Grab and Hold Your Dog’s Attention With the “Watch Me” Cue

Many dogs, particularly young, lively ones, lose concentration easily when they’re learning. They’re engaging with you and they’re trying to understand what’s wanted,but everything around them is just so exciting that they can’t focus. “Watch Me” is a great basic exercise—it’s easy to teach, and it can keep you and your dog out of all kinds of trouble, because you will be able to stop him from heading off after the nearest distraction.


Teach a command that gets your pet’s attention onto you when you say his name—fast and without fuss.

You can teach this exercise under any circumstances, but it’s best to start when your dog is hanging out at home, perhaps sniffing around in the backyard or checking the kitchen to see if there’s anything good to eat. You want to catch him when he’s not thinking about paying you attention but isn’t strongly distracted by anything else.

  1. Arm yourself with a handful of small but high-value treats and walk around to where your dog can see you. Say his name. Use a clear, enthusiastic attention-getting tone.
  2. As soon as he looks at you, return eye contact, say “Watch Me,” and throw him a treat. The message you are teaching your dog is that paying attention to you brings benefits.
  3. Don’t wave the treat to get his attention; throw it with the cue “Watch Me” as soon as you get his
    attention. The treat is the reward, but paying attention and looking toward you is the desired behavior. So for this exercise, always throw the treat instead of handing it to him.
  4. Don’t worry about what he’s doing as he looks at you. A dog might add a behavior—for example, he may sit down—when you catch his attention, but for this exercise, the eye contact is the point. Whether he’s sitting or standing, he needs to be looking at you. That’s what earns him the treat.
  5. After you’ve done this three or four times, move on to something else. But remember to practice daily; this exercise is so useful that you want your dog to get it right every time.
  6. Over a period, you can ask your dog to pay attention for slightly longer before he gets the treat. At first, reward him immediately, then start to build in a delay of one or two seconds, during which he still has his attention on you, before rewarding him.


That paying attention to you pays dividends—and that he should look to you the
moment you ask him to.


Not only is it much easier to take your dog anywhere with you if you know that
you can catch his attention immediately, but you can also use it to distract your
dog from tricky situations.


I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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