How to Teach Your Dog to Look at You or "Watch Me"

Getting Your Dog's Attention in Any Situation

Portugese Water Dog looking for instruction
Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images

Having your dog's full attention is an important part of dog training. The command "watch me" or "look" is used to get your dog to focus on you. It is useful for times when you need your dog to pay close attention to you, such as during obedience training. It is especially helpful for those who work as a team with their dogs. For instance, people who compete in dog agility or those who are involved in search and rescue can use the “look” or "watch me" command to get their dog’s attention in order to give them instructions on what to do next.

It is also useful for working on behavior problems. Having your dog focus his attention on you can divert his attention away from the things that bring out fearful or aggressive behaviors.

Here’s how to teach your dog the "watch me" or “look” command:

Begin Training Your Dog to Watch You

“Watch me” is a very simple command to teach. You will need some treats, and your clicker if you are working on clicker training. Teaching “look” or "watch me" is a great way to introduce your dog to the clicker if you have not already done so. You should begin training in a quiet spot with very little to distract your dog. Once you have your clicker and treats ready, say your dog’s name followed by the command “look" or "watch me.”

Getting Your Dog’s Attention

For many dogs, hearing their name will be enough to get their attention. If your dog looks at your face after you give the command, you can praise him or click, then give him a treat.

Some dogs may not respond immediately to hearing their name paired with the “look” or "watch me" command. In this case, after you give the command, wave a treat in front of your dog’s nose, and then pull the treat up to your face. Your dog will follow the treat and end up looking at your face. Praise him or click, and give him a treat immediately.

Within a few short training sessions, you should have no problem getting your dog to focus his attention on you. Continue practicing with your dog, and gradually move up to working in more distracting surroundings.

Most dogs are easily distracted, so it's important to train this command in a variety of situations. Once your dog masters "watch me" in a quiet environment with no distractions, move to a slightly more active area, like your yard. As your dog continues to learn to watch you with mild distractions, work your way up to busier environments, like the park or another public place. Be sure to teach the command around other dogs and people.

Tips on Training Your Dog to Watch You

  • If you are having trouble getting your dog to focus on you, especially as you add in distractions, make sure you are using valuable treats. Choose a food or toy that your dog really loves. Many people like to use small pieces of chicken or hot dog. Just make sure your dog doesn't get enough food to make him sick. Also, be careful to avoid potentially toxic foods.
  • As your dog gets better at watching you, make the distractions more difficult. Try working around a playful dog or a favorite person. Test your dog by having someone squeeze a toy or make another inviting sound.
  • In addition to working with distractions, gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. Ideally, you will be able to get your dog to look at you from across a room or even a field.

Keep working at all of this and soon you will be able to get your dog’s attention in any situation.

Edited by Jenna Stregowski, RVT