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Dog looking at a dead squirrel

34 Reasons Why My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me

Photos of doings being bad

The most common thing I hear from owners is “my dog doesn’t listen to me”. Over the last 15 years of training here are the 32 reasons why your dog won’t listen to you.

1. Rewarding bad behaviors through attention.

Common Problems: My Dog Won’t Listen To Me When He Bark or My Dog Won’t Listen To Me When He Jumps
For example, your dog is barking, and you yell at them to stop. Yelling at them encourages the barking. This because you are either joining them or because they got your attention. Therefore, you have reinforced that they should be barking. Another example of this is petting a dog that jumps on you. Attention and praise are rewards. Dogs are masters are connecting rewards to behavior. They jumped; you pet them. Therefore, jumping is good.

2. Repeating the command.

Common Problems: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When I Give Him A Command He Already Knows
Too many times do I hear “Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit”. This makes the word ‘sit’ mean nothing. It becomes white noise. It also does not give them enough time to process what the word means. Say it once and wait. If they still do not get it after 60 seconds say it again.

3. Rewarding too late.

You say sit, the dog sits. You hesitate, the dog stands, and you reward. In the dogs mind you wanted a stand. This is especially true with separation anxiety. Your late to rewarding the silence and reward the moment they start barking. They think barking is good. This is not the dog’s fault. Their logic was sound. I barked you rewarded. Therefore, barking is good.
 

4. Rewarding a dog out of frustration.

Owners will request their dog to do a command. The dog will not do the command. They will repeat the command and the dog still won’t do the command. The owner gets frustrated and rewards the dog. This reinforces doing nothing. Instead, give an easier command like sit, and reward. At least you are rewarding a correct behavior.

5. Using “Good Boy” as the marker word.

A marker word is the word we use to tell the dog they did something good. The problem with ‘good boy’ is that we use it all the time. The marker word is a promise. When I say this word, it means what you just did was correct, and you get a reward. If you say it without rewarding. You are breaking the promise of the marker word. We say good boy without rewarding the dog all the time. Usually for something mundane as looking cute. A better word is “YES”.

6. Not being consistent with rules.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When I Tell Him No
If you teach your dog to sit before you open the door, you need to do that EVERY SINGLE TIME. This means when grandma comes to the house you make them sit. It doesn’t matter how much grandma wants to see the dog. Dog’s fail with inconsistency. This is because they live in black and white. They either can run out the door or they can’t. You made it grey. Dogs don’t understand exceptions. So, they make the exception the rule. Again, not their fault.

7. Having a dog learn a new behavior in a group class.

Common Problems: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me In Class
Group classes are too distractive for a dog to learn anything. Group classes are designed for the human to learn not the dog. Then you practice at home in a distraction free environment. If you only practice in class your dog is never going to learn.

8. Not teaching the command in a calm environment.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me At Home
When a dog first learns a behavior, it must be in a zero-distraction environment. In your house, with the TV off, and no other animals or people. This is like number 7.

9. After a dog has learned the behavior you must teach the command in various environments.

This is called proofing. Dogs are very contextual animals. I sit in the kitchen, with mom, when the cat is upstairs. Once you change any part of that environment, they have no idea what you are asking. You must teach them to sit in the kitchen, bedroom, yard, around dogs, around cats, around people, at the pet store. However, this only happens once the learn the command (see problem 8).

10. Leaving out too many toys.

Many owners buy their dogs tons of toys which is great. But you should rotate them. Dogs get bored and toys will not stimulate them if they are always available. Lack of stimulation causes bad behaviors in dogs. A dog who is not mentally simulated is a dog who acts out. Leave 5-7 toys out per month and change them out.

11. Having an open window near a street or sidewalk.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When People Walk By The House
If you own a dog, you should always have blinds. Even dogs who do not react to people and kids will develop a bad barking behavior. This is because it only takes one time for them to bark at a person they see. That person will continue walking. This reinforces that barking makes that person go away. Since that method work, they will start to bark more often at people or dogs.

12. Only giving them walks.

Dogs need mental stimulation that is not food based. You should be trick training your dog at least 3 times a week to meet their mental goals. A mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog. I have a 3-year Aussie who has been on bed rest for a month due to an agility injury. After the 3rd week she was getting into the garbage, food bags, and chewing everything she found. She is a highly trained dog. This has nothing to do with training but instead had to do with mental stimulation. Therefore, I started doing trick training with her. This resolved her bad behaviors.

13. Feeding your dog at the same time every day.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me At Dinner Time
Dogs are amazing at telling time. They will start to beg and whine at the times you usually feed them. This is annoying to most people. To avoid this, you need to change up feeding time. This behavior is so strong that it is beneficial to patients with Alzheimer’s. We give service dogs a treat at the same time a patient takes their pills. After about a month the dog will never let you forget when its pill time.
 

14. Using luring as your main training technique.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me Without Cookies.
Luring is the act of taking a treat and having the dog follow it. It is the most used technique, but it is not as effective as shaping. Many times, luring doesn’t even teach a behavior. It teaches the dog to chase a cookie. Simply put shaping is waiting for the dog to do the behavior (with no verbal or hand cues) and rewarding the dog. Over time you change what behavior you are looking for. You are essentially molding a behavior. Shaping is a great technique but is hard to wrap your brain around.
 

15. Overstimulating your dog.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me At Get Togethers
Too many times pet parents bring their dogs places and do not recognize signs of stress. 

For example, I had an extended family member bring their dog to a Thanksgiving party. The party had over 20 guests. It was a 6-month year old puppy. The dog was out for 6 hours. I put my 6-year-old dog away after 2 hours. I let my dog come back an hour later. He decompressed and was ready to socialize. That puppy became stressed after 2 hours and was in a state of panic for the remaining 4 hours. He will struggle in big social situations because of that experience.

Colby

16. On leash greetings.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me On Walks
You should NEVER have on leash greetings with other dogs, people, or kids. This creates leash reactivity. There are two types of leash reactivity. The one where the dog is friendly and the one where the dog is not. The friendly dog wants to see that other dog so bad it acts out. It barks, it pulls, it might even scream. The second dog is so afraid that the other person or dog is going to come by, they become fear aggressive.

17. Coming home and being super excited to see your dog.

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When We Have Guest Over
Dog’s mimic our behavior. When you come home excited to see them, they are excited to see you. This is a great sight to see after a bad day of work, but your 80-year-old guest might not agree. Your dog now believes that anyone who walks through the should be greeted the same way. They even may jump and push the guest over. So, when you say off, they don’t understand why and ignore you.

18. Not using high value treats.

High value is human food. It is not high-quality dog treats. It’s is cheese, steak, hotdogs, chicken and so on. You should use high value treats until the dog is listening on a consistent basis. Then you can switch to high quality dog treats.

19. Making recall (come) a bad thing.

Too many times we recall our dog, leash them, and leave the fun place. The dog learns over time that “come” means stop the fun thing. Instead, occasionally call them and release them back to what they are doing. Therefore, they don’t have to choose between the fun thing and you. They get both (occasionally).

20. The dog only understands the non-verbal cue

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When I’m Not Facing Him
Most of the times our dog is responding to non-verbal cues. This could be a hand motion, a shoulder turn, or a tone of voice. The best way to determine if your dog is responding to non-verbal cues is to have them behind your back and ask for a sit. If they sit, they know the verbal. If they do not, they rely on non-verbal cue.

21. The dog is too young or not trained enough

We ask too much out of puppies. If your dog is under the age of 1 they are not deliberately ignoring you. They just don’t understand what you want. That would be like asking a 6-year-old to drive a car. Just because they have seen you do it does not mean they can do it. Even owners with adult dogs expect too much out of them. Unless you have put hours of work into training your dog might not understand what you are asking.

22. You are being too emotional

Dogs are great at picking up our emotions. Therefore, they make great service dogs. However, when those emotions are frustration and stress, they become stressed. A stressed dog is unable to learn when they are stressed according to Linda Michaels, M.A., Psychology.  
 

23. You are being too adverse

Adverse techniques can include, yelling, hitting, e-collars, pinch collars and much more. When a dog’s basic needs are not met, they cannot learn according to The Hierarchy of Dog’s Needs. This topic explains cognitive needs of dogs. Linda Michaels, M.A., Psychology developed it.

24. Fear of the environment

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When He Is Scared
A dog cannot learn if they are afraid. Therefore, you should not use adverse techniques. If your dog is afraid of brooms do not train next to the broom. The concept of learning and fear is explained in the Hierarchy of Dog’s Needs. This was developed by Linda Michaels, M.A., Psychology.

25. Your dog is in pain

A dog cannot learn if they are in pain. Their cognitive functions are distorted when they are in pain. This could include dogs with medical conditions, physical conditions, or just upset stomachs.

26. Your bribe sucks

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When I Have Food
Sometimes we use food as a bribe instead of a reinforcement. A bribe is when we try to pull a dog away from something to get a prize. However, our prize is usually of less value than what the dog has or is pulling towards. That would be offering a dog $1 dollar bill when they have a $100 dollar bill. This creates a value decision. If your dog does not value what you have more than what he has, he will ignore you. Too many times we try to bribe our dog with kibble. If your dog has a chicken bone in his mouth that is like bribing a millionaire with a one-dollar bill.

27. It's been a while since you gave that command

Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me When He Knows The Command
Dog training is a use it or lose it type of game. If you have not asked your dog to leave something in a month, he most likely has forgotten it. Good news is that once you train a command it takes less time to retrain it. Spend 1-2 days practicing the command and he should be back to normal.

28. The dog's rain is turned off

This is also known as being in ‘panic mode’ or above ‘threshold’. A dog in panic mode pants a lot, jumps, and is overexcited. A dog in this mode cannot learn. Have you every chased a dog running in the street. You know that is the worse way to get them to come back to you because you are playing chase. Yet you do it. It’s because you were in panic mode and not thinking straight.

29. Not practicing enough

Training takes weekly practice. If you are only practicing once every couple of weeks your dog is not going to learn the behavior.

20. You're not patient

Dogs need time to think. Speed will come with time. You might need to say ‘sit’ wand wait 30 seconds before they sit. Next time they will sit within 25 seconds, and then 20, 15, 10, 5 and so on. Give them time.

31. Your dog can't hear or see you anymore

 
Common Problem: My Dog Doesn’t Listen To Me Now That He Is Older
If your older dog is suddenly not listening to you it might be because he cannot hear or see you. He may be going blind or deaf. Have them checked out at the vet.

32. You're not bonded to the dog

If you are not bonded to the dog, he/she is less likely to listen to you. Start feeding the dog, playing, and taking them on walks. This will make them more likely to listen to you.

33. You're not the one training the dog

Dogs have a hard time translating skill across people. If you are not the one training, they may listen perfect to mom but not you. This is because they have never learned to listen to you. Start training the dog with mom and you will see a huge difference.

34. Not hiring a private training.

Group training is great, but it is not designed for practicing. YouTube Videos are bad at showing adjustments based on how each dog learns. Each dog is different they might need an extra cue. Or they might need a baby step before completing the task.

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