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It's tough to teach your dog if he's not paying attention to you. One of the best commands you can teach your dog is what is called the “watch me” command.
It's even harder to try and prevent some undesired actions from occurring if you can't get your dog's attention. Since we don't want the training to be focused on correcting the bad behaviors - after all your dog's name is not, “No, no, bad dog,” - then we need to teach your dog to focus on you.
Teaching Watch Me
The watch me exercise is going to mean exactly that; when you tell your dog, “Sweetie, watch me,” you want him to look at you. However, since your dog has no idea right now what those two words mean, we need to teach him.
With your dog on leash, ask him to sit in front of you. Hold the leash in one hand and have some good treats in the other hand. Let your dog sniff the treats and then move the treats towards your chin. As he watches your hand and the treats, watch his eyes. When he looks at your face (ideally your eyes) rather than the treats, praise him, “Sweetie, good watch me!” and pop a treat in his mouth.
Repeat three or four times and then take a break.
After several days of practice, when he'll follow your hand movement and the verbal cue, then begin decreasing the hand signal. Instead of going from his nose to your chin, begin about halfway from his nose to your chin. Continue asking him to watch you, and continue the immediate praise and treat reward when he looks at you.
When your dog is watching you when you ask, then add some variety to the training. Have him sit in front of you, ask him to watch you, then take one step to the right and then one to the left. Praise him and give him the treat. Then back away from him a step or two and reward him when he follows you and continues to watch you. Challenge him, make the training a fun game, and continue the praise and treats.
When your dog understands watch me, you can begin decreasing the treats. Don't abruptly stop giving treats; you'll lose watch me that way. Instead, begin rewarding watch me sporadically; giving a treat for good eye contact, for quick response, and for ignoring distractions to look at you.
Using The Watch Me Command with Your Dog
Watch me has many uses for training, for problem prevention, and for daily use. Don't ask your dog to watch you continually all the time as that's unrealistic. However, being able to gain your dog's attention in certain situations is wonderful.
When you're going for a walk, if your dog is pulling too much, ask him to watch you. He can't watch you and drag you down the street at the same time. When he's gained some control over himself, then tell him, “Okay, let's go,” and let him walk normally again.
If on the walk, your neighbors dogs are barking behind a fence and your dog wants to respond, tell your dog, “Sweetie, watch me.” If he's focused on you, he won't be trying to respond to the bad dogs.
Watch me is also great when you're practicing your obedience exercises and your dog is distracted. Do a watch me, get his attention, and then continue your training. As you teach this exercise and practice with it, you'll find many uses for it.