Why your dog may not be listening to you
Written by Louise Glazebrook
Dog not listening

The first thing you need to take into account – is your dog’s genetic make up. Was your dog bred to listen or to go off alone and work independently? This has a big impact and it plays a huge role in how you then decide how to motivate and reward your dog.

If your dog was designed to disappear down a hole in the ground and hunt for vermin alone, is it any wonder that listening to you isn’t their super power? It is important to also know whether perhaps you are making the issue worse by constantly talking to your independent dog, constantly calling them back to you, constantly asking them to do things – eventually they may just switch off and block you out. 

On the flipside, if we have a dog that is noise sensitive, sounds and noises can literally trigger anxiety, overwhelm and much more – meaning that they may not be choosing to ignore you but actually be incapable due to the stress response their body is undergoing.

And then we do get the puppies and dogs who just go and do their own thing and ignore you because they haven’t been taught that its worth their time, that its rewarding and so being close, listening and being attentive doesn’t motivate them. We can of course change this!

Why does my dog ignore me?

It will really depend on the situations you are specifically referring to but here are some common reasons why a dog starts to disconnect and stop listening on walks:

  • Their owner listens to a podcast or music so is involved in their own world
  • Owner is on their phone the whole time, texting, calling, so dog sees the switch off from the owner and goes about their own business
  • There are better places to be – e.g. chasing other dogs, sniffing in the long grass
  • Rewards aren’t being used constantly and consistently
  • Owner has changed the rules but without explaining the new rules to the dog e.g. as a puppy actively taking pup in to meet each and every dog they see on a walk. As an adult dog they now don’t want this behaviour they taught pup to do but they haven’t shown the dog any new ways of behaving, doing things!

So you can see, there are many varied reasons and many more than I’ve listed here but these are some common ones I see in my work with my clients. We need to rebuild a bond, create a relationship and create an understanding. 

How to get a puppy to listen?

By making it worthwhile when they do. By playing games together, by using toys, treats and fun. By making sure your puppy ‘wants’ to be with you because all the good stuff happens when you are nearby. 

By making sure you aren’t setting them up to fail e.g. taking them to a busy park and expecting them to respond to their name when you call it, yet the only place you practise teaching them their name is in the quiet of your kitchen. You cannot expect to go from quiet kitchen to busy park and the response to be the same! 

By making things easy for your puppy to win at – e.g. putting them on a harness and long line and sitting in your front garden (if you have one) and choosing a noise you would like them to respond to e.g. clicking your tongue. And each time you do it and they turn around you reward with a treat immediately. Then let them get on with watching and sniffing around the garden. Keep it simple, start simply and make it fun. 

Why does my dog ignore me?

That will depend but having read this far, you should be starting to get some ideas on what has impacted on your dog.

If you want to start on the path to helping your dog to begin to listen to you, make it easier for them to do it. E.g if they are stood sniffing the bark of the tree, go right next to them, crouch down and say their name, when they look up, get the treat into their mouth straight away. Make it easy, so they can’t fail at doing it.

Use your long line – if your dog isn’t listening in the park, then we need to look at helping them understand what we would like them to do – in order to be kept safe, to make sure other people are safe and that your dog can be recalled when needed. Don’t feel sad about it, feel happy that you are going to be helping give your dog more freedom in the long run. 

Use treats forever and ever, I strongly believe that treats should be taken out on every single walk you do. I don’t agree that you stop using them, reduce the use of them or try to get rid of needing them. Why would you want to remove something that brings joy to your dog’s life? That strengthens your bond? That allows you to train them more easily? Keep on using them each and every day. The same is true with toys and games.

Lastly, look at where and when your dog loses the ability to listen e.g. is it in certain busy parks, around a particular dog? As that will give you an indication on why it’s happening and where you can start. For example, if a dog finds a park full of dogs really hard to concentrate around, then only use that park when it is quiet so you can acclimatise them to the park at less busy times and show them what you would like from them when no one is around. And then move up to slowly building in distractions.

We cannot expect our dogs and puppies to do things that we haven’t taught them or spent a great deal of time helping them with. 

And do make sure you are setting realistic expectations rather than expecting too much and then getting annoyed when they don’t do what you wanted but you haven’t taught them!

As I say to my puppy owners ‘have you taught them or do you expect them to just know it?’ Keep this in mind at all times. Want to know more? Check out my monthly membership for owners of young dogs, the Puppy Wonder Club!

L

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