I promise you are on your way to having a great recall/come-when-called command with your pooch! You have learned about distraction and are working to prevent creating a “living room” dog. You now are even hand-feeding and seeing the benefits! What is next you ask? Well, simply it is teaching the command “watch me”. Attention is one of the most important things you can teach a dog and in many ways is the beginning of a reliable recall… Let’s face it if the dog isn’t paying attention you don’t stand much of a chance of getting him/her to come back to you. Well all that being said your next step is to get busy teaching this very important command, so let’s get busy…
Watch Me Kiss Dog Training
Watch Me
Watch Me should be the first command people teach their dogs! Let’s face it if you don’t have a dog’s attention, teaching them anything else is pretty much futile. This is exactly what watch me is! I want to teach a dog that, with either a hand signal or a verbal cue (watch me), FIDO will stop what he is doing and look me in the face and wait for the next command. Watch me can be used for a variety of reasons, but for me, it’s the first step in stopping problem behaviors. Put simply, dogs rarely can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, so if Fido is engaging in a behavior I don’t like, the first thing I will do is ask for a watch me.  For that split second when the dog stops the inappropriate behavior, I have, in essence, won the battle, but not the war! The war is teaching the dog an alternative behavior to replace the bad behavior. For example, if my dog is chewing on my prize pair of shoes, I will first negatively mark the behavior (make the EGGHH! noise), then ask for a watch me (to gain attention), and finally, ask for a sit (alternative behavior) to take the place of the chewing of shoes. As many of you know, I truly believe that the smartest trait a dog trainer can have is the ability to ignore THE BAD AND REWARDING THE GOOD. This becomes the first tenet for winning the war on bad behavior, and watch me becomes the first line of defense for your campaign! So how do I teach my dog this wonderful little trick???
Start with a high-value treat, and place it right on the end of your dog’s nose, but don’t let him have it yet. Once you have the dog’s attention, move your hand up toward your face.  When your dog looks at you (at this point really looking at the treat) Click, (see my post on clickers – Training Terminology…What it All Means), and reward. As the dog becomes more comfortable looking up at your face, begin to shape your verbal and hand signals. I use my index finger to point at my nose for my hand signal and simply say the words watch me as my verbal cue. As the dog builds stronger duration and distance capability (see post on the 3 D’s), you will be able to continue your work in more distracting environments. This command not only works on chewing on shoes but can also be used for barking, jumping up, rushing the door, and even aggression with dogs and people! In all situations watch me becomes your main way to refocus your dog’s attention from something you don’t like back to you so that you can then ask for and build the habit of a behavior you do like.
Many times I hear “My dog does not want to look at my face.”  Let’s face it, watch me can be a pretty strange idea to a dog. Think about it, what does it mean when two dogs lock eyes and don’t “blink”? That’s right, it’s a challenge; and some anxious, shy, or I guess even aggressive and fearful dogs may not want to participate in this cue. Let me be clear…if you’re dealing with aggression I don’t recommend you try this by yourself; call a trainer or behaviorist. Do not risk challenging an aggressive dog. That being said, the best time to teach watch me is as a puppy. The tabula rasa or blank slate will make this much easier. All commands and cues are easier to teach before bad habits start, and if all owners did this I would be out of a job, but business is still good.  Don’t worry though, even an older dog or one with baggage can learn watch me.  But let me warn you, it won’t be hard on the dog…but it may be more difficult for you! Let me clarify, it really isn’t harder, but it will require patience; and many dog owners seem to think patience and difficult are the same things. Remember to relax and go slow. If the dog will only glance at you with the treat, start there, and work towards a more reliable watch me. It might take a lot of time, but trust me, it will be worth it. A quick hint on clickers…if your dog is scared of the clicking noise, don’t worry! Use a click-style pen which is a much softer noise, and then gradually move to a clicker. And if you always have to use a pen, who cares?  Chances are, you always have a pen with you so it’s an easy substitute.
So what have we learned?
·         Watch me should be one of the first commands taught
·         Simply getting your dog’s attention away from bad behavior is the start of fixing that behavior
·         Watch me is a great way to teach your dog to keep attention on you
·         You cannot stop with the cue alone, you must replace the bad behavior with an alternate one.  REMEMBER… IGNORE THE BAD AND REWARD THE GOOD.
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