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Bowwow Haus

Teaching your dog to "Watch Me"

Here's a great article from Shannon Malmberg at Zen Dog Training - a great foundation command to teach your doggie:

This exercise is the precursor to all dog training. It teaches the dog calm focus and attention to his handler. Without teaching your dog the "watch me" command, you are competing with the world (ie. squirrels, children, other dogs) for his attention - and without his attention, you can't properly reach him through training. Once your dog understands this command, use it before giving him anything he adores - going through the door for a walk outside; being let off leash in a park; getting his dinner; etc. By looking into your face before receiving something wonderful, he learns that all heaven comes through you.

Start with your dog on leash, in a sit-stay, if possible. Draw his attention to a food treat (make it yummy - like wiener bits) in your hand. As he focuses on the food, draw your hand up to your mouth and lean so that you are a few inches above your dog. As his eyes come into your face, give praise with "good watch me" and drop the food into his mouth. Make this easy for him - you want him to catch the food from your mouth the first few times, so get as close to his face as you need to. Repeat repeat repeat. Remember to drop the food the instant he looks into your face - you are rewarding his eye contact. Always attach the words "good watch me" with your actions.

As your dog becomes proficient at catching food from your hand, move a few inches up above your dog's head, making the exercise slightly more difficult. Should a piece of food not make it into his mouth, do not let him eat it off the floor - this is where holding his leash comes into play. He is not to learn that "watch me" means to start looking around on the floor for food. If you need to, keep the leash taut.

Once you are about 6 inches above your dog, remove your hand from this exercise. Draw your dog's attention to the food and then place it in your mouth. Hide your hand behind your back. If you need to, make smacking or kissing noises to get your dog's focus back on your mouth (and realizing where the food is). Again, watch for the eyes coming into your face and then reward by dropping the food from your mouth.
Most likely your dog will miss the food drop at this point because you have changed from hand to mouth feeding. Be persistent. Do not let him eat off the floor. Instead, repeat the exercise until he wins. Then BIG praise and a jackpot of a few extra pieces from your hand. Give it a break and try again in a few hours.

As your dog gets better with catching food from your mouth, move further and further back from his face. At the conclusion of this exercise, unless you have a toy breed, you should be able to stand up straight.


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