When your dog won’t listen to your commands, it can be frustrating — and it can also be dangerous. After all, this kind of communication can help keep your dog out of trouble, preventing him from running out into a busy street or eating something he shouldn’t. It can also help keep you sane by helping you manage problem behaviors.
But it’s not always easy to get to the root of the problem. So where do you start if your dog doesn’t obey — either in specific situations or all of the time? Here are a few problems you may be encountering.
Remove Excess Energy
If you’ve ever tried to communicate with a hyper toddler, then you know how excited energy can be distracting. It’s no different with dogs. When your pup is raring to go, his only focus is on releasing all that pent-up energy inside, and he’s going to have a hard time listening to you.
So remember to practice first exercise, then discipline, and then affection. A daily walk that truly drains all of your dog’s energy will go a long way.
If your dog is receiving different messages about his behavior, he won’t understand what you want from him. That’s also true if individual family members enforce different rules. Sit down as a family and discuss the rules, boundaries, and limitations you want to set for your dog. It can be helpful to write them down and display them somewhere prominent.
Master Your Energy
Dogs listen to their pack leaders, and you can only be that leader if you are displaying calm-assertive energy. If you’re frantic or uncertain as you give a command, your dog will tune you out. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t really aware of the energy we are giving off. Have a friend observe your behavior and give you feedback — or even film it so you can see for yourself.
Go Back to Basics
Does your dog truly know the command? It can take hundreds or even thousands of repetitions for some dogs to learn a new skill. Practice makes perfect. You may need to focus on training again to ensure your dog really has it down.
Stop Relying on Verbal Commands
Dogs don’t speak to one another; they use energy and body language to communicate. So it’s not surprising that they sometimes have trouble picking up on our verbal commands, particularly when they are bombarded by our constant yammering all day.
Even if they know a command, they may actually associate it more with a non-verbal cue you give at the same time — something you may not even realize you’re doing.
If your dog is listening to you, consider what may have changed about your physical presence. Are you holding a baby? Are you sitting down? Are you looking away? Small changes like these may be impacting your ability to fully communicate your message like you normally would.
Notice Your Dog’s Emotional State
Beyond pent-up energy, your dog may be distracted by a number of emotions. If you are trying to train her to come when a neighbor’s dog approaches, your pup may instead be so focused on claiming her territory that she’s tuned you out. Or she may be so frightened by the sound of thunder and lightning that there’s little mental space to hear your command to go to her crate. You have to deal with the underlying issue before you can get your dog to really listen to you.
If you continue to have problems, consider hiring a professional to help. Communication between you and your dog is important for both of you and worth the investment of your time and energy.