Tuesday Training Tip: Does Your Dog Ignore You?

bow-tie-businessman-fashion-manMama Sally:  One of the chief complaints that I hear from prospective dog owners is that they are frustrated because their dogs don’t seem to pay attention when it matters.  Most dogs will listen well to their owners and give them good attention at home…in the house…when there is nothing else to grab their attention.  That’s a great start. But at some point, we have to have dogs who can and will realize that there is a human holding their leash when we take them out and about.  And this is often where there is a disconnect.

Part of the reason, I think, is because owners are extremely good at teaching their dogs to ignore them.  I see it every single day of the week as I work with dogs and their owners.  Over and over, owners yak atEarth to human....come in please!!

their dogs incessantly. “Sparky Sit!  Sit!  Sparky!  Sparky!  Sit…now! Sit!  Sparky! Sit!  SIT!”  I can promise you, Sparky is doing anything but looking at his owners and paying any attention to them.  Sound familiar?

The reason dogs often learn to ignore their dogs is because of what I typed in quotes in the previous paragraph. Owners nag their dogs.  They do.  They repeat commands over and over and over, and the dog learns that they will never follow through, so they don’t have to pay attention.  Ouch!

Well, who among us wants to live with a nag?  Nobody. Right?  Nobody.  None of us will sign up to go through life with anyone who is a nag.  Unfortunately, dogs don’t get to choose that, so they appropriately learn to ignore and disregard those nags in their life.

Rugby showing “guarding” behavior with a piggie.

Remember that dogs spend the vast majority of their lives speaking silently through body language, and facial and eye expressions.  They do bark, and it is one of the ways that they communicate, but it’s not their primary means.  They have a far more quiet world than we want them to have.  Many owners think that by “barking” orders to their dog, their dog will respect them more, and obey more quickly.  That’s simply not the case, in my experience.

Dogs respect fair and consistent leaders.  If the rules to the game always change, who wants to play?  Not your dog! What will help your dog to respect and listen to you, is when you are fair and consistent with your dog.  Sit means sit. Every time.  Not on the 5th time when you’re mad at your dog for ignoring you.  If you follow through the first time you give a command to your dog, he will always respond, and stop ignoring you.

Rugby James:  Well, I hasta tell you that I doesn’t getsa get away wif much at my house.  When the Mama tells me to do sumping, she expects me to do it the first time she tells me, if it’s sumping that I already know how to do.  And VDay snow day profile 018here’s the fing.  She makes it better when I listens, and I getsa better reward if I doesn’t ignore her.  If I does it the first time, I getsa kibble, lubbing and she tells me really nice fings in that really good voice she gots.

If I’m not listening, and she gotsa tell me “NO,” I automatically lose my kibble, but I can still get lubbing and sweet words to me.  And she just keeps taking away good fings every time she gotsa tell me “NO!”  So I has her system of doing fings all figured out, and I’m no dummy!  I wants the good stuff, so if I does fings the first time she asks me, I get a better deal!

Make your dog earn what he gets!

And you know, the Mama isn’t big on just giving me treats on account of I’m good looking and adorable.  She only gives me treats when I’m working, so I likesa pay attention on account of I gots the chance to earn a snack from her. So the way the Mama setted fings up here, I can get snacks for working, but only if I does stuff the first time she asks me to do it!  When we’re learning new fings, she uses a different reward scale on account of it’s all new stuff, and she goes a lil easier wif me to help me learn.

Give this a try wif your own lil dogger, and I’ll just bet you’ll see a big difference in how your dogger listens to you!!





  1. says

    Woosers! Great tips as always from Rugby and Mom. When Sam was little, her obedience trainer had us practice "Look at me". Sam had to make eye contact with me before getting a treat, I had no idea why we were doing that by now I do. I find it fascinating that even someone who thinks she knows everything about training a dog (that maybe me) can still learn NEW things every week from Sally and Rugby.

    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Denise! I also teach and practice "Leave it" and "Watch me." However, just teaching those focus skills won't help a dog to ignore their handler for distractions if their handlers "nag" their commands and don't follow through. It's just sloppy handling skills, and it produces a sloppy response from a dog! If we want to have sharp dogs, we have to be on point 100% of the time as well. It's so easy to say, but takes a bit of determination and practice from a handler to get good at the consistency! 🙂


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