A very important part of dog training is to be able to get your dog’s attention and getting eye contact is a great start. The watch me command for dogs helps your pooch focus just on you and is useful in distractive environments or in training sessions.
What is the watch me command?
The watch me command is for teaching your dog to look at you on command.
The watch me command also allows you to set the foundation for future commands, as dogs that pay close attention to their owner will be much easier to train.
Additionally, the watch me command is very helpful in situations where you want your dog to focus on you instead of some other distractive situation.
Let’s say your dog gets worked up over deer (I know mine does). You can use the “watch me” command to get your dog to look at you instead of the deer to avoid a crazy reaction.
Some people might choose other verbal cues for this command, such as “watch” or “look”. No matter why you’re teaching your dog to look at you, the “watch me” command is pretty easy to teach, it just takes a little time, patience and persistence.
Steps to teaching the watch me command
- Step 1: Preparation
Go with your dog to a place where there are no distractions, ideally a quiet room without any other people in it. Also, make sure to have some tasty treats to reward your dog for positive behavior.
- Step 2: Introduce the command
Grab a treat, and hold it in front of your dog’s nose until they pay attention to it. Once they are focused on the treat, say the “watch me” command and slowly move the treat towards your nose in a straight imaginary line.
As soon as your dog makes eye contact, praise your dog and reward immediately. It’s extremely important to reward on that same, imaginary line. Repeat this several times over the course of a few days.
- Step 3: Increase the duration
Once you feel like your dog fully understands what you want from them, it’s time to increase the duration between the verbal cue and the reward.
Repeat the same process, but this time, hold the treat in front of your nose slightly longer before giving the reward. Start with 2-3 seconds.
As this is still a new command for your dog, try not to overwhelm them. If they get distracted, go one step back and shorten the time.
- Step 4: Phase out the treat
Now, it’s time to try this command without a treat in your hand. Give the verbal cue, and move your finger towards your nose in the same imaginary line between you and your dog. Once your dog makes eye contact, reward.
One thing to remember here is to give the reward in the imaginary line. So, if you are taking out the treat from your pocket, move it in front of your nose first, and then give it to your dog in that line.
Repeat this step for several training sessions.
- Step 5: Use only a verbal cue
After your dog completely understands the command, it’s time for a test. Say the command without moving your hand and holding a treat.
If your dog looks at you, immediately praise and reward (yes, in that same line again).
Don’t worry if your dog struggles with this step. Simply go back one step and guide your dog to making eye contact with you. This is the step that you need to put the most work into, but it will be well worth it in the end.
Repeat this step multiple times over the next week until your dog makes no mistake.
- Step 6: Build up the behavior
By randomly rewarding your dog, you can build up their ability to make eye contact with you. You can do this by occasionally rewarding them in that same imaginary line while teaching them other commands, like “sit” or “shake paw”.
- Step 7: Increase the difficulty
Increase the difficulty by slowly adding in distractions. Try going outside instead of practicing in a quiet house and get the command from your dog.
Set up your dog for success! Don’t put your dog in front of a big distraction right away, start with small distractions like people walking around, then gradually get more difficult.
Overall, the watch me command is not hard to teach, yet it is a very important one. It builds trust between you and your dog, and it’s a great stepping stone for teaching other commands.
This Youtube video will help you visualize the steps above: