Once, Twice, Three times a Push-over; Repeating Dog Training Commands

That Couldn't Be a Naughty Face!

Walk through just about any Wal-Mart on this planet and you will hear this conversation:  “Timmy, don’t touch that.   I’m serious Timmy, don’t touch that.  Get over here!  Get Down from there!  Don’t make me come over there!”  Sometimes the situation defuses itself from there because his mom just gives up and moves on as little Timmy wreaks havoc throughout the store.  Or, she finally gets angry enough to grab him by the arm and yells something like “I told you, not to touch that”.

The problem is that mom is not consistent, she is a push over, and Timmy never knows when she will explode.   He gambles on the fact that he can get away with some “fun/naughty” behavior and she may never follow through or she may totally lose her temper he is really not sure, but the odds are pretty good that she will eventually just ignore his behavior and he will win.

I was a model child!  I remember getting into trouble once in public, I was probably about 5 and the memory is still singed in my brain; no need to frighten anyone with the details suffice it to say it never happened again and my mother didn’t believe in positive reinforcement.

My mother was the opposite of Timmy’s mother, if she threatened she followed through; no if, ands, or buts about it!  She was totally consistent and true to her word.  As a child it was easy for me to know that if something was promised good or bad, it was inevitable if I followed on the chosen path.  And, for that reason I almost never rebelled.  It simply wasn’t worth it.

Although some of her parenting skills were questionable and I believe punishment doesn’t work; especially for animals, consistency is the key to having a good relationship with your dog!

Humans are really good about patterning, and most of us don’t even realize we are falling into patterns until it has already begun to imprint usually negatively on our dogs!  Animals, unlike us, are good at interpreting behavior; they have to be since they don’t have the ability to speak.

What typically happens is that we get irritated consistently at about the same time.  For most people the magic number is 3; sit, sit, SIT and THEN the person means it.  Your dog learns through your behavior pattern that he doesn’t have to listen until about the 3rd command.  You are essentially teaching him to ignore you until the 3rd.

Once the person reaches that “magic” number 2 things usually happen, either they get angry and their voice, inflection and body posture changes OR they let the command go ignored with no follow through.  Either way your dog is learning to either wait it out until you give up and forget OR he changes his behavior when he sees the tell tale signs of anger and irritation.

What’s worse is to give a command you cannot enforce and then ignore when your dog doesn’t comply!  Your dog learns with worse behavior comes eventual acceptance.  Or he learns if he stays away from you, you simply give up.  This is a horrible thing to teach an animal!  This is a sure fire way to get an animal that is never compliant to your commands, because essentially you are teaching him he doesn’t have to be!

It is also detrimental to teach your dog that he has to wait until you are angry before he has to listen to you.  I guess this is better than a dog that totally ignores commands, but it is sad to teach your dog he has to wait until you yell, threaten him, or physically abuse him for him to have to listen!  These are the dogs that often cower and roll over submissively when their owners yell, but otherwise they don’t listen.  They usually realize the next step, in most cases, leads to physical manipulation and a correction or pain!

How To Fix the Problem

Consistency, as I say in a lot of my articles, is the key to good dog training!!!

DO NOT give a command more than once (unless your dog is old and hard of hearing or you think for sure he didn’t hear you!).

  1. Most dogs are not hard of hearing; actually their hearing is much, much better than ours!  He heard you, he is just ignoring you!  Don’t give him that option.  I tell my clients to either help him or make him comply.  If he is young or new to the training, help him comply by using positive reinforcement or luring him to complete the task and then reward.  Focus on teaching him until you are certain that he knows what you want in all situations.  For example listening to you indoors is a lot easier than listening to you outdoors; I would go back to square one and teach my dog to listen outdoors if he is having a problem!
  2. OR, make him comply…I don’t mean by using corrections or threats or ripping his head off, but all dogs go through a stage where they test the commands that you give.  I simply make them sit, or stay or come by utilizing my leash and not allowing them to make any other decision.  Be sure he knows what you mean before you take this road, help him first!

DO NOT give a command you cannot enforce!

  1. I wouldn’t tell a dog that I know will not listen to “come” unless I had a leash on him and I could help him listen to my command.  I never give a command I can’t enforce until I have reached a 90 to 95% compliance with one word obedience commands in all places and situations!

This takes practice and work on your regular obedience commands.  Utilize a leash so that you have some form of control if he chooses to ignore you.  Use positive reinforcement and fun for a job well done!  Give your dog a reason to listen to you; i.e. you will play ball with him or jackpot him for a difficult but successful accomplishment.

If you are 100% or at least 98% consistent with giving commands and making sure he complies on the first command you will see his compliance drastically increase.   He will stop testing you and he will learn that listening to you is the only way to get what he wants in life!

Celebrate small accomplishments and make sure training is fun!  Always end on a good note with a great achievement so that your dog is excited the next time you want to begin training, and soon you will be on the road to having a compliant dog that the whole neighborhood envies and one that can be trusted everywhere you go together on or off of the leash!

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  1. rose says:

    Excellent advice.


  2. Ken says:

    I recognize the expression in the photo!


  3. jack says:

    TYour tips are awesome. We are lucky to have you guiding us!!!!!!!I will try this on Louie today!


  4. renate says:

    Great application. I always felt that way about child training, but didn’t think to use that same thinking towards my dogs. Thanks.


  5. Anna says:

    Thank you! I needed the wake up call! My 8 month old rescue labx is definitely pushing my buttons lately, or so I thought. She use to listen instantly but now selectively. (Unless I have a treat in my hand.)
    But I realized as I was reading that I really don’t have a “training” time anymore, that I repeat myself often, and that I don’t always follow through. Bad me! She use to LOVE training time and I will go back to it starting now and then continue. One question, she has never come to me consistantly even inside. How do I teach this command?


  6. rick says:

    You are so right I would love to hire you to train my 2 dogs call me


  7. Debbie says:

    I feel this is great advice following it is much harder.


  8. Mary says:

    I agree with Rose this is excellent advice.


  9. M.E. says:

    Excellent…I plan to do this today. I have not been using the lease…only the command without results.


  10. Doug says:

    My problem is our pug gets so excited about taking a walk he won’t stop to sit so we can get the leash on. When we bring out the harness, she goes bonkers with anticipation. It takes a few minute for her to settle down so we can get the harness on her. I understand how to control her when the leash is on, but how about before we get the leash on her?



    Minette Reply:

    Put the leash and harness on her all the time and don’t go for a walk, if she never knows if she is going or not…she will get less excited for the actual event and you will be able to dress her more easily!


  11. Eileen says:

    Works well. My dog didn’t sit for meals or treats until I yanked her food bowl away. Since then sit means SIT no if ands or buts. Same with stay. I have to try the leash trick with come and I admit come is inconsistent.


  12. Wendy Reiser says:

    I agree with your approach. The same as children, dogs need to know we mean what we say.
    I’m having a problem with my Toy Poodle. She is doing a wee on the carpet every now and then but only during the day when she is able to get outside. Can you help me with that problem, please.


  13. laura says:

    yes, this is very good advice! i am only thirteen years old, which obviously means, i live with my parents. my mom and dad, but mostly mad dad, do not belive that your system really works. that is partially my falt because i can’t seem to train my golden retriver. here is an example of what my dad thinks works: just tonight we went away for dinner and came back to my brothers bike seat torn up in the yard. my dad then proceeded to drag my dog over to the bike, probably shove her nose into the foam, (i was inside when this happened, in the garage, but i still could hear the muffled hitting sounds of my dad spanking my dog.)and hit her about four or five times. about thirty seconds later i couldn’t stand it any more and ran outside yelling, “what do you think your doing??!” i once again tried explaining that this is the WRONG way to do it! we are humans, they are dogs, we speak different languages! well, you pretty much know what i said. my dad, again replied saying that she is smart enough to figure it out!!! i wish i could prove him wrong and stop this! i just can’t train her and show him! she flops over on her back all the time and i’m so sad that she thinks she should be scared of me and my family…
    please reply.


    Minette Reply:

    It sounds like you leave her outside, and she is probably bored. The bike looked like a fun new toy for her to chew.

    Instead, use a crate and put her inside or give her something else to chew on outside. I guarantee if you had given her a large cow bone to chew while you were gone to dinner she would not have had time to chew the bike. She is bored and her mind needs to be stimulated.

    The more you can work with her and train her or take her for a run, the less you will see the bad behavior. Try spending lots of time working with her and exercising her and hopefully you can curb some of her behaviors so that she doesn’t get in trouble.

    I am sorry you have to watch that, it makes me sad, but instead of trying to change your parents (which can be hard) try to work with your dog as often as possible. I bet you will see her behaviors improve! You can even get a book on dog tricks and games to play with her, or ask your parents to let you take her to class and good luck to you both!


  14. Mary says:

    I recently acquired a darling Affenpinscher dog, and he was a year and 2 months old when we got him. Very smart, and yes, very stubborn when it comes to the word “COME”! He will sit and look at you and when you say it again, same thing, then you walk toward him and he backs up further. Don’t know how he acquired this trait but I want to correct it. Please advise!


    Pearl Reply:

    read the post… you have to go back to square one with this dog… have treats ready. put a leash or check cord on your dog, yes, in the house, yes, all the time. then practice calling your dog to you. say it once, tug on the leash, pull him to you if he needs to and when he’s where you want him to be, immediately reward and praise. always use the same command, have all household members use the same command. you can even do the “round robin” game. have everyone stand in a circle, with the dog on a long lead. the person with the leash calls the dog, reward when the dog comes or you pull him to you. next pass the lead to someone else in your group they call/pull/reward, etc. this will teach your dog that coming is fun…and as an added bonus, everyone in your house gets to have the dog come to them, so you’re training him to respond to everyone…


  15. Kathy says:

    I have a 10 month old golden Her name if Floe. She”s real smart. She has been allowed on the bed but now I’d like to change that. I also want to change her jumping on people and the counters in the kitchen. She acts like she’s never seen a human being before when they come into the house. And running off if she gets the chance. I got a shock collar and that does work most of the time,. But one must always make sure the batteries are good, you can shock shock shock but go figure if the batteries are not changed it’s kind of useless.


    Minette Reply:

    Shock collars are not the answer, not only for the reason that you mentioned but also because you don’t want your dog to associate people coming over with the shock…you could cause her to become aggressive because she is being shocked when people visit.

    You must use positive reinforcement and control her and teach her patience…if she is patient she can be petted by your visitors. Please don’t use the shock collar, there are so many other ways to train!


  16. just got a maltese puppy 13 wks old.he is a cutie. my problem is when i say come ,he sits and looks at me like i had two heads. and when i start going towards him he backs up or runs away from me. please tell me what to do.


  17. S. Felix says:

    So many canine lives are lost in my state Queensland / Australia to cane toads , dogs usually chase them and get themselves poisoned . How can I train my labrador not to go after them ?? Thanks


  18. Judy says:

    Thank you for the very helpful advice you have been giving us ever since my dog was a pup. She is now almost two years old, and she is very good. I have followed the emails you have been sending, and this last one was a good reminder, as it is easy to say something again when they appear not to hear (and they are about three feet away from us) but mostly she is obedient immediately. Just sometimes she likes to keep the ball when we tell her to drop it, and she moves her head the other way. But now I shall be more consistent again. Thank you, Judy.


  19. rick & jackie says:

    this is very good advice, I have tried it and I was successful.But, i have a very SPITEFUL dog,he will go and do something bad elsewhere.What do i do?


  20. Marianne says:

    I find that if a dog has been ignoring the word “come” for years, it’s helpful to retrain a recall using a completely different word.


  21. Sharon says:

    I plead guilty! Have heard this before….but….I don’t seem to be consistent…so have an 9-mos Labradoodle, Bella, who sometimes does not follow my “repeated” commands. Guess I have to go back to doggy-school! Thanks for the good advice ….that works if you work it!


  22. Susan says:

    Beautiful photo of Vizsla with toung sticking out! That is the breed I have…very energitic. Love your blog and training info.


  23. Bonnie Ritter says:

    Thank you for sending this, I intend to start today. My dog is a mutt but very sweet. He is getting a stubborn streak however and he barks at anyone that come through the door and jumps up on them. I really need to correct this as I have several small greatgrandchildren and don’t want them to be scratched. He is kind of hyper around new people. Not afraid but just overly friendly.


  24. Thanks for very valueable and convincing tips.

    Harbans Singh


  25. Keith Oswald says:

    Thanks for the good advice. It is a lesson I knew years ago when breeding and showing Cockers, but one I lazily forgot when acquiring our Cocker four years ago after years without a dog. Now I will have to go backs to patient work to end her habit of waiting for my third command with a raised voice before she complies.


  26. Carol Rothfeld says:

    I have two dogs, an 8 year old Standard Poodle and a 6 year old Boston Terrier. The Poodle barks when ever someone comes to the door. This start the Boston barking in a frenzy. Even jumping on the Poodles back. I say “quiet” in a stern voice and when I go to touch them to reinforce the command they run away. If I go after them, all the time shouting “quiet” It becomes a game for them. I don’t always know when someone will be visiting or a delivery is coming so I don’t know if I want them dragging around leashes on their necks. They do respond well to things that please them; like “Let’s go out”. They are there in a flash. HELP!


  27. Tommy Timmermann says:

    I really need to get my dog to stop barking every time I come outside. I know he is happy to see me but early in the morning is annoying to everyone within earshot.


  28. Bob Knight says:

    I have a great Bischon, fun, loving and very independent. Responds well to ‘cookie’ indoors…but outdoors the ‘come’ request is almost always ignored. He however always returns to the house with 15-20 minutes. We now have a small ranch (28 acres) that he enjoys with his adventourous smell sense. He, however, doesn’t come when asked and it is becoming a problem as he explores the neighbors property. Do I need a shock collar? Best, Bob


  29. laura says:

    ah, yes my dog is an outdoor dog… and i think one of the worst possible things you could do is shock train your dog. i was forced to try it and in a week, when i went to take a look at her shock collar because it looked too tight… the two dull shock prongs had dug into her neck, and i could see the rolling flesh in her neck! it was horrible. well after that, i just put my foot down on that. no more. EVER. i will try to get my golden retriever, Kyra, in a dog training program soon.


  30. Roberta McIntyre says:

    My “broken coat” Jack Russell was born 5 years ago this week, after her mother,Samantha, got hooked up with a long haired Jack named Harry Potter. She comes readily in most situations off leash except when a gopher pokes its nose out of a hole. I may as well save my breath to cool my porridge. She does turn her head just to keep me in sight when she is on a chase but my only recourse is to stay calm with my eyes on her movements.

    The biggest problem is her desire to greet people by putting her paws on their legs. I am asking some friends to ignore her and to turn away from her until she quits, then to pet her if they like.

    I live in a Condo, so if the intercom bell is pressed, she knows that sound instantly and lets out a yelp and leaps toward the door, trembling and dancing in anticipation. She rarely barks but, I do not know how to control her reaction to that bell. She responded to it the first time she heard it, but never reacts to the phone ringing. Any advice.

    Thank you for the tip in using the leash for coming. Will take care to expect reaction on the first call when walking on the retractable leash. Roberta


  31. Am going to try again with leash on my 2 year old cocker spaniel. She has benn accustomed to 2 or 3 commands on some ocassions when outside, thank you forthe tip.


  32. Lisa says:

    Excellent, that first photo is a mirror of my scoundrel, I will use these techniques, both with my dog and also my chlidren, as I am allowing the problem with my children, the dog is better behaved!! I am also passing on to other parents of children and dogs. Very good, and as usual, common sense.Thanks.L(


  33. martha e says:

    i am very concerned about my little puppy winston is only 3 months old we got him at6 weeks old and it seems like jw dont like us my husbad and i are trying very hard we both work every day and whwen we come home at night he is so happy want let us out of his sight he want even eat right away he has to calm down 30 mins later he will begin to eat after we let go potty on the paper behind his creat he come out and ether he is tughing at my p .j or bitting on my toes and he dose the same to my husbad he ewant stop someone please help he aslo just had his ck up and he is in perfect health he want even sleep because he has to keep an eye us we have put him in his creat to sleep


  34. sir please i have a similar problem with my “mongrels” like that of ANGIE MOMTERO’S puppy. can u pls advice strongly on what we can do to correct the situation.thanks.


  35. Mary R. says:

    Hey Chet,
    My neighbor Richard desperately needs your help. He got a 1 yr.old female
    Weimeraner 3 months ago from a rescue organization. His dog (Molly)
    is out of control away from his house. Molly ignores any commands Richard gives her. She’s more interested in her surroudings,other people,
    other dogs, etc. making it impossible to walk her. Treats only work the first time. The second, third time, they’re ignored. I attempted twice to train her myself using positive methods. No go! My neighbor is in his early 70’s. I worry about his safety. What should my neighbor do?


  36. Mai B. says:

    i have a 2 year old belgian malinois, Twix. I wonder how i can train him not to get or pick items or foodstuff given by strangers. Am afraid this would eventually lead to some dog poisoning by unwanted intruders/burglars… how can i train him that he only accept from me or from members of our household foodstuff for him to nibble, please help.


    Minette Reply:

    You have to teach him a good “leave it” command. Keep your eye out and I will write an article on the Leave It.


  37. Omar says:

    yo chet so great important article but i ordered emotion training but i didnt get the link for it help


  38. Dave says:

    Hey, just got a new puppy and am having some trouble with the basics. Your article is quite helpful to us. It sounds logical. I have the magic 3’s problem, and I’m going to try to train myself not to do it. I know it’s bad, but it might take me a while to learn. Thanks for the tip!


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