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7 Reasons Why Your Dog Ignores You

Reason Why Your Dog Doesn't Listen To You

Is your dog stubborn? Does your dog ignore you, even though they know what you’re telling them to do?

It may seem that way, but there’s always an underlying reason. 

Dogs don’t purposefully disobey us to spite us. As they’re unconditionally loving even when we step on their tail or serve dinner late, we must be patient with our dogs when they don’t act as we expect.

Here are  the top seven real reasons why your dog ignores you:

1. Your dog doesn’t understand what you want. 

You may think that your dog understands what you’re asking of them… but do they really? 

Dogs understand clear, concise cues. They tend to understand “sit,” but may have trouble with “please sit darling so I can put your collar on and we can go outside for a walk.”

And that’s if you taught the cue to the point of fluency in the first place. You may simply need more practice. Try going back to square one and using one of the three core training techniques to reteach that skill. 

Research shows that dogs understand hand signals better than verbal cues. You can use a combination of hand signals and words to get your dog to understand you more easily. 

2. Your dog isn’t motivated by your treats. 

Food gets your dog excited about training, and can actually rewire their brain to feel calmer and happier in stressful situations. Using really yummy, aromatic treats will ensure that your dog doesn’t ignore you. You don’t need to become dependent on treats, but it helps to reward your dog regularly to keep them motivated. 

The best treats for training are cheap, healthy, and easy to find. Try some scrambled eggs. For something more portable, dehydrate your own chicken jerky. Even kibble moistened with a few drops of bacon drippings can catch your dog’s attention without making them gain weight. 

3. Your dog has developed an aversion. 

Usually when you call your dog, you give them a treat or a cuddle. But sometimes when you call your dog, and you put them in the bath, or you clip their nails, or put them in the car and take them to the vet.

Your dog may hesitate to come when called because they don’t know whether they’re getting a treat or a bath. 

To work on an aversion to being called, you can make those rough experiences more pleasant. 

Instead of struggling to do your dog’s nails every few weeks, try the no-fear way to trim your dog’s nails. 

Try visiting your vet with your dog just to say hello. Most vets will be happy to pet your dog and offer them a treat when you pop by. 

Changing the way your dog feels about nail trims, vet visits and baths will take time. In the meantime, choose a new emergency recall word, and only use it when you can offer your dog a delicious treat. 

4. Your dog is uncomfortable or in pain. 

Does your dog love to do their “roll over” trick – only on a bed or a soft carpet? It may hurt their back when they try to do it on your kitchen floor? 

Do they refuse to sit if they’re on hot sand or gravel? Maybe it hurts their paws. 

Sometimes it’s not that obvious. Your dog may have an underlying health condition that makes them tired, irritable, or can make it painful for them to do what you ask of them. 

5. Your dog is too distracted to listen. 

Does your dog listen perfectly in your living room, but act totally different at the park? 

In a space full of noises and distractions, it can be difficult for your dog to tune out the environment and focus on you. You can teach your dog to ignore distractions, it just takes some practice. 

You may want to start working on training by the front of your house, in your backyard, or another place that might be a little bit more distracting than your living room, but not overwhelming. Work on simple cues, and keep training short and easy.

In distracting areas, you may need higher value treats. While your dog may listen for kibble at home, you may need beef jerky to get their attention when you’re walking downtown. 

Along with treats, you can also use the environment as a reward. Work with your dog for just 30 seconds, and then use a cue such as “release!” to let them sniff freely. 

This is a good example of the Premack Principle – increasing instances of a low probability behaviour (your dog sitting when you’re surrounded by distractions) by reinforcing it with a high probability behaviour (your dog sniffing a tree.) Your dog will be more likely to “sit” for you if they know that you’ll immediately let them go sniff a tree. 

6. Your dog needs help with generalizing.

Another reason your dog doesn’t listen at the park: they don’t generalize very easily. 

You tell your dog “sit” in your living room while you’re sitting on the couch. Your dog is able to understand you not only because they know you’ll reward them for responding to “sit,” but also because you’ve training them while sitting in front of them in your living room.

“Sit,” at that point, does not yet mean“sit while I’m standing, holding your lead, while I’m catching up with my friend at the park”.

To train your dog so they’re truly fluent with their cues, you’ll need to practice in the kitchen, while you’re standing next to them, while you’re sitting, while you’re across the room, in a box, with a fox… you get the idea. 

7. Your dog is frustrated with you. 

Does it ever seem like your dog doesn’t listen to you when you’re standing right in front of them? Do they avoid eye contact, sniff the ground, and just seem to ignore you?

Sometimes the stress of training can make your dog anxious. If you’re feeling frustrated with them, they can pick up on that, but they may still not know how to appease you. 

Dogs may resort to calming signals when they don’t know how to respond to your cues. This is a common way for dogs to communicate between one another to keep the peace. They yawn, sniff the ground, and avoid eye contact as though to say, “I’m trying not to do anything to make you mad at me. I come in peace”.

Keep training sessions short, light-hearted and fun. If your dog is having trouble picking up on something, look for signs that they’re getting closer to success. 

Give treats generously – at least every ten seconds, even if they are not doing everything perfectly. Training should always feel like a game, not a chore, for both you and your dog. 

Still Not Sure Why Your Dog Ignores You?

Still not making any progress? Feel like you’re stuck in the same patterns? Resolving training issues isn’t always as simple as reading an article and instantly knowing the solution to your specific issue. 


Working with a professional positive dog trainer is the best way to learn how to communicate so your dog listens. Contact Healthy Houndz today to learn more about our private dog training programs in North York and Toronto.

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