Updated: Mar 18, 2019
"What commands should I train my dog to do?"
"What commands should every dog know?"
"How do I stop my dog doing something I don't want him to do?"
All of those questions I am asked pretty often as a dog trainer! A lot of people want a quick fix with their dog, or have them be obedient right away, which is understandable in this day and age of immediate gratification, but not exactly realistic when it comes to your dog!
So on the blog today I wanted to talk about a command that I do think every dog should know, and that is:
Here at Bone Ball Bark, we are firm believers in telling what your dog TO DO as opposed to what NOT TO DO. If your dog constantly hears "no", "stop", "don't", when out and about or trying new things he will be frustrated, and so will you be as every encounter will be a negative one.
Examples of telling your dog what to do as opposed to what not to:
If your puppy always wants to chew table legs, as he is going over to the table, entice him with one of his toys and give him lots of praise when he starts to chew on that instead. You have given him a better choice.
If your dog likes to jump up at people who come through the door, work on training him to lay down or go to bed instead. You are telling him an alternative to do that you will praise and reward, instead of pulling him off or yelling at him when he jumps. Give him a job and a consistent expectation!
This brings us to 'Watch'.
(I love this command. Not going to lie! I use it ALL THE TIME.)
What is 'Watch'?
'Watch' is a command I use to tell a dog to turn his eyes up to mine. It is extremely useful in a number of different settings, and when taught correctly, sustained eye contact can help get you and your dog through some tricky situations out and about!
But isn't that what their name is for?
No. I teach my clients that their dogs name is for attention grabbing only. Their name isn't a command. Always follow your dog's name with a command to do something. This prevents owners falling into the trap of using their name for a ton of different things, with no clear expectation for their dog. For example, you are at the park and you want your dog to come back to you so you call their name. Then at home later, they go to grab something off the kitchen counter and you angrily shout their name. That night you have guests come over and your dog starts barking at the door and you say their name over and over to get them to stop and move away from the door.
So to your dog, does that word now mean to come to them, that they have done something bad, to stop barking, or is it now just a nagging sound that has zero meaning to them?
How do I train 'Watch'?
Saying ‘Watch’ turns his attention away from other dogs, noises, things on the ground, and back onto you.
1) Start off doing this at home with no distractions. When he isn’t looking at you, say ‘Watch’ in a high pitch voice. When he turns his attention to you, quickly say ‘yes’ and give him a treat. The high pitch voice mimics a high pitch yap or squeal that puppies make.
2) The ‘yes’ is a way of marking the behaviour, like clicker training. You are telling him that what he did in that second is exactly what you wanted, and a treat is coming.
3) Once he has confidently mastered turning his eyes to yours, you can work on increasing the length of time that he keeps his eyes on you. Say 'Watch', and wait a couple seconds while his eyes are on yours before saying 'yes' and treat.
4) Do this a few times before increasing the number of seconds again. If your dog looks away from you, go back a stage to only a second or two before rewarding.
1) Once he has mastered the 'watch' command in the house, go outside into the yard on leash and try it. Outside there are a ton of distractions and we always want him to succeed so we are introducing distractions and different environments slowly. You will need to say 'Watch' and reward him immediately to begin with before working on extending the time that eye contact is held.
2) Once you feel confident he can do it in the yard. Then take a walk around a quiet neighbourhood and try 'Watch' there. Always have treats with you and say ‘yes’ when he turns his attention to you.
When do you use 'Watch'?
I use it in lots of different circumstances, and so do our Bone Ball Bark clients.
When there is something on the ground you don't want them to get, but they haven't noticed it yet. I proactively say 'Watch' as we walk past it, instead of waiting for them to notice whatever it is and resorting to 'leave it' or 'no.
When I am working with a leash aggressive or reactive dog, it is another tool to use to break their tunnel vision focus on whatever they set their sights on, be it other dogs, squirrels humans.
When we are in a busy street with lots of people and distractions, I use 'Watch' to keep my dogs focus on me as we move tightly through the crowd.
Give 'Watch' a try and let us know how you get on! We offer both in-person 1-on-1 training sessions, and training sessions via Skype so we are here to help no matter where you are:)