if he’s still not ready for a nap after a long walk.
The obedience command itself consists of just a straightforward word or two. The challenging part comes from getting your dog to understand precisely what action it is you want him to do. He probably isn’t used to covering his eyes so it won’t be a walk in the park. Having said that, if he’s young and eager to learn then he may get the hang of it in just a few days. If his schooling days are over and he hasn’t learned a new trick in a number of years, then be prepared to invest a couple of weeks into training.
It will be time well spent though, you’re sure to get a giggle from family and friends when you have your canine pal cover his eyes on command. It may help training him to ‘sit’, ‘wait’ and ‘lie down’ much easier too!
Before you work on your doggie eye patch you will need to gather several bits. The most essential component will be treats or his favorite food. The tastier the treat the more eager he will be to learn, so breaking his favorite food into small pieces is a good idea.
You will also need a quiet space, free from the distractions of noisy kids and other household pets. You will also need a handkerchief, an old T-shirt, and a small stick. Once you have all of that, you’re ready to get to work!
The Natural Encouragement Method
Play close attention to your dog and look for situations that make him naturally cover his eyes. The easiest way to train him to cover his eyes is to reinforce the behaviour when he does it already. So keep an eagle eye out over the first few days and have family members do the same.
When you see him cover his eyes naturally, say “hide”. You don’t have to use ‘hide’, you can use any command you like as long it is short and given in a friendly, playful voice.
Once you’ve given the command, give him the treat and praise him. It is important you reward him every time you see him doing it on his own. This way he will soon associate the action with the command and the command with the treat. Continue doing this for the first few days until he begins to understand.
Hide on command
Now give him the command when he isn’t naturally covering his eyes. This is the most important step, you are transitioning between him doing it himself and him doing it because you’ve instructed him to. The first few times you may need to use your hand to pull his leg up to his face to encourage him. Be sure to shower him in praise and treats when he gets it right.
Practice this for 5-10 minutes a day for the next few days. It is important you keep up the training consistently, as that will help him learn swiftly. Once he gets the hang of it, slowly reduce the frequency of treats until the verbal command alone is enough.
The Handkerchief Method
Loosely tie a handkerchief around his head so it covers his eyes. Don’t tie it too tight, you don’t want to scare him. You can use an old T-shirt as an alternative and anything that isn’t sticky, you don’t want to be peeling off his hair.
Hold his paws out for a few seconds so he can’t remove the handkerchief. This is how you’re going to trigger the behaviour you want him to do. If he gets startled or too scared then take off the handkerchief and reassure him, you don’t want to terrify him.
Give him a ‘play shy’ or ‘hide' command and let go of his paws. You can use whatever command you like just make sure it hasn’t already been used in connection to another trick. Dogs can learn up to a whopping thousand different words, so there’s no need to repeat.
As soon his paws reach his eyes, give him a treat and reward him. This is where you’re going to show him that reaching for his eyes is the right behavior, so really shower him with verbal praise. Practice this for 5 minutes a day for the first few days.
No more props
Lose the handkerchief and just give the command. He may seem a little unsure at first so use your hand to gently guide his paw up to his eyes. Then give him a treat and lots of praise. Practice this for 10 minutes a day for a few more days and then slowly reduce the frequency of treats until they are no longer needed.
The Stick Method
Set a target
Place a 3-4 inch stick on the floor in front of him. This stick is going to act as a target and you’re going to use it to direct his paw to his face. You will also need a generous supply of treats or food in your pocket.
Crouch in front of him and lure him over with a treat. Most dogs will naturally gravitate towards their owners, especially if they’re holding a treat.
Touch the target
As soon as he moves forward and places a foot on the stick, give him a treat and reward him. Practice this for 10 minutes a day for the first couple of days. He will now understand the stick is the target.
Move the target
Now hold the stick in front of his eyes so that he has to put a paw across his face to touch it. As you do this give a ‘hide’ command. Just as before, give him a treat and lots of praise as soon as his paw touches the stick. Practice this for 10 minutes a day for several days. Really try to make sure you hold the stick in a position so that he has to really cover his eyes to touch it.
Lose the prop
Once he has the hang of it, lose the stick and rely on the command alone. By now he should have made the association between the command and the action of putting his paw up in front of his face. Continue practicing this for a few days and then slowly reduce the frequency of treats until the verbal command alone is enough.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 11/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021