So I’m teaching Zillekins, fetchy dog extraordinaire, to stare at me to make me throw the ball. She’s a delight to train because she’s really damn clever and also very, very willing to learn things for the right motivation. Being a very handler-sensitive dog, a correction harsher than a disappointed tone of voice is out of the question. The minute she hears “Oh, Zille, what did you do?” her head and tail and ears droop and she comes slinking over to reassure herself that although she might have momentarily slid toward being a Bad Dog, she is still loved. Not to mention the fact that I like training my dogs using rewards, because I want training time to be a fun game for everyone involved.
Anyway, all of this is a lead-in to say that at the moment, Zille must glance at my face to make me throw the ball. Looking away from the ball is hard for her, so I started with waiting until she looked *anywhere* else and succesfully shaped a darting gaze around the yard with stops at the ball. Then I started rewarding looking at me above the waist. She was still not QUITE getting it, but tonight you could see the lightbulb go off: “SOMETHING I AM DOING WITH MY EYES MAKES HER THROW THE BALL” and then “I MUST LOOK AT HER BODY TO MAKE THE BALL HAPPEN”. Sheer brilliance.
I still don’t have a stare, but at this point I’m only throwing the ball when she actually looks at my face. We’re working it. She’ll get there.
 Zillekins comes from Hard Ass Working Dog lines. Her mother, Danca, and father bite people for fun (aka they hold Schutzhund titles) as do a huge chunk of her ancestors. Danca has passed her sweetness and handler responsiveness to Zille in spades. Zille lives to be a Good Dog.