TIME TO PAY ATTENTION
All the training in the world isn't going to make a wit of difference if you can't even get your collie's attention so that's where we begin. Teaching your collie to respond to his name is an incredibly easy process. The hard part is just being consistent. Here's how you can help your collie to learn and respond to his name quickly and happily.
First, DO NOT use his name in any corrections for bad behavior, especially during the introductory stages of teaching him or her to respond to their name. Yelling your dog's name constantly only teaches him to ignore his name when you call him. Think about it... if every time someone shouted your name or called you and then yelled at you (or worse) would you want to acknowledge them? Of course not! You can use something like a harsh sounding "Ah ah!" or a long "Noooo" in a deep voice to show your displeasure in his inappropriate behavior although I should mention that for many collies a simple firm or annoyed look may be more than enough. My mom's favorite is her 'over the top of the glasses Granny look' with a little "ah hem" for emphasis.
To begin you'll want to get and stay close enough to your collie to easily hand him a treat with out having to reach out to him. This is best done with the dog initially on leash. Now call his name with a normal tone but with some amount of cheer (or excitement if necessary) in your voice and don't be afraid to act a little silly.
Immediately give your dog the treat and at the same time add your verbal and/or physical praise, "Good your dog's name!" and then give your release word. (The release word is used to tell the dog that he is done an exercise at that moment. Popular releases include "okay", "all done", "finished" and even "no more". Telling your dog when he is done an exercise is a very important part of increasing your control. When your dog knows that he has to wait for you to tell him when he's done he is less likely to "break" his commands on his own. For use in the attention exercise, all you need to do is look away from your collie for a moment or two after you have said the release word. This says that you are done for the moment and he can look away too if he wants. You can then easily get right back into the attention game again and anything further.) Repeat this simple procedure as often as you can for the next couple of days. You'll begin to see your collie keeping a close eye on where you are and what you are saying. Now its time for you to begin saying his name and pausing before giving the treat. The pause is to give the dog a chance to really look at you first for his treat. Because you've spend several days conditioning your collie to expect a treat as soon as you said his name he's going to wonder where it is when it isn't presented immediately. Chances are good he's going to look at you as if to say, "Hey! Did you forget something?" As soon as he turns his head to look at you praise him like crazy as you give him his treat. After a day of this, begin to occasionally wait a little longer between the name call and the treat. You can use your verbal praise as soon as he looks at you but just pause a second or two before he gets the treat. Now we are prolonging his "look". You can continue to treat and verbally praise him every couple of seconds or so that he maintains eye contact. This begins to teach him that as long as he looks at you another treat might be coming. As your dog gets better at looking at you for longer periods you'll begin to fade the treats (that is wait longer before giving him one and not so often) but continue to use verbal praise. So instead of 'the name call, praise&treat, pause, praise&treat, pause, praise&treat'... it will become more like this... 'the name call, praise, pause, praise&treat, pause, praise, pause, praise&treat, pause, praise, pause...' Get the idea? Now you can make the treat come at even longer intervals which in turn makes it so you are giving fewer treats for longer looks. Sneaky huh? Take your time. If your dog is easily distracted it could take some time so be patient. You can also start to call his name from further away and remember to praise every time he looks to you. Don't say "Come", that's for later. Let him come to you for the treat of his own accord if he wants. More than likely he will come running. And if he should come running to you from another room after you call his name, praise him like he's the only dog in the world. Keep the treat in close to your body and reward him once he gets there and is nice and close, not two feet away. If he doesn't come after you have called his name but he does look at you, then simply verbally praise him and approach him to reward with the treat. Remember that the name isn't technically a recall. It's just the attention getter. Continue to practice prolonging the looks with a moderately quiet setting but as he gets better you'll want to begin to call him when he's more and more occupied or distracted by his own interests such as when he's eating, playing with a toy, being petted by others and soon in new settings. Its also okay to go back a step or two when you're introducing attention getting in a new atmosphere or a highly distracting situation. Instead of demanding he look at you as long as he does at home or when its quiet, reward him as soon as he looks at you so he is reinforced that at least looking at you could get a reward. You can build from there.
1. You don't really want him looking at your hand when you call his name. We're hoping for eye contact here. If he always stares at your hand when you call him then you need to go back and look at how and when you are rewarding him. If he looked at you and then your hand and you rewarded him right after that, you've actually taught him to look at your hand for the look in order to get the treat. You'll need to either refuse to give the treat until he looks back up at you, lore his eyes back up to yours with the other hand then reward quickly, change which hand you are treating with or perhaps make a big effort to have to reach for the treat from a treat pouch or pocket rather than let the dog always assume you already have it in your hand. Test these ideas out and see what works best for you and your collie.
2. If your dog is being asked to look at you in a new place and he is not looking at all because he is a little nervous or distracted because he's trying to check it out, you can put your hand with a treat before his nose and slowly draw it up towards your face enticing him to follow it with his eyes. As soon as you get eye contact reward him and try again.
3. If your dog is being asked to look at you in front a new or difficult distraction and he isn't doing well, you can try the step above or place greater distance between your dog and the distraction before asking him to try again. By adding distance you're taking the distraction level and lowering it. It isn't so intense when he isn't right on top of it. You may have to back up a few times before you find the level at which he can respond with ease. If he does well in the distance for a bit then move a few steps closer and begin to work at the new closer level. If its too much, back up a step and try again. The idea is to find the level at which he will be successful by using distance as the control, not force, and reminding him that looking at you is fun and the thing to do. This also helps develop trust. Your collie will learn to trust you since you are looking out for him and not placing him in places or intense situations that make it hard for him to succeed.
4. When doing this exercise remember not to glare or really stare at the dog. This can cause your collie to become uncomfortable and actually encourage him to look away since eye contact is an important body language signal for dogs that can mean "challenge"! We need make sure we are not issuing such a statement. This is because a dominant dog may challenge you back, a submissive dog may become to nervous and refuse to look at all or even try to leave the area, and others may get a little confused and pace in front of you while only taking quick glances at you. Don't stare hard at your collie but try to have a relaxed, calm or even slightly neutral expression on your face. Its okay to smile and nod a little while verbally praising your dog. Now you're teaching him YOUR body language and he'll soon learn that these nods and smiles are queues that he has done something right. Many obedience trial handlers use this smile reward or "smile therapy" so that during long sits, downs and other exercises they can praise their dog without fear of getting points off for additional signals! Only use your firm glare when your dog has done something wrong and remember to immediately go back to your relaxed expression once your "correction" is done and/or the dog has stopped the inappropriate behavior.
5. many obedience people will use "Good Look" or "Good Watch" in their praise to teach their dog an additional word for their dog to look at. After a little practice they can then use "Look" or "Watch" as a queue for eye contact during formal heeling or long sits and downs.
With work and time he will begin to look to you and want to stay close because he never knows when you're going to want him.
(Can you see the hamburger my human brother is holding just past my nose? Now that's a distraction!)