“Why is my dog not listening to me?”

This is one of the most common complaints that I get from dog owners.

You can fill in the blank (or blanks – which ever applies) to the statement, “My dog won’t listen to me when I ______!” on this one but rest assured, if not listening is a problem with your dog, you are definitely not in the boat alone. You would not believe the number of people complaining about this problem.

Why are so many people complaining?  It is  an easy problem to fix!

I’ve always tried to simplify dog problems for owners by asking them:

“What would you prefer your dog to do instead of the inappropriate behavior?”   Rather than feel overwhelmed by dog problems, simply list the inappropriate behaviors, next to them list the trigger(s) or causes and finally, list a behavior you would prefer.

Here’s an example:

Inappropriate behavior                              Cause                                         Preferred behavior

Jumping on house guest                            House guest arrives                      Dog should sit to be greeted

Many dog owners will join a group class and start working on sits and downs getting in lots of practice at home in training sessions and look forward to performing better each week in group class.

BUT, when it comes to doing the same training  with behavior problems, they tend to drop the ball.

Why is it so much harder to do as many training set ups each day at your home working out behavior problems than it is doing sits and down fro group class?

I think there are 2-3 strong reasons why most people find the work difficult at best when it comes to solving behavior problems in their dog:

Many people are time crunched and don’t have the resources of other people and/or dogs to do these continual daily set ups to elicit the problem behavior.

Many owners lack the confidence to work their dog – especially in stressful situations involving barking and/or reactivity to other dogs and are often times embarrassed by their dog’s bad behavior.

Following are some tips that many of my clients have tried – and found them to work very well:

  • Take time to teach your dog good behaviors you prefer like sit and down – and do this in a distraction free environment.  It doesn’t pay to think that you can rush fixing your dog behavior problem – especially if your dog has been rehearsing the bad dog behavior for years. Be patient.
  • Now begin to train around distractions that are relevant to your needs; i.e., jumping on house guests. Once you begin to add the distractions (like visitors) your dog will begin to generalize his training. This simply means that he will begin to learn that the same rules apply (sit to greet) when new people come over.
  • Here’s another good example. If you would like to take your dog to Starbucks, sit on the patio and have your dog sit next to you then, it would make perfectly good sense to teach him to sit at Starbucks. This is helping him to generalize his sit or down command.  He learns that  he same rules apply at Starbucks that you require of him at home.
  • Consistency. Teaching your dog obedience isn’t really that difficult, but you must be consistent. Practicing dog training only occasionally will not work. Taking the right action each and every time is what will instill obedience in your dog.  If you choose to train your dog only when you are in the mood, it won’t work.

Here’s a little secret for you. Understand what your dog  views as important to HIM.

This can include anything from going for a walk,  playing with other dogs,  dinner time.

Once you understand what’s important to your dog, you begin to show your dog that he has to earn those important things. He wants to go for a walk—require a sit before you put on the leash.

He wants to go outside, require a sit or a down before you open the door and let him out. If the requested behavior is not given, the dog does not get what he wants. Walk away and come back in 2 or 3 minutes and try again.

Dogs do what works. Once they realize you are not going to give in and instead they have to give you the behavior you request, they’ll do it.

Training should always be fun for your dog.  Just remember that your training should be distraction free at first followed by added distractions.

Once your dog is proofed around relevant distractions on leash, you can then plan on implementing a program to get your dog off leash trained at home. Following these guidelines will give you the well-mannered dog of which you can be proud

Dog training is really common sense and takes time and commitment. Understanding how to balance your dog’s wants with the manners you need is critical.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.

What do YOU think?

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”