Why doesn't my dog listen to me?
This is a lament I hear multiple times a week. “Why doesn’t my dog listen? He’s not a bad dog, it’s just this one thing” It’s frustrating when your dog doesn’t listen when you need them to, especially when it’s a pattern you’re seeing each and every day. It can also be downright scary in an emergency situation, which is something no one wants to have to go through.
Why doesn't my dog listen? Am I a bad owner?
Your dog not listening to you doesn’t mean you’re a bad dog owner. It’s actually a normal part of learning and gives us valuable information on what exactly needs to be worked on in training.
All dogs can be taught to listen better, and all owners can learn how to have better communication with their dogs. It’s also quite easy to fall into the trap of training your dog backwards, which is something that gets sorted out when you’ve got a trainer helping you through the process!
You’re not a bad owner if you have a dog who doesn’t listen. Everyone does the best they can with the knowledge they have. No one can blame you for not having an expert level dog without expert level knowledge!
What does your dog actually know?
A dog is a fairly simple creature. They react to what is happening moment by moment and are always looking for ways to better their situation. This is exactly what we leverage during training, and although the process of training is generally a pattern of simple repetition, it’s not always as straightforward as one might think.
In a nutshell, if you haven’t specifically sat down and trained your dog to loose leash walk for instance, your dog will not have strong skills in that area. Same with recalling (coming) when you call them. And down the list we could go. Your dog will be good at the things that they have learned, and learning to ignore you, that’s a skill!
Practice and taking time to practice correctly is how we get dogs who not only want to do as we ask, but who are reliable in many different situations. Your dog’s knowledge is going to be limited by your own knowledge too! So being able to get help from a professional really helps open the doors to having a well behaved dog.
Looking at Your Dog's History
Dogs are creatures of habit and pattern. This is another trait that makes them great to train, but can also make them a pain in the ass when they’re repeatedly doing something you don’t like! When we’re dissecting a dog’s past this gives us strong clues to why a dog is behaving contrary to the way you want.
For example, the dog that pulls on leash, we look at how he was introduced to the leash, what age, and how walks were structured. 99% of the time the reason that dog pulls like a freight train now, stems from their past and what they’ve learned they get out of the activity. For some dogs they literally think that this is the “right” way to walk and they have never been taught any other way!
We can do this same examination for many other behaviors like recalls, rude guest greetings, hyper behaviors, potty problems, even fear or aggression issues. Your dog will do what they have historically done because they think it’s right or they get something out of it.
Naturally there are things we don’t want our dogs to do! Things that are not good for polite society, or things that make our lives more stressful, and let’s face it, no one got a dog to add more stress to their lives. The good news is that there are only 3 reasons why your dog isn’t listening, and in most cases they can be helped!
What to do
If you’re operating at the limit of your knowledge with your dog, you don’t know how to make their skills better and you’re at a loss, it’s time to get professional help. Any dog can be made better, and every owner is capable, as long as the right knowledge is there. A trainer is the best way to make sure you’re getting the right knowledge, and can help give you the best methods for your specific situation. Here are some tips to help you choose your trainer and get the started on your next stage of life with your dog.