What to Do When Your Dog Won’t Listen

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There’s nothing more annoying than feeling like you’re not being listened to. When it’s your dog who’s not listening, though, the situation can be more than annoying; it can be downright dangerous. There are various reasons why your pet may not be listening to your commands. In most cases, it’s not that your dog doesn’t want to listen, he’s just so worked up over something exciting that it takes a lot to get his attention focused back on you. Fortunately, there are also some simple things you can do to solve this problem.

What’s My Motivation?

Often, dogs don’t respond to commands because they are distracted by something else that is of much greater importance to them at the moment. While a reward of kibble for sitting may be enough motivation for your dog in a distraction-free environment, another dog or a squirrel can distract your dog from the kibble and make him unlikely to respond to the “sit” command. There are a few ways to handle this. You can increase your distance from the attention-grabbing stimulus, such as starting your training 100 feet away from the dog park fence (or whatever else is distracting your dog). Gradually move closer as long as your dog remains calm and able to respond to your commands. Slowly introducing distractions can help your pet remain focused and responsive.

You can also raise the level of your dog’s motivation by employing a really exciting reward; turkey hot dogs, bits of cheese or highly palatable bite-size dog treats can help keep your dog’s focus on you. For dogs with a high play drive, a reward of a game of ball or tug can be more effective than a treat.

While playing games may make it more likely that your dog will pay attention to you, there are some situations in which the distraction itself can become the reward. For dogs who enjoy greeting people or other dogs and are highly distracted until they get to greet, the ultimate reward for good behavior, such as a heel or a sit, can be permission to say a warm hello to other people or pooches after obeying the command.


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