“My dog will not listen. I can’t tell if he’s just stubborn or doing it out of spite!” This is not only frustrating but it can be dangerous if your dog won’t listen.
How your dog perceives his relationship with you can be a huge deciding factor as he processes your commands like “Leave it!” or “Here!” In other words, has your dog known from the beginning who is in charge?
Setting a solid foundation of listening to commands is a critical part of developing your dog’s ideal state of mind. Plus the required dog training and plenty of exercise to constructively manage his energy. Daily exercise helps to clear his mind. This also helps him listen to you better.
If your dog’s needs are not being met every day, he may turn to other ways of satisfying those needs – taking your stuff, playing keep-away – all of which means trouble as you try to reclaim what he took or get him inside when you are trying to leave. Fulfilling your dog’s needs everyday is a must. That’s commitment.
And it’s in that depth of commitment that you will begin to identify the real relationship with your dog that will ultimately create a dog that “will listen” to you when you need him to – because he wants to – not because he has to!
Starting off right makes a difference
How you began your relationship with your dog has an impact on whether or not your dog will listen, or your dog will not listen. There is always an adjustment period in any new relationship – the “honeymoon period” as it may be called.
During this period, in addition to feeling loved, safe and having his needs met, your dog also needs a roadmap to navigate his new life with you. Did you use the honeymoon period to set your ground rules – expectations of how to behave?
If done properly, you would have shown your dog what you expect from him, and you would have taught him how to give you what you expect. On your list of expectations might have been rules like “don’t jump on visitors” and “don’t run out the front door.”
It’s much like raising kids. Mom and Dad set the rules and the kids follow the rules.
If there had been consistent rules and expectations from the beginning then you probably would not be complaining about not listening. This could have been the honeymoon that lasted forever!
But even if you didn’t, it is still not too late.
Older dogs can learn new tricks
Okay, let’s say you didn’t set rules and expectations to begin with or at the very least you weren’t consistent – still no problem. Your dog will not listen for a reason. You just need to figure out why he is not listening. What it is about your relationship or training with your dog that keeps your dog from listening to you.
Here are some things to think about that may help you understand why your dog won’t listen:
- If you haven’t taught him the command in the first place, he won’t listen. Teach him what you want him to do – first in a distraction free environment (in the house is usually a good start) where learning what to do is the easiest.
- If there are too many distractions that tend to make you a lot less interesting, he won’t listen. Train him around distractions that are relevant to your needs. An example would be to teach a good down/stay or place command while kids are playing in the house.
- If your dog won’t come in after getting out of the front door – because he associates something negative with the come command, he may not listen. Train your dog to come “while inside the house first” then outside from the front yard to inside the front door – all on a long line until you get flawless performance around distractions.
- Always associate positive things with the come command.
- If your dog has claimed a sense of entitlement about being in charge, he may not listen.
- If what you want your dog to do (example: come when called) is not trained consistently every day around important distractions, he may not listen.
What to do
Where do you begin to right a dog gone wrong? Here are some of my recommendations on how to start:
- Set a solid foundation of strong expectations of what to do and when to do it. This doesn’t have to be harsh. The more positive your approach is the better. Just be consistent.
- Work on dog obedience commands that you need your dog to obey like come, place or down/stay. Pick a select few commands you can get the most out of and train excellent responses to only those commands. You can add more later, but don’t overwhelm yourself or your dog. Remember, spending lots of time is not the critical factor – being consistent is. Work on obedience training 3 times daily for a couple of minutes. Just be consistent every day.
- Make sure your dog’s needs are met every day; exercise, walking, exploring and interactive games. Meeting his needs every day shows him he counts in your life. Because you do that he is more likely to want to do things “with you” than on his own.
Set a new pattern of “shared leadership.” This means that there is a mutual sharing of “enjoyed benefits.” You both give enthusiastically to each other what each wants. You want good doggie manners and reliability on commands. Your dog wants – and needs walks, exercise, opportunities to explore new places with you and interactive games with you.
The more you each get what you want out of your newly shared leadership, the less anxiety, stress and dog behavior problems there are to deal with.
I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinion on this. So tell me below. Do you have this problem? I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.