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Teaching Your Show Prospect How to "Watch" - by Amber Gates

You can teach any dog how to "watch" using this method, I prefer working with younger puppies, but I have found great success using this method on older adolescents and adults. The one thing about dogs, is they live to please, so once you figure out what it is you want them to learn, and you are quick to give them praise, you will find success.

I will try to add a few pictures in the future.

Teaching Your Show Prospect How to "Watch"

First and foremost, this should be fun, and yet a mandatory step to having a well trained and show loving companion that has the “sparkle” and the “look at me” attitude we are all striving for. 

The first thing is that no dog is too young or too old to learn this – it turns into a big game – one I use on all of my dogs, even my retired show dogs. As they become more proficient in the game they tend to “look” for the game whenever we are together.

The other thing to keep in mind…is this is Behavioral Modification – most if not all dogs all ready have prey drive…so what we are trying to do is “harness” that drive to a specific set of behaviors – which is to stand still and watch my hand with “restrained excitement” – until I say otherwise.

Okay – so let me explain what “restrained excitement” is… the wild eyed, muscles tensed, ready to pounce, wanting to bark in excitement - because the mailman is in the front yard. The goal is to have the dog gently straining on the collar to watch and or pounce on something. So the goal is watching and not moving…easier said then done for some dogs!

The preparations…

Your dog should be wearing the appropriate collar and lead that you would be using in the ring – as they get better at it, you can eventually forego the collar – but you will need it in the beginning to control the dog, and to offer corrections as needed. This is a game, but there are still punishable behaviors… by punishable, I mean a quick jerk of the lead/collar, or the word HEY, and the like…not a chain beating!

Locate small toy that the dog is either genuinely interested in or moderately – if it makes a noise – all the better. I find my dogs tend to like toys that are small and furry (rabbit fur), or toys that make an odd noise – I have used toys that bark and growl...you have to look for these, but they do exist. It doesn’t have to be a squeaky – odds are great that you will wean off of this toy for something else in the future – like your hand, or bait, a floating fuzz ball, or the small yappy dog outside of the ring! Important – this toy is ONLY to be used for this training session – the dog should not have 24/7 access to it, otherwise it loses its’ pizzazz and fun factor. For the duration of the lesson, I will refer to the toy as making a squeak noise – just means for you to make the toy make its’ noise...whatever it may be.

Next – cut up bits of hotdog, or other small moist treat that you can have on the ready at a moments notice – I typically stuff these in my mouth, or in a bunch in my hand – the key is that you can reward the dog almost instantly – that they aren’t waiting for you to get it all together! The longer they wait for the reward – the longer it will take for them to “get it”.

The “word” – this is likely one of the hardest things to come up with – it wouldn’t seem like it, but somehow… I prefer the word “watch” and “watch it”. “Watch” is generally used for the toy, and “watch it” is for the yappy dog outside the ring, and the floating fuzz ball. Consistency to the word is important – your consistency with using it appropriately and rewarding quickly.

Having a “target” word as it is – lets you “control” your dog verbally – at one show there was a rather large, loud man, changing the garbage can liner at an indoor show… SCARY!!!! – NO!!!! IF you utilize your “target” word appropriately…now the garbage guy is “watch it”… you get the dog so frenzied at watching the guy, all your dogs wants to do is jump on him… he stops being a fearsome creature, and has now entered into “the game”…. So think of all of the things that happen ringside that can now become targets of “the game”…the list is literally endless… remember it is not the garbage guy—it is the “watch it” command that the dog is working with – the guy is just the target figure.

Some things to keep in mind

Okay so you have the lead, the toy, the “word”, and the bait - now for the hard parts –putting it all together.

All of this training is done in steps… small steps, lead to bigger steps, walking leads to running. If the dog ceases to make the appropriate behavior change, then a correction may be needed – most likely, a step back in training is also necessary.  Start with a small attainable goal…1-2 sec, then up to 3-5, 6-10… the individual goal is up to you, but be reasonable. I expect a good 30 seconds from my dogs in the show ring a bit longer for adults – that are FULLY trained to the game.

Training should take place in a quite, distraction free area in the beginning – and then move up to more distractions, training at home, and at ringside, are ALL encouraged. In the ring as well is great - providing you have a multi-dog entry. 10-15 minutes a day should provide you with some really great results within 7 days.

What is YOUR reward? – That your dog will “watch” you for longer and longer periods of time, because you are taking the time to work with them.

The order of things is VERY important – speed and accuracy is of the essence!

As examples

Praise - should come like this… “Yes!”, and then a bit of treat (“Yes!” should be said rather excitedly)

Punishment - should be like this… “Uh Uh!” or “No!”, and a slight tug on the collar (“No!” should be said with disdain and disappointment”)


The actual “Game”

Your dog does not have to be will be loose at the base of the neck initially (no contact), lead in the left hand as well. Small bits of bait and the toy are in your right hand…

Word of caution – the idea is for the dog to stand still – this is of course difficult if you want the dog to be restrained excitement… this is a work in progress – I use a finger pointing in the air to signal – don’t jump and to stay  - you can use your whole hand as well. Of course, now you are asking…What hand?!?!?...  well… that is more difficult when we have the toy – so …one finger might be the option… thumb holding the toy and some of the bait, and your pointy finger up in the air. You will need to have the hand/finger directed at the dog in a commanding way – be sure to step away, to the side, or into the dog if they are getting too exuberant. You can give a verbal correction of “no” or “uh-oh”, I do not suggest a lot of voice inflection – keep it monotone.

Get the dogs attention with the toy, squeaking it, waving it (somewhat wildly) – once the dog looks at it (no command!), say “yes”, give the dog a treat – continue to wave and/or squeak the toy until the dog looks at it…no dog name, no “word”... Let the toy some of the work. Once the dog has done this exercise at least 5 times, on the final try, give the toy to the dog – let him have it for a few seconds and then retrieve the toy.

Now that the dog is fairly reliably at least looking at the toy when it is squeaked or waved or the combination of the two we can now add in the “word” of your choice.

So now, the order of the command will be –

“Watch” (squeak/shake toy), “Yes!”, bit of bait (so at this stage the dog is likely only glancing  at the toy for  a second… but it will get longer. Right now, you are getting the dog to associate the word “watch” to the toy, and the toy to the bait. There is NO correction at this point – unless the dog is really ignoring you – remember, we can’t have a correction if there is no behavior knowledge. (Sort of like them not knowing to not jump on people until you have told them!)

When you feel that your dog is comprehending the idea that they are to look at the toy – you want to gradually extend the time that they are looking at the toy (without moving – or minimal moving - and without looking away). Remember the time frame should be quite short in the beginning, gradually increasing the time.

If you get your dog up to 10-15 seconds in the beginning, and you begin seeing that the dog’s interest in the toy is waning – you may need to have a new toy. If you see that while they are interested in the toy, but they are easily distracted, now you need to add in the correction.

The correction

The correction is quick and succinct, do not belabor the point. The ideal correction is a jerk or snap of the collar and lead quickly, add in the word “watch”, squeak the toy, and be prepared to praise with voice and treat immediately.

Once you have had to use the correction it is time to reduce the time used for the “watch” command, not back to the beginning, but reduce the time.

Advanced Training

When the dog is reliably looking, and is quick to respond to any of the corrections and especially if the dog is looking to you before and despite the “watch” command, it is time to up the ante – so to speak.

Upping the ante is additional “watch” time to 45-60 seconds, creating a bit more “attitude”, and creating arch of neck. When we attempt to create the arch of neck, requires the collar to be up on the neck, precisely as if the dog were being shown. By keeping the left hand on the collar and NOT letting the dog lower his neck, and then using the right hand with the toy, slowly (step by step) lowering the toy towards the floor – gives the pretty arch.

A cheat…

One cheat that I use often in teaching the arched neck is using the grooming arm and grooming table. Depending on the size of the dog, this is very feasible, but if you have a Great Dane or other giant breed, it becomes a bit more difficult. For the sake of this tutorial, I will describe the grooming arm method for medium sized dogs. For larger dogs, you will need to be a bit ingenious, perhaps attaching a grooming arm to a table, having the dog “work” from the floor.

Place the dog on the grooming table, put the head/neck in the noose, and lift the arm until the noose is snug on the neck – much like you would if you were holding the collar in the ring. Ultimately preventing the dog from lowering its’ head. The dog should be standing – a stack is not required, but you are welcome too. Once the dog becomes comfortable with the noose, and is willingly taking treats (with no commands) – then begin the whole “watch” lesson again, a few seconds building up to longer periods – because the dog has all ready been exposed to this training, the lengthening of time may come quickly. Slowly lower your hand, stopping and treating along the way. Again, each time you lower your hand the training begins again with the time frame you expect them to “watch”.  Once you are able to get your hand to the floor – and the dog is reliably watching the toy, drop the toy, and point at it, with the “watch” command… again, building up the time.  Eventually you will be able to drop the toy and say watch, and the dog will be looking for it -


Be sure to NOT do all of this in one day – limit your lessons to a total of 15 minutes a day – if you are able to break up the sessions to 5 minutes a few times a day, all the better. Quality of the training will far surpass the quantity.

Your puppy or adult dog will only find this fun, IF YOU are also having fun. So ensure that the “watch” command is in a uplifting tone, one that encourages the dog and yet it is still a firm command. The “yes” command is a happy tone, quick and satisfyingly happy toned.

Be sure to give the bait quickly – this could be the difference between success and failure…






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