The cover your eyes trick can be one of the hardest tricks to teach a dog. Some popular methods like tape on the nose, stickers on the nose and bands don’t always work for every dog. Sometimes they can even be painful (too sticky tape or noses rubbed free of hair). But once you find a method that works and stick to it, the cover your eyes trick can be one of the funnest tricks to teach. And it’s also one of the cutest! If you have watched my training tutorial then you will know the three methods I will be discussing in this trick guide. If you haven’t, then I suggest you watch it now so that you’ll know what each method looks like.
Method #1: The Nose Tickle
Step 1: Begin by gently holding your dog’s head in your left hand. Pet her head and tell her what a good girl she’s being. With your right hand gently tickle her muzzle and rub your hand over her muzzle quickly, roughing it up a bit. Do not pinch or be overly rough with her. Be gentle. This sensation will make her nose tickle and she’ll want to swipe at her face.
Step 2: Let her head go and allow her to paw at her muzzle. Have your treats and clicker ready. As soon as her paw touches her muzzle, even if it’s just for a split second, click and reward her. She isn’t going to hold her paw there at first; instead she’ll just swipe at it. Before you can tell her to hold her paw over her face she first needs to learn what you expect of her. Take things slow in this step. Moving too fast will only confuse her.
Step 3: Once your dog begins to understand that she’s being rewarded for covering her muzzle with her paw you can begin to slowly add duration. As soon as she paws at her muzzle tell her stay (or if your dog knows the command hold it, which is where they hold a certain position you ask of them, than use that word instead). Only ask her to stay in that position for a few seconds at a time. Give her tons of treats and praise when she does. This is a huge milestone in training this trick! Gradually build the amount of time she stays in this position over the course of a few weeks. Once she is beginning to hold this position for longer periods of time, than you want to slowly begin phasing out tickling her nose altogether and add the cue word, which is cover.
Tip* This method doesn’t always work for all dogs. Some dogs simply think you’re giving them a muzzle massage and enjoy every moment of your attention. I recommend that you try this method first and if it doesn’t get your dog pawing at their muzzle then move on to the next method. It’s the simplest and easiest method to follow, so definitely try this one first.
Method #2: The Halti
This second method involves the use of a training tool called a Halti. It is also known as a gentle leader or head collar. It is commonly used for dogs who like to pull while on walks or who tend to be reactive to other animals or people. But I’ve also found that this is a great tool to use for shaping this trick. (This method is for dogs who have not worn a head collar before.)
Note* There may be many people who have varying opinions on this method. Because this tool is used most commonly for shaping problem behaviors they will feel as though encouraging your dog to paw at the Halti will be counterproductive. I have used this method to train Kodi to cover his eyes and I continue to use it on walks. It has not caused him to want to rub at his Halti at all. The object of the Halti in regards to this trick is to teach the dog to cover their eyes. Once they learn that that is the behavior that gets rewarded and master the trick without the Halti they won’t try to paw at the tool every time you use it for behavior modification. Dogs are extremely smart. They understand the difference.
Step 1: Get your dog accustomed to the Halti by first letting him sniff at it. Be really happy about the whole experience and encourage your dog to be interested in it too. Once he’s studied the tool and as long as he shows no fear over it, then you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Take your dog’s favorite treats and lure his nose through the loop that covers his muzzle. As soon as his muzzle goes through the loop, click and treat him. Do this a few times to create a positive experience with the tool. Then go ahead and try it again, only this time snap the buckle into place behind his ears. Again, click and treat him for his good behavior.
Step 3: Now that your dog is wearing the Halti, he may feel a little upset about it and try to rub it off of his face with his paw. Now, because this is the behavior we are looking for we want to reward him for it. Click and treat him the minute his paw touches his muzzle. Repeat this a few times and then remove the Halti.
Step 4: Once your dog is beginning to understand what you want him to do, you want to begin to extend the duration. Simply encourage him to paw at the Halti and once his paw touches his muzzle ask him to stay. He may not get it at first but just be patient. He’ll start to understand eventually. Only make him hold this position for a few seconds and then click and reward him. Build up the duration over the course of the week. Once he is beginning to hold the position, then you can begin to phase out the Halti. Only start with one repetition without your dog wearing it and then build up from there.
Step 5: Now that your dog is offering the behavior without the Halti and is holding it for extended durations, you can begin to phase out the halti altogether and add your cue word which is cover. It may take a few weeks to phase out the Halti, so be please be patient.
Method #3: The Itchy Head collar
This last and final method also involves the use of a Halti. (This method is for dogs who have used the head collar before or for dogs who have slowly been introduced to it).
Step 1: Calmly and happily put the head collar on your dog. If she’s used to wearing it then she will probably sit calmly, waiting for your further instruction.
Step 2: To encourage your dog to paw at her muzzle you’re going to need a few supplies. If you’re training outdoors, a few blades of grass or soft leaves will work. If you’re training indoors, a few scraps of soft toilet tissue or Kleenex will work. Simply take the soft leaves or tissue and gently place them beneath the top band of the head collar that sits on top of her muzzle. Be very careful of her eyes. If your brand of head collar sits to far up on the nose, close to the eyes, then don’t use this method as she could accidently cause injury to her eyes while pawing at her face. And never use anything that has sharp or pointed edges. Only soft things like grass and tissue will safely work. I REPEAT DO NOT USE ANYTHING SHARP!
Step 3: Once the tissue is placed safely beneath the head collar, take your hand and gently wiggle the tissue around. This will cause your dog’s muzzle to tickle and she’ll try to paw at it. Be extremely encouraging! As soon as her paw touches her muzzle click and treat.
Step 4: Once your dog starts to understand that she is being rewarded for pawing at her muzzle you can increase the duration she holds it there. Simply tell her to stay once her paw touches her muzzle. Reward her after a few seconds and slowly build the duration up over the course of a week. At this point you also want to slowly begin phasing out the head collar. Start with only one repetition without the head collar and then slowly build up from there.
Step 5: Once your dog begins to cover her eyes and hold it there for longer periods without the head collar, then you want to begin phasing it out altogether. It may take a little while to be able to phase out the head collar completely so it’s important to be patient. Take this process slowly. If you phase it out too quickly your dog may not understand what you want of her anymore. Now that your dog has the hang of this trick you can add the cue word cover.
I hope this training guide has helped you and informed you of three unique ways to teach the cover your eyes trick to your dog. If at any point your dog begins to get overwhelmed then please go back a step or two and work from there. This trick can take a while for your dog to learn and it can also take a while to phase out the head collar altogether. Please be patient and go slowly. Once mastered I promise this will be one of you and your dog’s favorite new tricks! If you have any questions then please feel free to leave a comment. And remember, If You’re Going To Bark, Than Bark Like You Mean It!
It isn’t about the end result, it’s about the fun journey you take and memories you make while training.