If you’ve landed on this page, you are frustrated by your dog not listening to you. I know how you feel! Countless times my poodle Kola is so excited to be on a walk that she completely ignores basic commands like “sit” when we’re crossing a road. Not only is this frustrating but a dog that doesn’t listen to you can put them in danger. I wasn’t sure how to solve this problem, so I did a lot of research to find a solution to the problem I had of “how to get my dog to listen to me?”
Getting your dog to listen to you requires a consistent routine, the use of various commands, and being mindful of your dog, their environment and how you communicate with them.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about getting your dog to listen to you.
How To Get My Dog To Listen To Me
Here are some basic actions to take to optimize the extent that your dog will listen to you.
1. Train for the basics
Don’t ignore training your dog. They need to know the basic commands:
And the bonus command would be “leave it”.
Your dog won’t behave as you want unless it is trained to do so. This will take a considerable investment of your time and patience but it will be worth it.
2. Reinforce verbal commands with physical cues
Just like humans, each dog learns differently.
Perhaps your dog is not listening to you because they respond better with physical cues like a hand gesture for the “sit” command.
3. Be consistent
If your dog has different people walking and training them, it’s important that whatever training is taking place is reinforced across those different people. Otherwise your dog will end up confused, give up and not listen.
A dog needs a consistent message to increase the chance they will listen to you.
4. Don’t get them excited
I make this error all the time when I am about to walk my Poodle Kola.
When I get the leash, I repeat in a very high-pitched excited tone “Walkies!”.
Kola responds by running up and down the hallway several times as I try to grab her to put her harness on.
Don’t add any more excitement to the already exciting fact that you’re about to go for a walk (as cued by getting your dog’s leash and harness).
5. Contextual learning
A dog learns commands in context. That means, learning to “sit” inside your home or in your yard is different from “sit” as you are about to cross a road.
You need to train your dog with all the different contexts so they fully understand the what and when you’re communicating.
6. Burn off excess energy
If you have an energetic dog, the moment they know you’re about to go for a walk, all the pent-up energy will come out on the walk and there’s more chance they won’t listen to you.
They are just too excited and too distracted.
Before the walk, try some pre-exercise. Play fetch with a ball or frisbee, play chase or tug of war in your yard or even let them paddle in their dog pool. Do something to burn up some energy prior to the walk. If you are looking for outdoor dog toys, have a read of this article.
Releasing some energy prior to their walk may increase the chance your dog will listen to you.
What To Do In These Scenarios
How to get a dog to listen when distracted
When training your dog, it is helpful to slowly introduce distractions instead of causing a sensory overload. As you build distractions and continue to work on your training and commands, your dog will be more skilled at maintaining focus.
Dogs get easily distracted in hectic environments.
Training your dog to focus on you in a quiet home, free of distractions, is simple.
However, when you try the same approach on a busy city sidewalk, your dog will likely be overwhelmed because of a sensory overload.
The video from McCann Dog Trainers below guides you through on how to get a dog to listen when distracted, building up distractions and keeping your dog focused on you.
How to get your dog to pay attention to you outside
When you are facing distractions outdoors, make sure to keep the reward level high. Your dog will have to learn the value of focusing on you instead of focusing on the distraction.
The bigger the distraction, the bigger the reward. For example, if your dog absolutely loves chasing squirrels, you should give them a big reward if they focus on you instead of the squirrel.
Also, try to start small when you are training outdoors. For example, if your dog loves toys, it is more helpful to slowly remove the toy as a distraction instead of tossing it across the yard. If your dog pays attention to you instead of the toy while slowly moving it away from him, that is good behavior that should be rewarded.
Take a look at the video below from McCann Dog Trainers for practical ways on how to get your dog to pay attention to you outside (and even off-leash)!
How to get dog’s attention on walks
Similar to how you would train your dog outside, you will want to make sure your dog values paying attention to you instead of possible distractions, including other dogs and other humans. This is done through positive reinforcement whenever your dog is paying attention to you.
If you encounter another dog and your dog begins barking and loses focus, that is not the behavior you want to reward. If you successfully make it past another dog with no distraction, that is the behavior you should reward.
During moments in which a lingering distraction is occurring, like a dog walking by for a few moments, be sure to issue the command, “Watch me” or a similar statement so your dog knows to focus on you.
While issuing this command, be sure to reward positive behavior. Remember, if it is a big distraction and your dog successfully avoids it, it deserves a big reward.
It’s really important to know how to get your dog to pay attention to you on walks. The video below will teach you about prompted and unprompted attention.
How to Train a Dog to Listen to Commands
In order to properly train a dog, it will require discipline (both for you and the dog), dedication, and consistency.
Intimidation is not a great approach.
Positive reinforcement while building a strong, loyal bond between you and your dog is essential.
When your dog performs an action that you find is favorable, be sure to reward that action.
If your dog does something unfavorable, you can express your disappointment; however, be careful not to stress or traumatize the dog. Creating a history of stressful contexts in the dog’s mind will lead to more challenging training down the road.
Dog training tips
Below are a few tips to help with training your dog.
- Stick to a routine.
- Reward positive behavior.
- Do not hit or yell at your dog.
- Have patience.
- Train in such a way that your dog realizes that focusing on you is more rewarding than focusing on distractions.
The more time you spend with your dog, training or not, the better all of these tips will work.
Dog training techniques
Here is a list of different types of training techniques and some videos that will help explain what they mean.
All of these will help your dog listen to the proper training.
Just ensure that you are patient, no matter the method.
Dog training commands
Here is a list of some of the most common commands that will be helpful for you and your dog.
Remember to include a physical cue along with a verbal cue, dogs will pay much more attention to physical body language than words.
- Leave it
- Watch me
One of the most common commands is “Come.” It is important to train this skill early on.
The “Come” command
Start training for the “Come” command inside your home.
Then move to a quiet environment outside like your backyard and say “[name] Come” and then provide a reward. Start off with being close by, and then increase the distance every time they move toward you after you issue the command.
It is also critical to never punish your dog after they successfully perform this command. For example, if your dog is off-leash and strays away in a park, it is understandable that you become frustrated that they got distracted.
However, be careful not to voice your frustration to the dog when they finally do come. If you do that, they will associate coming to you with intimidation.
And here’s a helpful video from dog trainer Zac George on teaching your dog to “Come”.
Zac recommends you have a long training lead for your dog to learn the name-come/recall command. At 15 foot long, the Leashboss Long Lead Trainer is the ideal candidate for what you need.
Get ready for training
Best reward treats for training
Dogs will be different in terms of their favorite dog treats. So we have an extensive list below that you can try with your dog to see which they prefer.
Your dog may prefer pre-packaged treats, fresh meat like chicken pieces, cheese or their kibble.
When I am outside training my poodle Kola, I find that chicken and cheese treats get messy. They also make my fingers smell and feel a bit greasy. That’s why I prefer using pre-packaged treats.
In terms of pre-packaged treats for training, these are what Shoshi Parks, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-ka) recommends:
|Name||Flavors||Check latest price on Amazon.com|
|Zuke’s Mini-Naturals (best option overall)||Roasted Pork, Wild Rabbit, Roasted Chicken, Delicious Duck, Savory Salmon and Fresh Peanut Butter. These treats are made in the USA with real meat.||Click here|
|Wellness Soft Puppy Bites (grain free)||Crunchy Chicken and Carrots, and Soft Lamb and Salmon||Click here|
|Fruitables Skinny Minis (soft)||Watermelon (highest review score on Amazon.com)||Click here|
|Fruitables Skinny Minis (soft)||Apple and Bacon||Click here|
|Fruitables Skinny Minis (soft)||Pumpkin Berry||Click here|
|Natural Balance Mini Rewards||Duck, Chicken and Lamb||Click here|
|Orijen Freeze-Dried rewards (high protein, grain free)||Angus Beef, Free-Run Duck, Grass-Fed Lamb, Kentucky Bison, Six Fish, Tundra, Wild Boar. These treats are made in the USA and only contain natural preservatives.||Click here|
|Vital Essentials Freeze Dried treats (grain free)||Beef tripe, Beed, Chicken, Duck, Lamb, Rabbit, Salmon (made and sourced in the USA)||Click here|
Best treat bag
I prefer not to put small reward dog treats for training in my pocket. Some of them crumble and leave quite a mess. Other treats leave pockets smelly.
I’d recommend putting your training treats in a bag.
This could be as simple as a zip-lock bag which then goes in your pocket.
The best option I find is a treat bag or pouch with a waist clip. I find I can access the treats more quickly. When your dog has done something worth rewarding, the last thing you want is for time to elapse as you scramble for treats in your pocket. The moment of associating a reward with a specific action is then lost. Timing is important with positive reinforcement training.
I am pretty selective with my treat pouches as they need to be machine-washable, easy to get my hands in and out with treats, closable when not in use (with drawstring or magnetic closure) and have a waist clip. With these factors in mind, I recommend the BarkOutfitters Dog Treat Pouch.
My next best choice is the PetSafe Treat Pouch (need to wash on a cold cycle in your washing machine).
Need a clicker for clicker training, the PetSafe Clik-R Dog Training Clicker has close to 8,000 reviews with a high score on Amazon from people who have bought it.
Troubleshooting Questions From Our Readers
My dog does not listen to me anymore
There are two reasons why your dog may not listen to you anymore. This includes how your dog interacts with you physically and past experiences drawn from their memory. If both of these are not positive or not consistent, your dog may not listen to you anymore.
Before you get frustrated when you issue a command, ask yourself if the dog is familiar with the context and has seen the command before.
Your dog may not be listening to you due to ineffective types of pressure being placed on the dog. This can come in the form of bribes with food, physical pain, or overly stressful scenarios. Placing those parameters on a dog will not form the type of bond that will create a disciplined and loyal bond.
Why is my dog suddenly ignoring me?
When a dog suddenly ignores its owner, and there is a significant behavior change, the owner must carefully observe the dog. Are they sick, suffering trauma or feeling intimidated?
The dog may be suffering from a medical condition that is making it feel weak or vulnerable. It may have a ruptured eardrum or another medical issue that you cannot see.
The dog may have also inadvertently experienced a traumatic event, and it may be feeling anxious, scared, or depressed.
For example, on the 4th of July, many pets often go missing. This fact is due to the extreme stress placed on them from the fireworks. Trauma such as that may cause the dog to seek shelter or isolation from you.
Another reason your dog may be ignoring you is due to intimidation.
If you approach the dog in an aggressive or intimidating manner, it may feel threatened.
Over a period of time, the dog will learn that it must avoid you to avoid feeling intimidated.
To break that cycle, you will have to change your own behavior, too.
If you have a puppy, it is also likely it will avoid you.
Puppies are inherently more afraid of humans compared to when they are older.
Despite that, this is still a critical age in which you can socialize and train the puppy for it to develop good habits with both other dogs and humans.
My dog does not listen to me unless I have food
Although this situation can be frustrating, it is easily fixable. The solution is to train them in realizing they will receive a reward if they follow the command, even if they cannot see the reward at the same time.
It is important to remember the previous point that your dog’s behavior operates based on a previous context. For example, if your dog:
- Goes to obedience class
- Sees a treat in your hand
- Lays down when you display the physical and verbal cue.
Now the next situation is that you are at home with no treats in your hand. You issue the command to lay down, and your dog follows it but does not get any treats. Now your dog has this second context in mind.
In the future, when you issue the command for your dog to lay down, they will have no reason to perform that action if they associate it with not receiving a reward.
Practice issuing the command and providing a reward to your dog only after they have followed the command. However, make sure the treats are out of sight so they will come to recognize that they will receive a reward even if it is not visible right away.
My dog ignores me but loves my husband
This one comes down to a dog’s temperament and their general sense of a person’s personality. They may not like you. Like two individuals who get along because their personalities match, the same concept can apply to a dog and a human.
Here is a short list of some reasons your dog may love your spouse more than you:
- Your spouse spoils them and lets them bend the rules.
- Your spouse’s personality, whether it’s laid back, hyperactive, masculine/feminine, matches the dog’s personality.
- Scent. Your dog may simply prefer the smell of your spouse over your smell. Do not take it personally, but different pheromones give off different impressions to your dog.
- If your dog sees you more frequently than they see your spouse, they may get more excited. This comes from a dog seeking balance and wanting to see the other “pack” member just as much as you.
My dog does not want to me around me anymore
If your dog doesn’t want you around anymore, chances are it has to do with some of the reasons listed above.
Perhaps your dog is not feeling well and wants to be alone, or perhaps it has associated you with an unpleasant experience. Whatever the reason, what you will need to do is build up trust.
If your dog does not want to be around you, aside from taking it to the vet and ensuring everything is alright, spend time near it, easing back into the relationship. You might find things changing with a little time.
It’s A Wrap
Here at Outdoor Dog Fun, our readers often ask us this question: “How to get my dog to listen to me”. This especially true when your dog companion is outdoors and very distracted. In this article, we have extensively covered various scenarios of when your dog won’t listen to you and suggested some training tips to get their attention.