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'Watch Me' Teaching Eye Contact

Updated: May 2, 2019

Eye contact is one of the most useful behaviors you'll ever teach your dog, and the first step toward building a strong connection with your dog. It can help you get past distractions, redirect naughty behavior, or simply get the attention you need to give another cue. Plus is looks fancy!

My dog Timber has the attention span of a gold fish on crack. True to her terrier heritage, she often obsesses over the sounds and scents of other animals. At times she finds new situations overwhelming and scary. Enter 'watch me'! Our go-to solution for preventing pulling, barking, spooking, eating garbage, walking past strange people and dogs, and as seen in the photo above, NOT dragging me in after those geese.

How to teach 'watch me'

I cannot overstate the importance of practicing 'watch me' often, in varying locations and with high value rewards. Start inside and gradually work your way into more and more distracting environments. Once you've taught a solid 'watch me', other behaviors like loose leash walking, and coming when called fall into place nicely.

Below are basic instructions for teaching this behavior. I mention using a clicker here, but feel free to substitute this with a verbal marker like 'yes'.

1. Get the Behavior

  • When dog looks anywhere in your direction: Click or say 'yes', throw a treat on the ground

  • When dog looks at your eyes: Click or say 'yes', throw a treat on the ground

  • Repeat until your dog is reliably looking at your eyes (not at your treats or hands)

2. Name the behavior

  • As the dog is looking at your eyes: Say 'watch me' in a pleasant tone

    • Click or say 'yes', throw a treat on the ground

3. Add the Cue

  • As the dog is finishing his last treat: Say 'watch me'

    • Click or say 'yes', throw a treat on the ground

    • Repeat 10 times

  • Alternate between known cues and the new cue ('watch me', 'sit', 'watch me', 'down', etc.)

  • Try giving the cue at another time.

If you have an easily-distracted dog who would benefit from learning 'watch me', please contact me. I'm here to help.

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