Friday, November 22, 2013

Bonding: Teach "Watch Me" for Safety

by Carrie Boyko, CEB

Feeling Better Now; Let's Go Play!
Those of you who follow along with All Things Dog Blog may know that little Oliver had emergency surgery last week. The image above was taken at his follow up visit, so this story ends well, but it didn't start out that way.

While walking on the beach, he smelled something fishy and scooped it up, assuming it was fish! Unfortunately, not so much. Long story short, the little guy swallowed a piece of hard plastic with sharp spikes on it, causing a good bit of damage to his esophagus.

Unable to pass the object (it appeared to be a broken section of toy), the veterinarian shipped us off to a specialist to remove the object with an endoscope--a camera and a grabber on a long tube. Needless to say, his throat will be very sore for a long time. He's on a soft diet and has a list of instructions to go with it. Sigh.

In a renewed effort to redirect Oliver's attention to me during our walks, today we're beginning to revisit the Watch Me command that we used in earlier dog training. This was especially useful in agility as a dog must watch his handler to know where he is supposed to go while running an agility course. 

Obviously Oliver will need to keep an eye on the road ahead as well, but practicing Watch Me periodically as we walk will keep his mind more on me, and less on the objects on the ground where we're walking. If you have a dog who likes to pick up things, you may want to practice this along with us. We'd love to hear your advice or tips, as well as how you and your dog are doing with your practice.

You'll need a pouch for training treats (the one at left is inexpensive at Amazon) that clips to your belt or hangs around your neck and a clicker. This is an inexpensive training tool that you can pick up at most pet supply stores. Here's a clicker that I like on Amazon. The stretchy wrist band will help you keep the clicker in the palm of your hand when doing extensive training.

If you just need a clicker close at hand for occasional clicks, attach it to a carabiner and clip this to your belt loop alongside your treat pouch. This makes for a smooth hand off of the reward.

Here's how it works. Placing some very high value (think smelly, like shredded cheese or shredded turkey from Thanksgiving) training treats in your pouch, hold a piece up to your dog's nose for a quick sniff. Now you've got his attention!

Hold the yummy treat between your eyebrows and state "Watch Me!" in a perky tone of voice. When he looks at your face, CLICK immediately. The click marks the behavior, identifying it for your dog. With practice, he'll quickly learn that the click means the delivery of a treat is coming.

Bend over and reward your dog for looking at you on command. Add a verbal praise as well, since you'll eventually be using this without a clicker or a treat. Practice often in 5
minute segments. Within a short 24-hour period, your dog will have this down cold and you'll be able to get his attention with the command. Keep up the clicker for a while and gradually reduce its use later, when he begins to watch you without request. This habit will be your signal that he's ready to graduate. 

Thanks for joining me for the Weekly Wag, our Saturday post on bonding with your dog. You'll be amazed at the bond that will form when you and Fido watch each other for signals, commands and input. Good luck and happy training!

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Linda - Alfie's Blog said...

Poor little Oliver - glad to hear he is recovering well. Our Alfie had a stick incident this weekend and he is also on soft food and lots of pain medication, and just like you we're training the 'watch me' command plus the 'leave it' and 'drop'.

Theresa Spaid said...

I am so glad Oliver is doing good! I have one that would eat anything so really have to watch him.

To Dog With Love said...

Aww, look at sweet Oliver's little shaved legs! I'm so glad he's feeling better. We need to do more "leave it" work and "watch me" too! So good to see Oliver's smiling face!
Your pals,
Diane and Rocco

Dawn said...

Poor Oliver! What he did sounds exactly like something Maya would do. She puts stuff in her mouth without even investigating it first. We're working on the "look" command (same as your "watch me" command). Pierson has caught on much quicker. Pierson is dog aggressive and I have used this command successfully to redirect his attention from other dogs when out on a walk.

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