Watch Me! November 13, 2011

One of the best foundation behaviors you can teach your dog is to look at you and maintain eye contact. This is especially helpful if your dog is reactive to other dogs or people. Teach your dog to look at you and maintain eye contact instead of barking and lunging. Teach your dog to look at you instead of jumping on visitors. Be aware that in your house you will be able to build up to extended eye contact with lots of praise and delaying the food reward. Outside you will only be able to get brief ‘watch me’s’ at first and you will need to deliver the food rewards at a faster rate.

Watch Me or “watch” is like sit, but you hold the treat in your hand in front of your eyes so that he’ll focus on you. If he’s not comfortable with your eyes, use your chest or some other part of your body near your face. The treat has to be great, not a biscuit. Treat has to initially go to the nose, almost in their nose. Then lure up to your face. Don’t lean forward. Stand up straight, let him do the work, then when he’s looking give him something to watch. Hold treat next to your cheek. Then praise, then pause, then treat. If you speak and move simultaneously, what happens first is that the motion will happen first, but you want him to hear the praise first, then get the treat.

The first time you teach watch you do it at home with no distractions. Remove distractions. As he becomes good at it, add distractions, ie kids playing ball in the den next door, doorbell rings, etc. No dog distractions at this time. Your kids walking past, maybe in yard with minimal distractions. Then try it with unfamiliar dogs that are a long ways away. You want to build a foundation before your dog gets too emotionally aroused and upset. Where to practice? Parks, on walks, vet clinics, Petco and PetSmart.

Four phases of watch training

1. Watch, with no distractions
2. Increasing levels of distractions
3. Introduce low level dog distractions, unfamiliar dog far away
4. Introduce dogs closer and closer, with unfamiliar dogs, nonreactive dogs

The Steps are:

1. Say WATCH or LOOK
2. As soon as dog makes eye contact, praise
3. Treat!

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