What exactly is going on when your dog seems to pay you no attention, and what steps can you take to correct the behavior?
We have a lot of requests and expectations for our dogs, and sometimes we even expect a new dog to know all of the limits and rules of the house on the very first day they move in.
Even with our proficiency in the language, both you and I would need some time to adjust to our new surroundings. Even canine companions require some adjustment time. It does not mean that they can engage in undesirable behaviors like overturning garbage cans; rather, it indicates that we need to exercise patience as we begin to show the dog his new home.
Step 1: When teaching a puppy (or an old dog) new tricks, be patient
Recognize that training is really necessary for dogs. They do not arrive with an understanding of the house rules that we humans have created.
Step 2: Ensure that you have excellent communication skills
Take, for example, a dog that is always leaping up on people within the house. If one of the dog’s owners repeatedly asks the dog to perform an undesirable behavior—let’s say a sit—and frequently rewards that sit, the dog will start performing the sit and will stop jumping if he receives no benefit from doing so.
But then, when the other pet parent comes home from work, he or she appreciates it when the dog jumps up to say hello and unknowingly promotes that behavior by playing with the dog, perhaps even patting him on the back and talking excitedly to him about it. This dog is receiving highly conflicting information.
Some dogs are skilled at maneuvering their way through the maze of individuals in the same home who, on one day, may be rewarding a certain behavior while, on another day, they may be correcting the same behavior. The majority of dogs are just confused because we haven’t been able to explain the behavior that we desire to them in a clear enough manner. Before bringing a dog into your household, come to an agreement on the ground rules, and then everyone should work together to promote the behavior that is desired.
Step 3: Perform the action multiple times in rapid succession
When I first begin to learn a new skill, I do so at home since it is a calm, private setting where I have complete control over what is going on around me. Imagine a young student in elementary school who is attempting to solve math problems while other children are running about the playground, chasing each other, and laughing. It is difficult to concentrate.
You can increase the likelihood of your training sessions being successful by beginning with your dog in a serene environment. After you’ve taught your dog a new trick inside the house by giving him tasty treats many times and he’s done what you want him to do more than 90% of the time, it’s time to move the training outside to the backyard or front porch (on a leash in areas that aren’t fenced).
Be mindful of the fact that your dog’s already impressively powerful nose will kick into high gear once it enters unfamiliar territory. You may start the workout by going for a sniffle walk around your backyard, and then move on to the actual workout itself. You may also ask the dog to do a command that he is familiar with, such as sitting, and then immediately after he does so, tell him, “Let’s go explore!” and then walk or run about the yard with him.
Step 4: Recognize that some challenges are more difficult for dogs to overcome than others
Dogs will only engage in behavior that benefits them. Because of this, it is in our own best interest to make sure that the behaviors we want for our dog are also the habits that are best for them. It seems that “leave it” and a reliable recall are the two abilities that dog owners have the most trouble teaching their dogs regularly. Both of these talents are essential, and possessing them could possibly save your life.
What does it mean for the dog to have these two skills, from the dog’s point of view? His nose. He leads him directly to the tasty chunk of hamburger meat that may have fallen on the floor of the kitchen by accident. And his sense of smell is telling him to flee from you as quickly as he can while he follows the odor of the wild rabbit that ran through his yard.
Instead of trying to battle that strong nose, you should work with it. For the command “leave it,” for instance, you can instruct your dog to give up an uninteresting piece of kibble. As soon as he pulls his nose away from it, mark it as a “Yes!” and give him a piece of meat that smells significantly better as a reward. A dog has the ability to learn to leave things alone once he realizes that doing so will earn him a far more desirable reward.
Even the most stubborn canine can be trained to have a reliable recall
There are entire books and DVDs dedicated to assisting pet parents in teaching their dogs reliable recall, which is a skill that every dog should have. I won’t be able to dig very deeply into this topic due to the constraints of this area, but I can provide you with some pointers.
Start educating your dog to come when called off leash within your house. Call your dog inside for meals by using the term that serves as his signal. Make use of your signal to beckon your dog outside for a stroll.
When your dog does come to you, use delicious treats like meat or cheese to reward his good behavior. You should call your dog anywhere from five to ten times a day inside your home, and when he comes bounding to you, you should step back to engage him even further.
Always heap praise and acknowledgment on one another. When he gets very pumped up to come to you, take the interaction outdoors to your backyard or some other place that is quiet and fenced in. Dogs should never be punished for arriving when called, even if it takes them longer than the owner would have liked.
A final word on how to train a dog that won’t seem to listen and is stubborn.
It is considerably more likely that we need to improve our own communication abilities than it is that a dog is purposely ignoring us. Overall, it is far more likely that we need to take a step back in our own communication skills. We have a more developed brain (and thumbs! ), so let’s put it to good use and work to ensure that our dogs are successful in everything they do.