The “watch me” command is a basic command that can be used to get your dog’s attention in different situations. I often use the “watch me” command for dogs that bark, lunge and become overly excited on the leash when they see other dogs. If your dog is looking at you, they are not focusing on the other dog and getting overly excited.
Here are some steps you can take to train the “watch me” command:
1. Start in an area free of other distractions.
2. Have a supply of very small treats. Good choices are pieces of dry dog food, milk bones broken into smaller pieces or small soft dog treats. Because of the amount of repetition involved, you want to keep the treats small.
3. Hold a small treat in your hand.
4. Tell your dog to “watch me”. As you say this, move the treat where he will see it and bring it up to your face, between your eyes.
5. The instant he follows the treat and makes eye contact with you, even it’s just because his eyes followed the treat, praise him (Good boy!) and give him the treat. Timing is critical – the praise and treat must be issued the split second he makes eye contact with you.
6. Repeat this a few times, luring his eyes to yours as needed.
7. Try it without the lure and see if he looks to your eyes. Praise and treat promptly. If he’s not doing it automatically, go back to luring him 3-4 times, and then try without the lure. Repeat as necessary until he’s doing it well without being lured.
8. Increase the time before praising and treating, requiring him to maintain eye contact and focus on you for 5 seconds, then 10 seconds. If he does not hold his focus on you, look away from him without saying anything. Do not praise or treat him in any way. Wait a minute, and then repeat the command.
9. When he is maintaining focus for at least 10 seconds, practice the command without holding the treat to your face. Keep the treat hidden from view to teach him that the idea is to watch YOU, not the treat. If he needs a reminder about where to look, put your fingers with no treat in them in front of your eyes. Hold his focus for 10 seconds then praise and treat.
Practice this command several times a day every day. Gradually increase distractions and begin giving the command in different environments. Then go to a place where there are other dogs on leash. As another dog approaches, tell your dog to “sit” then “watch me.” Reward him for sitting and watching you with a praise and treat. When the other dog has passed by, you and your dog can begin walking again.
If you are having trouble with this command please let me know.
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