My Dog Will Not Listen

Let’s change “my dog will not listen” to “problem solved!”

Stop feeling as if you are competing with the world for your dog’s attention!


My Dog Will Not Listen


If your dog is a constant challenge on a walk especially around distractions like dogs, cats, people and squirrels, turning an otherwise pleasant walking experience into a catastrophe waiting to happen, then I have a solution for you!

Here’s a solution you may not have thought about

Wouldn’t it be great if when your dog sees a dog, squirrel or cat and “you know” he’s going to run to or chase that animal, you just say his name and he immediately stops and looks at you?

No more bracing for the big leash jerk and pull.  

Does this sound familiar?  Then consider this seldom used solution I’m going to give you. Let’s fix “my dog will not listen”.

What if when you said your dog’s name, he stopped in his tracks and looked at you.

I’m talking about “DOG ATTENTION.”  Yes, that’s right, obedience train your dog to give you his attention when you want it.

Interestingly, this command has been around forever yet few dog owners teach it and put it to practical use on walks in the real world with their dogs. This strategy can even work at home, in fact, that’s where your work will begin.

A sequence to learning

There is always an order or sequence to training and teaching your dog to pay attention is no different. You do want it laid out as simply as possible, right?

Good.  Here’s the training sequence simplified.

1.    Eye contact: Teach your dog to look at you when you say his name.
2.    Get eye contact and hold it
3.    Get eye contact and hold it while he’s moving with you

Eye contact

With a high value treat hidden in your hand, your say your dog’s name, abruptly step back away from your dog just a few steps at first.

Keep the treat out of sight until you are ready to release it to your dog. Bring the treat out and hold between your eyes and his so that you get eye contact.   As he moves with you, praise/treat for a job well done.

If you see your dog randomly making eye contact with you, it’s okay to praise/treat that eye contact even though you didn’t ask for it. A few freebies are good reinforcers to let your dog know what works for him.

Do about 5 repetitions back-to-back before releasing that good eye contact. Once you are getting that good eye contact, it’s time to get it and hold it.

Get eye contact and hold it

Getting extended eye contact is achieved by delaying your praise/treat.  To go from my dog will not listen to he can’t look at anyone else:

Review this sequence to see what I mean.

Say your dog’s name;

2.) Abruptly move away;
3.) Align the treat between your eyes and your dog’s eyes and count (in your head) to 5
4.) Then praise/treat your dog.

You’ve just gotten 5 seconds of attention!

By delaying the praise/treat you get longer eye contact because he is now conditioned to understand that your praise identifies when he’s done. Your job is to begin extending the length of time (delay the praise/treat) he maintains eye contact.

Practice this exercise everywhere you go with your dog that you would need good eye contact. Remember to work at a distance where you get good attention from him at first and only get closer to the distraction as you get good eye contact from him around that distraction.

Get and hold your dog’s eye contact while he moves with you

Once you have successfully completed the first and second part of “DOG ATTENTION” with your abrupt back-ups and move-away from your dog, it’s now time to turn and walk with him by your side or at heel. Always praise/treat for a job well done and remember to delay the praise/treat longer for extended eye contact.

Just as before, you want to work your dog at a successful distance from the distraction at first and gradually move closer to the distraction, as he learns to focus only on you.

Your ability to get your dog’s attention “any time, any place” will serve you well when working around dogs and other distractions. Here’s a good tip:

Pay close attention to your dog’s body language and, as he looks at the other dog, say his name, abruptly move away from the dog before he starts to pull. Timing is everything. As he walks with you praise/treat.

 Help your dog to generalize the attention command. That is, it means the same thing at home as it does outside. A practical redirect at home would work if you see him getting into something he shouldn’t – like counter surfing or jumping on a house guest.

Simply say his name, once he looks at you, call him to you, praise/treat for job well done then release him to go play nicely. It will work even better if you anticipate the jump and say his name before he jumps.

It’s amazing how it becomes habit for your dog to look at you when you call his name.

Practice will eventually get you automatic eye contact when he spots another dog.

Of course, praise/treat for that behavior. Wean off treats with variable treating every 2-4 times.

Dog training is always comprised of many pieces.  This is a piece of getting your dog better at listening to you.  If you have put appropriate structure and boundaries in place in your home, this exercise will be much easier for you.

Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you.   Don’t be a stranger.  Feel free to comment below.  I’d love to hear what you think.  

Remember:  “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 10,000 clients.  Jim takes the science of dog training and makes it work in your home with your family and dog.  He gives you the ability to get the same great behavior from your dog.