Do you feel like your voice is like white noise to your dog? Here’s how to gain back authority in the house.
I know so many people with dogs who have attended training classes and their dogs respond to all learnt commands in the training environment, when food is involved or simply when they want to. Responding when they want to however, generally doesn’t fit with when the NEED to or when you want them to!
If I had a pound for every dog owner who has told me that their dog has selective hearing, I would be a very rich man indeed! There is little more frustrating or embarrassing watching your dog disappear into the distance whilst you frantically screech an array of commands or even trying to have a conversation with someone whilst repeatedly trying to get your dog to sit.
There are a great many reasons why dogs do not listen or respond in different situations. The main is that their training is incomplete and has not been ‘generalised’ – they have simply not learnt that all of those commands that you have taught them apply all of the time; it all situations, locations and environments. Dogs frequently learn that ‘training’ happens once a week at classes or in a situation whereby you are focussed completely on the dog. They then associate your lack of consistency / concentration with the choice to ignore you. If they never had ignored you successfully – then they never would.
Another reason that your voice is simply background noise to a dog is that you haven’t built any communication with them. You have expected a dog to speak English and innately want to do as you tell them to do and alas have learnt that human to dog communication is something that must be taught.
I do also believe that there are times that dogs simply do not hear you – I often liken it to when men are watching the football on TV and someone speaks to them – they are completely ‘zoned out’ – the same happens in my opinion when dogs are fulfilling their own intrinsic drives to chase and such.
The way to make your dog completely zone out and become used to your voice and become indifferent to your commands is keep chatting.
I think it is normal to talk to dogs as you wander around the house; ‘Good boy, we’ll go for walk soon’ or ‘Mummy will be home soon’ for example. However, if you are always talking to the dog, saying good girl just because you want to or just stroking and talking, it begins to mean nothing much. When you praise the dog, you need it to mean something and it will not if praise is always available and the dog does nothing for it and can therefore make no link in its mind with anything in particular. This also reduces the desire to respond to commands for praise as the praise means so little, because the dog hears it all of the time.
As I often say, dog training is made up of two components –
- the learnt action – does the dog understand?
- and the motivation to respond – what happens if he does or doesn’t respond?
If your dog has numerous repetitions of you issuing commands that he ignores without consequence – then of course it means nothing and therefore he can continue to ignore what you say when it suits him.
There are a great many things in your dogs life that he will prefer to do than to listen to you. It makes me laugh when people say that in order to train your dog, you have to be the most exciting thing around – well than ain’t never gonna happen!! Boring old you, who is with the dog a whole lot of the time being more exciting than a herd of deer, an attractive doggie playmate, some heavenly scented poop to roll in. You just can’t match it!
Get your house in order first
If your dog frequently ignores you, you will need to start a fresh and shake it up a bit! I find that altering daily routines and household rules can give way to starting a new level of communication with your dog. Focusing him on the changing routines and rules can induce him to be all ears. As things change – he will have to listen and work out new ways to get your affection, attention and praise.
Very few people make a link between what you do with your dog for 22 odd hours in the day when in the house and the two hours that you are out in public places. In the house is where you create your relationship and where your dog learns about you – dogs don’t have much to do all day generally – whilst you are flying around juggling work, kids, cooking, shopping and all manner of tasks, the dog simply takes it all in.
So many people say to me ‘oh, he is ever so good in the house – it is just outside he is a problem!
Well, of course he is good in the house – there is nothing to do, but it is in the house where you dog learns to behave and learns to communicate or not with you.
The house rules that I find particularly beneficial are teaching the dog to leave the room on command and doing this daily, teaching the dog to go and stay on his bed and doing this daily, having some time where the dog is not in your presence, not having the dog on the furniture without invite, not stroking the dog unless he has done something like ‘come’ or ‘down’ to earn it.
All of these can be seen in the DVD The Canine Lifestyle. Once you have employed that for a few days it is then a case of the three tents.
ConsisTENT, insisTENT, PersisTENT.
You have to be sure that the dog understands what you think he understands – like the commands that you have taught, whatever they may be. If he understands in different situations the commands that you have taught, you will need to become more persistent ensuring that you get what you want, more consistent with your commands and your expectations and more insistent you’re your wishes.
If you go back to basics with your training, start teaching and spending more time with your dog where you are ‘together’ having fun, playing, teaching and learning rather than simply being in each other’s company – make walks productive training sessions, not just a time for you to ignore the dog and visa versa!
Just focus on spending quality time with your dog, employing some consistent rules and not talking the whole time and you should soon see some different responses from your dog and you can both relax and have a more enjoyable relationship.