Why doesn’t my dog listen?
If you want your dog to listen to you around the big stuff, start with the small stuff.
So many owners reach out for help regarding their dog ignoring them around big distractions when out and about and are shocked when I point out how this is related to how permissive they are with the little things.
From your dog’s perspective, they have 2 choices. Either they control their environment themselves, or they allow you to control it instead.
This takes consistent effort around the small daily things, so it becomes second nature for them to look to you when there is a decision to be made. If you have been largely living with your dog like you are besties, don’t expect them to suddenly take you seriously or give you priority when you suddenly or occasionally want it. How would you feel if your best friend suddenly tried to boss you around or tried to stop you eating that cookie?
These are some common examples of where you may be giving control away:
When out walking on lead, who decides when your dog gets to stop, sniff or change sides? Do you allow your dog to choose this?
– decides when or if they get up on the furniture?
– initiates play and affection?
– decides if or when they approach strangers or other dogs?
– decides the energy levels your dog has inside your home?
If your lifestyle and ‘parenting’ style allows your dog to cruise around making their own decisions most of the time and without checking in with you, you’ll likely create a dog who ignores you whenever they feel like it as well. Too much freedom can backfire.
If you’re struggling, I suggest striving for a balance. Try adding more rules and boundaries into the mix rather than focusing on taking existing privileges away. The aim is to get your dog to look to you for guidance and direction rather than always making decisions themselves. This has 2 huge benefits – you’ll instil strong positive habits and also reassure them that they have a strong upline they can follow and depend on.
Here are some lifestyle examples of what you can practise daily:
- regularly ask your dog to go to a bed or mat and remain there until invited off
- adding purpose and structure to your walks (think classroom and playtime) and only allowing sniffing and stopping when you give permission
- make the kitchen out of bounds when you’re cooking
- insist your dog is calm and waits for permission before saying hello to guests or other dogs
- you should decide when they are inside or outside (consider restricting the use of your doggy door at least sometimes)
- not allowing them to follow you around constantly
- initiating affection and play on your terms, not when they bug you for it
- controlling the energy levels in your home eg high energy is outside, inside is calm
The key is to get your dog familiar with doing stuff he doesn’t really want to do easily and with little to no resistance. Overriding his decision with your own has to be famillar and easy for them. If he can’t stay on his bed while you are watching TV, it makes sense that he won’t have the ability or make an effort to control himself at the park. And so on.
Good luck and remember as always, good habits start with us and flow through to our dogs.