Strategies For When Your Dog Won’t Listen

dog won't listen, dog training, puppy training

Let’s admit it, we all pretend to not hear things on occasion.

I remember as a child trying to perfect this into an art form. ;)

After all, if I didn’t hear my mom say she needed help bringing in the groceries, I didn’t have to help.

I think the average dog is more willing to listen than the average kid.

Because dogs are simple people.

Sure, your dog may not always listen, but the reason is probably different!

Why Your Dog Isn’t Listening

1. He is Excited

How hard is it for you to listen to random and mundane things, and focus, when you are excited?

I mean, TRULY excited!

Remember back to the last work day before you left on vacation.

Remember the last day of an old job before you started a new job.

Or, just an event that you were excited about.

I, personally, am an avid Bon Jovi fan and let me just tell you that I am worthless the day of a concert.

I know this about myself, so I take the whole day off in preparation!

Your dog is no different.

If he is excited, it is hard for him to focus!

The big difference is that dogs get excited all the time! Which is one of those things that help us to find them endearing, however, it leads to having a difficult time listening.

You'll need to work on managing your dog's overexcitement and train him so that he can listen to you regardless of his excitement level.

2. He is Distracted

Although this problem sounds similar to the one above, I think this one is a little easier.

Yes, distractions can lead to excitement, and then you have to deal with both, but one doesn’t always equal the other.

dog won't listen, dog training, puppy trainingA dog can be “low level” distracted.

Imagine that if he is paying specific attention to something else, he is going to have trouble listening to you.

It is best to distance yourself from the distraction so that you can get his attention.

You need to make yourself more interesting than whatever is distracting him. Otherwise, he won't focus on YOU!

3. He Doesn’t Understand

I know this sounds silly, but you would be surprised at some of the things I hear when I am out training.

“Get Down, Sit Down, Lay Down”

Heck, I end up being confused.

Make sure your commands mean ONE thing, not several things.

Be consistent.

Give a command ONCE, and then help your dog to comply.

But make sure he understands what it is you are asking of him.

4. You Never Really Taught Him

You would be surprised at how often “not teaching” your dog is actually the problem!

People assume that dogs come hard-wired with human rules and regulations.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Dogs love to do naughty things because naughty things are fun!

So, if your dog is fence fighting, pulling on the leash, and stealing your things, you should ask yourself if you have actually ever taught him not to do those things.

#1 Trick

The best trick for dealing with a dog that has selective “listening” is to train often! The more you work on your dog’s obedience training, the more he gets used to listening to you.

If you aren’t asking him to listen, often it will be even more difficult for him to listen when he is excited and distracted.

Yes, you can take him to a separate space and try to decrease his excitement or level of distraction, but if you proactively train for three short 10-minute sessions a day, you will see a dog that is more apt to listen, because you are giving him the skills that he needs!

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  1. Paul DuSablon says:

    Interesting and helpful information.


  2. Margaret Jones says:

    As always from the Dog Training Secret – useful stuff. Thanks!


  3. Nicole says:

    When I have food in my hand, my dog is fairly attent to me, but if I don’t he is often off doing his own thing. How can I balance this?


  4. Harold Feinleib says:

    My Havanese will listen only if I show him a treat. He will stay, sit, down, and come but only for the treat. If he knows I don’t have treat he does what he wants. This is all in the house.


    Minette Reply:

    You are using treats as bribes not rewards, search my articles for my article on misusing treats and read that to understand why they are so different


  5. Brigitte Dyson says:

    My German Shepard Dog escapes out the door want come when called until she is ready


  6. Debbie says:

    My girl’s only problem is the word lay down. Its the easiest. But thats the one i vever taught her she just slides down herself


  7. Marilyn says:

    Thank you my pug truly acts like I’m not even in the room, but eventually when I say her name a few times she turns her head, o bye pugs are known to be very stubborn anyway!!!!!!!!!


  8. Tina says:

    My dogs mostly listen to us in the house, but when they get outside, they do what they want. My border collie listens better than my shepherd/lab, though.


  9. William says:

    My dogs (2) have their own minds , they only come when food is presented to them but good advise, will work on this


  10. Stan Kline says:

    As Harold said, my dog will do anything for a treat, no treat will only sit and eventually will go down but on his time not mine


    Minette Reply:

    Then don’t reward until the dog does it faster


  11. Marie says:

    ewe need help badly. My dog is very well trained and listens most of the time. I know that’s not good enough and it should be all the time. I’ve trained 6 dogs previously so I’m not a beginner. Only problem I can’t seem to fix is since I moved my dog attacks the fence in the yard. There are 2 other dogs who live there. If I stand in front of the fence she backs off but I can’t be in front of the fence and let her out. Someone said to put a shock collar on her. The neighbors asked me not to and I really don’t want to. What can I do for her? I have to help her.


    Minette Reply:

    Put her on leash and give her alternate behaviors


  12. LK says:

    You say “give the command ONCE then help them comply.” What do you mean by ‘help them comply’? Physically? Vocally? That is where I am stuck. If you only say the command once and they don’t comply… what is your next action(s)?


    Minette Reply:

    Depends on the dog and how much training it has had. If it is new, I would use a food lure and teach; if it is older and simply choosing not to comply then I would probably help physically


  13. Kathy says:

    Fellow Bon Jovi fan, and I do the same thing! ha ha Have seen them about 15 times. 🙂


  14. Practice opening the door when you have your dog in sit stay position on a leash. When you open the door say stay and immediately give her a treat. If she begins to leave do the leash correction, Tell her no and stay again. I would have someone outside to grab her In case she bolts. Keep her on a leash until she understands she can’t leave when the door is open.


  15. David says:

    Coco will be 8 years old l cannot leave him alone as soon as I walk out the door he barks and crys I live by myself for 3 months after a family beak up there was another dog a cat and 3 other people Coco was never alone someone said he has separation anxiety if so how is this managed I am 67 years old in a senior building we walk 3-5 miles a day but i canot leave him alone please help I don’t like being a prisoner in my apartment I leave in a high rise building


    Minette Reply:

    go to your vet and consider drug therapy and behavior modification.


  16. Marie says:

    Will this go along with the word come? I read your article on why your dog does not come when ased?


  17. Jenny says:

    My 11month dog is a dream in his own environment but becomes distressed if we take him out of the area, he can’t wait to get in the car, attacks the tailgate when closing, anxious when moving and on arriving home seems calm but doesn’t want to get out although in a calm state. He is our 7th dog so have had many but never have we experienced this behaviour before. Help.


  18. J.M. says:

    Is there a place I can get “hand signal” training sheet.
    My dog used to run away when I was trying to get her to come, if I went after her she came home when ready. One night I forgot she was out and went to bed, she always came when called after that.


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