How to Train a Puppy to Listen: The Watch Me! Command

Learn how to train a puppy to sit up and pay attention. If your puppy doesn’t listen to a word you say, don’t despair. If you follow this advice, it won’t be long before you discover that when you speak, your puppy listens!

How to Train a Puppy To Pay Attention

If you can train a puppy to hang on to your every word, your life will be a lot easier! I strongly recommend you get this puppy exercise under your belt first before doing any other puppy training.

Training a puppy to 'Watch Me' on cue - it's just like magic!

Close up of a golden cocker spaniel puppy walking toward the camera.Training a puppy to 'Watch Me' on cue - it's magic!

Once you’ve taught your pup to pay attention to you, ignoring everything else around him (including next door’s cat!), it will help to make all other training so much easier.

You will have your puppy's full attention before starting another exercise.

At least, that’s the plan!

How to Train a Puppy: Consistency is Key!

To train a puppy, you and your family must be consistent in your approach to training your puppy.

So, before you begin teaching your Cocker puppy to listen to you, you need to decide which words you and your family would like to use for this request.

I use 'Watch Me', but you can choose whatever you like, for example, 'Listen', 'Listen Up' or ‘Listen to Me’; whatever floats your boat!

Once you have chosen a word or a phrase to get your puppy’s attention (your verbal instruction), you and other family members must use the same phrase otherwise the training will not work.

Using different phrases or words each time will only serve to confuse your puppy and you will be setting your Cocker Spaniel up to fail!

How to Train a Puppy to Listen

Here's how:

  1. Sit in front of your puppy. Have a few tasty morsels of chicken or some of your dog's favourite treats in your closed hand.

    Don’t let him see them otherwise he will be looking at your hand holding the treats instead of looking at you.

  2. If you just sit there and say nothing, your puppy will probably look at you questioningly – that’s your cue.

    As soon as he looks directly at you, give your verbal request, 'Watch' or 'Listen' and then give him his treat.

    Praise him with the words, 'Watch, good boy watch' or 'Listen, good boy, listen’! This lets your puppy know that he has done what you have asked of him and that you are pleased.

  3. Repeat this training exercise with your puppy several times each day until your Cocker Spaniel has fully mastered this instruction.

  4. Once you reach this stage, and your puppy is responding instantly (or almost instantly), try holding his gaze for ten seconds before offering him a treat so that he is focussing on you for longer each time.

  5. You should eventually be able to remove the treat reward and simply reward him with your smile/approval/pat on the head, etc.

How to Train a Puppy to 'Watch Me'


If your puppy doesn't look at you, or if he looks at you but won't hold your gaze, take one of the treats between your finger and thumb (so that it can be seen) and raise it up to your eye level and hold it there.

Once the treat has your puppy’s attention, he will probably follow it up to your eyes.

He will now be looking up at the treat, and by default, he will be paying attention to you.

Don’t forget to praise your puppy, using the words you chose for this instruction, for reinforcement. It won't be long before your puppy begins to associate the two.

Practice this regularly, and once you feel your dog is getting the hang of it and is following your hand up to your eye each time, you can remove the lure of the treat and use your non-verbal hand signal instead.

If your puppy continues to look away, or he won’t meet or hold your gaze, he may be uncomfortable looking you in the eye.

Tell-tale signs that your puppy is uncomfortable are lip licking (as well as looking away) and yawning. These are signs that your dog is trying to calm things down.

He may be a nervous puppy, or he may have had enough of the training.

Either way, if you find yourself in this situation, lighten up and give your puppy a break. You can always try again later.

How to Train a Puppy: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Continue practising the above exercise, increasing the time you can hold your puppy's attention.

Add a few seconds each time, gradually working up to 60 seconds or more.

Remove the use of the puppy treat from the exercise as soon as you feel it is practical to do so. The aim is to reward your puppy for paying attention to you and not to the treat.

My Cocker Spaniel is 15 now, and I still use this 'Watch Me' instruction regularly. For example, I use this request before I feed my dog, let him into the garden, and before I put him on the lead. 

If someone rings the doorbell, I use this instruction as a distraction. When Max looks at me, I ask him to sit and stay while I answer the door. When I've greeted my visitor, I give Max his release word which lets him know that he's now free to greet our visitor. 

It's all good practice and strengthens his training.

I recommend you use the ‘Watch Me’ instruction before giving your dog any other instruction.

If you do, your Cocker Spaniel is more likely to respond well to your next request because he is already giving you his full attention.

Now that's a result, don’t you think?

Visitor Question

My Dog Won't Listen To Me!

By Melanie
(Fort Lewis, WA)

My 3 year old cocker spaniel will not listen to me when I try to get her to come.

I've tried praising her with treats when she listens, but she still won't come.

Most of the time, when she's outside, she starts barking at nothing, and trying to get her to come back into the house is like pulling teeth out!

golden cocker spaniel looking at his masterHonest Mum, I'm listening to you!

I have a new baby on the way and would really like my dog to listen better.

How do I train her to come when commanded to?

Reply from Pauline (Website Owner)

Hello Melanie,

Don't worry - this happens to most of us at some point, especially if we take our eye off the ball! It sounds like your cocker spaniels is beginning to, (or trying to) 'call the shots'.

I recommend you take your cocker spaniel through her training paces again to help establish you're the boss and to get her behaving the way you want her to. 

Make her work for her food; ask her to sit before you feed her, make her sit before you allow her to go outside, don't take her for a walk unless she's calm, if she wanders over to you for attention, ignore her (I know, it's not always that easy!).

Learn more about reclaiming your status as the alpha in the family.

You'll find some helpful puppy training tips here. Read this article first to give you an idea of what to bear in mind whilst training her and then (if you need a refresher) you can read about obedience training and all the commands, ie sit, stay, down, etc.

Be aware of the tone and pitch of your voice when giving your dog a training command. Keep it low, strong, and firm. Issue the command as a command, not as a question and keep it short and to the point eg, Sit! not Sssiiittttt?

There's no need to shout at your dog - just be firm.

Once you get her back in line, don't forget to keep practicing daily to strengthen her training.

Good luck and please let us know how you both get on.

Visitor Comments: My Dog Won't Listen To Me!

How To Train A Puppy To Pay Attention

By: Christine

Hello, I've recently got a cocker spaniel. He's 16 month old and I got him from a friend who couldn't give him the attention he needs. Even though I love him already, every time I take him to the park he runs to other dogs. I try to call him back but he won't listen to me. He never comes back to me! It makes the whole experience not very joyful.

Please can you help?

Hi Christine, 

I can't emphasise this enough, keep practising every day. Your puppy will get there, don't worry. Even once your Cocker has mastered this, you'll need to keep it up so that his behaviour doesn't slip back into 'I'm not listening' mode.

Here's a link to my page that will help you to train a puppy to come back when called, I think you'll find it very useful!

Good luck!

(Website Owner)

Recall Training for Your Puppy

By: Anonymous

I think it is a spaniel thing and you just have to be firmer. All my spaniels have always had selective hearing and didn't listen when called to come. However I have always managed to put things back into shape, show them who's boss.

I think as long as you are firm and make sure you go over the basics on a regular basis you should be fine.

Tip: When we take our two cockers to the field we use a 10 meter training line when they are disobedient. I found the training line extremely useful with all seven cockers I have had in my lifetime.

My Cocker Spaniel Puppy Won't Listen To Me!

By: Anonymous

Is your dog bored?

It sounds like she is under-exercised and needs to get rid of her pent up energy.

Just a thought!

Train Your Puppy To 'Sit'!

When your puppy has mastered the 'Watch Me!' instruction, and he is holding your gaze for up to 60 seconds, (and without being bribed with the promise of a treat), he will be ready to move on to his next obedience lesson. 

The 'Sit'! request.

You will be surprised at just how easy it is to train a puppy to 'Sit' at your request. Simply follow these instructions.

Beautiful blue roan Cocker Spaniel puppy sitting in a field.I'm sitting mum, so where's my treat?

Here are a couple of links to extra questions and answers from our visitors; I hope you enjoy them. 

My dog doesn't listen to a word I say! What can I do?

Why won't my dog listen to me?

Photo Credits for How to Train a Puppy to Listen:
Daniel Leppens at