Today, we’re going to take a couple simple commands and discuss how to train them. They’ll be the building blocks for other, more complex commands later on.
For training, you’ll need high value treats and your dog’s favorite toy. Remember to use high value treats like bits of chicken, roast, hot dog, cheese or anything extra yummy and tasty rather than a dry biscuit or kibble. These treats need to be nibble sized bits.
The point of “Watch Me” is for your dog to learn to focus on you when you say their name. Often, we over-use a dog’s name and it soon comes to mean very little to them. Think about how we communicate with other humans. We don’t say “Bob, Bob, BOB!” Nor do we say Bob’s name then just stare at them. Both of these would be considered rude by people standards. And they’re pretty rude by dog standards. So, instead, we’re going to teach Fluffy what we want her to do when we say her name. Over time, this command will integrate in with other commands.
To get started (and this is probably the easiest thing you’ll ever teach), take a high value treat in one hand. With your hand down by your waist, slightly extended towards Fluffy’s nose, say her name to get her attention. DO NOT let her have the treat yet. Once she’s fixated on the treat, say “Watch Me” and move your hand up by your eye. When Fluffy makes eye contact, give her the treat and praise her. Repeat and practice through out the day.
Later on, this command could be a life saver. Getting your dog to keep focus on you and not other, potentially reactive stimulus can keep Fluffy from getting hurt. Plus, it’s good to have this down pat as it’s a tiny step to help with the recall.
“Give” and “Take”
Giving up an off limits item could save your dog’s life and/or thousands of dollars in vet bills. Learning to give up items gracefully without turning it into a game of keep away should be one of Fluffy’s skills. Learning this will help end the chase and struggle to get an off limits item away from Fluffy.
Let Fluffy have her toy. Allow her to play with it in your presence for a minute or so. Then, with the high value treat in one hand, take the toy in your other hand while saying “Give” and offer Fluffy the treat in your off hand. Give praise when she relinquishes the toy. Do NOT take the toy by force. We want Fluffy to learn to give up the toy, not play tug of war. After she eats her treat, offer her back the toy and say “Take”. Continue working back and forth between the toy and the treat. Feel free to alternate the toy each training session so little Fluffy learns to generalize.
Practice these commands in small increments through out the day. Remember to always end before Fluffy gets bored and end on a positive note.