Why Won’t My Dog Listen to Me?

Spring is here. The sun transformed my backyard swamp into hardened grass-covered clay. It’s a perfect place to train the puppies I raise for a service dog organization. So many smells and distractions.

But distractions have limits. And when a neighbor’s unleashed dog (we’ll call the dog Fluffy) continually charges into my unfenced backyard barking and growling, a training distraction turns into a nightmare, especially if I’m training a puppy with fear periods.

The owner, a very nice lady, eventually presents herself. She stands in the yard and yells the dog’s name, telling Fluffy to “Come here right now!” over and over and over. It grates on my nerves, and Fluffy totally blows her off. I would, too. Why? The owner is a nag. Her dog is giving her the paw.

Fluffy has no boundaries. And coming into my yard to retrieve barking Fluffy, picking her up and telling her “No!” doesn’t mean what the owner thinks it means. In Fluffy’s world, this is a game. I growl and bark, make the neighbor’s dogs back up, and MY OWNER COMES, picks me up, cuddles me and carries me home. What fun!

And like Fluffy’s owner’s commands, this happens over and over and over all summer long.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. No matter what size the dog is or how cute they are, they all have teeth. You don’t have to be a bully breed to bite or intimidate.

Training your dog to COME, especially with distractions, takes time and practice. And each time Fluffy ignores its owner, and the owner repeats the command, Fluffy chuckles, gives her the paw, and does whatever the heck it wants. Because it can. Because they’re no consequences.

No dog owner should allow their dog to roam their unfenced yard unsupervised. And no dog owner should allow their dog to roam their unfenced yard unleashed and unsupervised EVEN WITH a reliable COME command. Why? Because no dog is perfect. It only takes one mistake on the dog’s part to have the dog injured by another dog or hit by a car. Like children, dogs need supervision.

So how do you get your dog to listen? You don’t have to bully the dog and establish an intimidating alpha dog status. Establish a kind, but firm, relationship with your dog that includes consequences, put the training time in, and follow through.

Start teaching your dog the COME command while leashed. Start in a small area. Hold the leash in one hand and a treat in the other. Say the dog’s name in a happy voice. Then say, “COME.” If the dog obeys, give the dog a treat and praise, praise, praise. If the dog ignores you, do not repeat the command. Clap your hands to get them to refocus. Show the dog the treat, and lure the dog to you by gently pulling on the leash. Then praise, praise, praise.

The idea behind training is to lure the dog using a treat to do a chosen behavior. Then to reward them for their successful effort or any effort that’s edging toward your desired goal.

Some dogs understand what you want them to do immediately. Other dogs don’t. Lure them. Reward them. Lure them. Reward them. As you can see, this takes patience and time.

Put in the time!

Once the dog performs the desired behavior most of the time, you can expand your world. Practice in a larger room, with distractions like children, food, and the television. Advance into the garage. Then maybe to the deck. Eventually outdoors on a 15, 20, or 30-foot leash. Always end your training session with the dog having success.

One basic obedience class certificate does not make a well-trained dog. You must continue to train. Make it fun. Training improves the bond with your dog, and there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than when your dog listens to you!