Why doesn’t my dog listen?
My dog just ignores me!
Why doesn’t my dog mind?
My dog won’t listen to me!
My dog has selective hearing.
Do these sound familiar? One of the most common complaints we hear from dog parents have something to do with their canine companion’s selective hearing. Whether it’s running away, not performing a desired behavior or simply not acknowledging their human at all; most of these rarely have anything to do with the dog “choosing not to mind”. More often than not the dog has no idea what you are asking of them or they don’t see the value in doing A, B or C.
Let’s take for example “Why doesn’t my dog come when I call him?”. First, ask yourself does your dog know what you want of him? Have you reliably and consistently taught him the meaning of the word “come”? Many dog owners expect this word to be part of a dog’s genetic code, when in fact it is no different than teaching a dog sit, stay or shake! If you aren’t sure that your dog has successfully learned the word come check out our Reliable Recall training techniques.
Then, instead of asking “why doesn’t…?”, “why won’t…? ask “why SHOULD…?”. Why should your dog listen to you? Because it’s expected of them- being man’s best friend and our faithful companions? Because we provide them with a roof, food, water etc.? You are thinking like a human. I know, I know you ARE a human. But in order to answer some of these timeless questions you will need to think more like a dog. Dogs, though loyal and unconditionally loving, are actually very selfish creatures. They do things that reliably get them what they want and avoid things that do not. As trainers and dog owners we can use this to our advantage!
So let’s look at this whole come when called thing in the eyes of a dog:
Dog: “Yay! The gate is open! It’s a beautiful day! I feel like running! This is so much fun!”
Human: “Fido, Come!”(begins chasing)
“Oh look my human!! HEYYY! This is so much fun come run with me! Great! Let’s play chase! I love chase!”
“Wheeeeeeee!!! This is so much fun!!! What do you keep saying? Come?”
“Fido, common! Come here!”
“Come must mean chase time!”
Finally catches Fido.
“You are such a bad dog! You heard me say come! Now go inside and lay down you bad dog!”
“Come means no more fun AND my human is mad at me.”
So why SHOULD Fido come? Fido likely now thinks the word come is associated with either a) playing chase or b)his owner being angry. So how do we change his mind? How do we make coming to his owner better than having a grand ole romp around the neighborhood, or even better playing a wonderful game of chase with his human? What does Fido LOVE? Chicken! Tennis ball! We now pair what Fido loves with what we want Fido to do! Ah ha! So” come” means chicken!
This same principles can be applied to ANYTHING we want our dogs to do. They get what they want by doing what we want.
Now all of this being said I would be remiss not to mention the importance of paying attention to your dog. Imagine if your spouse, friend, family member never really acknowledged you. And when they did they were barking out orders in a foreign language. You probably wouldn’t be too fond of them and may even start ignoring them. This works the same with your dog. Pay attention to your tone of voice, play with them, give them happy positive attention. They will then be more than happy to listen to what you have to say and even better do what you’d like them to do!
Most importantly never be afraid to be silly with your dog! Dog’s are silly creature, almost everything they do in a happy state is comical. The more silly you are the more interesting your will be to your dog.