Why Doesn’t my Dog Listen to Me?
Have you ever wondered why your dog looks at you in a puzzling way as you’re yelling at him for doing something? Or why does the dang dog ignore my commands? Well, I know this may seem like an obvious answer, but your dog speaks a different language than you, and I do, and that could be precisely why he doesn’t comply with your instructions and commands. On today’s show, we are going to give you a bunch of tips and tricks on how to get your dog to listen to you no matter the situation.
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One of the first things potential clients say to me on the phone is, my dog doesn’t listen to me! Communication is difficult enough between humans. Now let’s add in a different species and see how they handle our language, whether it be us verbally speaking or using body language and hand signals. What in the heck! Bark, Woof, Howl – I don’t speak this language!
So how can we better communicate with our dogs?
Dogs do best with one or two-syllable words and with simple hand gestures and mindful body language. They also learn their name first, so don’t use nicknames until you’re sure your dog responds to his name by looking at you or coming to your side when you say it.
Example: Say the dog’s name: Max, if he looks at your or in your direction, then he’s acknowledging that he’s heard you and looks at you because you are exhibiting a welcoming look on your smiling face. This reaction to him looking at you when you called his name reinforces trust and bonds you together. He will want to seek you out for attention.
On the other hand, if you yell or scream his name in the beginning for any reason, it may make him fearful and shy away from you. Avoiding eye contact and instead of building trust, you’ve broken it and taught him that his name and eye contact actually displeases you.
Communicating with your dog in the critical periods of life is crucial to building a lasting, trusting relationship with him.
You started out right but your K9 Buddy still does unwanted things…
Let’s think about what your dog is trying to accomplish when he’s misbehaving and don’t allow him to be rewarded for it. Instead, allow him to succeed (for example, tell the begging dog to go to his place and lie down, and give him a treat when he does).
Behaviors like counter surfing may take longer to stop, and honestly, you may never achieve complete trustworthiness. Because dogs can easily smell that food has been on the counter, they will try for a very long time, just if a crumb is left up there. Be consistent here. Practice often and do not become complacent. If you can make sure that they never, ever find anything useful there, then maybe they will give up. This is not easy to do, especially if you have a family. Sooner or later, someone will leave something within reach, and this will give the dog reason to keep checking. Try to make sure your counter is kept as clean as possible. Be clear in your commands and reinforce the wanted behavior. Teaching your dog where he can be in the kitchen, like a rug or bed just for him, is a great way to teach them boundaries. Another way is to teach the dog to never come into the kitchen. But with most homes being built with open concepts, this is becoming more difficult to avoid. So instead, teach your dog what you expect of him in this space from day one.Behaviors like counter surfing may take longer to stop, and honestly, you may never achieve complete trustworthiness. Because dogs can easily smell that food has been on the counter, they will try for a very long time, just if a… Click To Tweet
Remember that you are communicating with an animal that speaks a different language. To help improve your dog’s behavior, training is critical. Try to introduce a new command a week and practice old ones with him. Besides understanding what you want him to do, the mental work involved in his learning commands will tire him out, making him less likely to misbehave. Exercise is another important factor in dog behavior. If you’re gone 12 hours a day, and your dog’s walk consists of a quick dash into the backyard, you’re not providing your pet with adequate opportunities to use up all his energy. Instead, the excess will go into chewing your shoes, stealing your food, or scratching your walls. As the old saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
In the end, your dog wants to understand what you want him to do, but it will take some time and patience to make your objectives clear to your canine companion.
But I heard that ignoring the behavior works…
You should never overlook behaviors your dog or puppy does that you find “undesirable” if the behaviors are self-reinforcing. This is because by practicing the behaviors, the dog will find them reinforcing and be more likely to continue doing them in the future. By repetition, the “undesired” behavior attains a reinforcement history, meaning it will be more likely to happen again in the future. Even though ignoring an attention-seeking behavior is a great way to extinguish the behavior, only ignoring undesirable attention-seeking behaviors, such as jumping or barking, rather than doing any training can get you into trouble. This is because the dog might offer another unwanted behavior in the place of the one you wanted to get rid of when you’re ignoring the dog. An example: If you ignored your puppy for jumping and didn’t train the puppy what you wanted him to do instead, he could possibly start jumping higher and harder, barking or biting your leg to get your attention instead. It would never occur to a young puppy to sit calmly to get your attention without prior training, so by teaching the dog what you want him to do first, it gives him a behavior to offer that you like when the one you don’t like is not working for him.
Interrupting behavior does not have to be physically or psychologically intimidating. You can use a positively reinforced recall, attention noise, or “leave it” cue to call your dog away from something and happily redirect him to something else. For jumping up, stop the dog by reinforcing sit and stay and then, and only then will you give attention or allow someone else to give attention. At Alaska Dog Works we utilize a command called visit that releases the dog from our side to be greeted by another person while keeping four on the floor and his mouth off of the person. This means that you don’t get the side effects of using punishment when managing behaviors you don’t like!Remember that you are communicating with an animal that speaks a different language. Click To Tweet
- Don’t ignore your dog when they are good. Give them your attention when they are doing what you want them to. Reward good behavior, so they are very clear about the appropriate ways to get your attention. In general, if a dog is seeking your attention at the wrong time, you are not giving them enough of it at the right time.
- Once you are sure, your dog does not have every right to expect more attention from you, if they do something you do not want them to do, totally ignore them (if it is safe to do so). Don’t interact with them, talk to them, or even look at them until the behavior stops.
- If you ignore these behaviors, they will stop (although they may escalate first!) because they aren’t achieving the desired effect, i.e., getting your attention.
- When the behavior stops, you have to be very quick to reward its absence. Reward what you like, ignore what you don’t. Don’t be tempted to tell your dog off or push them away – that is giving them attention!
- If the behavior is not safe to ignore (nipping guests, jumping on children, terrorizing granny, etc.), make use of house lines and baby gates to remove your dog from the scene without any kind of interaction from you.
- At times when you know your dog is likely to bug you, you can give them a chew or a toy stuffed with food to distract them and provide them with something to occupy them instead and break the habit
With some patience, understanding, and management, you can prevent attention-seeking behaviors, but if you are struggling to get this under control, give us a call, and we’d be happy to help you get things back on track and better communicate with your dog.