Canines of all ages are curious and distracted by many things that go unnoticed by us humans. Too often, in an attempt to regain control of our pets, a correction is made, rather than a command. At ECAD, we use the “Watch Me” command when our pups are unfocused and distracted by outside stimuli and we need to reconnect, thus regaining control without having to correct.
“Watch Me!” is a simple command with a huge impact. The “Watch Me” command often replaces the pup’s name. As mentioned in How to Call Your Dog by Their Name (And Have Them Listen!), your pup’s name as a command says, “Buster, I am talking to you!” Whereas, “Watch Me” says, “Buster, stop doing ‘that’ and look at me!”
Sound too good to be true? Pet parents, fear not, this command is real, and truly works wonders. So, how do we get Buster to learn this miracle command?
The "Watch Me" Command
“Watch Me” means to make eye contact.
When to use: This command will become your ‘go-to’ command when you are in need of regaining control of your curious furry four-legged family member both on and off leash.
Step 1: Environment for Success
- Make sure your pup is in a controlled environment, with minimal distractions, on a leash, and that you have plenty of small yummy treats easily accessible.
Step 2: Learning the Behavior
- Be completely silent. Use no commands and focus all of your attention on your pup.
- Hold a treat in each hand.
- Bring both hands to your pup’s nose, allowing your pup to smell the treats.
- Note: Do not give your pup the treats yet. This is just to let him/her know they are there.
- Extend your arms. Keep them apart and out of reach of your pup.
- Wait. Your pup will probably look at your hands and may even jump for your hands, but you will not react. You just wait with no words.
- At the exact moment you and your dog’s eyes meet, even if it’s just half a second, you reward the behavior with a “YES!” while dropping both hands in front of you and dispensing both treats.
- Note: You are marking the desired behavior by reinforcing that looking at you is positive and rewarding.
Step 3: Reinforcing the Behavior
- Repeat the sequence until you see your pup understands that looking into your eyes is the behavior that will result in receiving a reward.
Step 4: Integrating the Command
- With both arms extended, treats in hand, say the command “Watch Me”.
- Note: You only say the command once, remember your pup does not speak ‘Human’, so your pup does not understand what “Watch Me” means just yet.
- At the exact moment your eyes meet, even for just half a second, you reward the behavior with a “YES! Watch Me! YES!” while dropping both hands in front of you and dispensing both treats.
- Repeat step 4b until your pup is looking at you the moment you say “Watch Me”.
Step 5: Extended Eye Contact
- Once your pup is performing the task easily, ask for more. With your arms still extended, delay dispensing the reward for a full three count, or the length of this statement “Watch Me…That’s It…Watch Me.” At the completion of the statement say “YES!” while dropping both hands in front of you and dispensing both treats.
Note: Your pup must keep full eye contact with you to receive the reward. If Buster’s eyes wander, quickly say “No!” followed by “Watch Me” and return to step 4. Buster is not 100% ready to hold eye contact yet.
Goal: Ultimately, you want your pup to hold eye contact with you for 20 seconds while your arms are fully extended. Once successfully reaching this goal three times consistently, you are ready to move on to step 6.
Step 6: Reducing Cues
Now that you have successfully completed step 5, place your arms by your side, ensuring your pup cannot reach the treats, and repeat steps 4 and 5.
Congratulations, you have successfully completed the “Watch Me” training tip. At this point, your own creativity will need to come into play. The command “Watch Me” can be used when your pup is lying down or across the room. Use “Watch Me” when a person enters your quiet room, or in the yard as a person or animal walks by. Good Luck!
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How to Teach Your Dog “Yes” and “No”
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How to Start Your Dog Peeing in the Yard
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All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.