Why isn’t my dog listening to me already?
A common misconception among dog owners is that dogs aren’t listening because they don’t respect their handler. This fails to consider the fact that the domesticated dog has, at best, the capacity of a two-year-old child. Common reasons your dog is not performing a desired behavior include:
- The dog doesn’t understand the behavior you want
- The dog is very distracted or stressed
- The dog needs motivation
- Lack of consistency on the part of the handler
Well that’s dandy, but now what? Never fear, help is here!
The dog doesn’t understand the behavior:
Dogs do not tend to generalize well. Generalization means that a behavior can be performed in any context to build fluency. Fluency is the ability of the dog to perform in multiple settings with ease. Only when these criteria have been met does your dog really know a behavior.
- Learn new behaviors in an area with few distractions
- Break down the behavior into small steps and make sure each step is understood before progressing
- Increase difficulty gradually
The dog needs motivation:
Every dog has a natural drive or lack thereof. Take a border collie: they are high energy, intelligent and bred for work. What about a bulldog? While very loving and trainable, the border collie will easily run circles around the bulldog. You may need to give these less driven dogs more incentive to go along with your plans. Some ways to do this are:
- Higher value food rewards (real meat!)
- Raise your own energy level (let’s party!)
- Train during times your pet is feeling energetic
- Be aware of your own feelings. If you are tired, frustrated or don’t feel good,
- this can affect how your dog responds to you.
The dog is distracted/stressed:
Imagine being asked to take an algebra exam at an amusement park or someone is shouting. Doesn’t sound very easy does it? Before asking your dog to perform in difficult circumstances, build up resistance to distractions in a variety of settings:
- Inside the house
- Back yard
- Front yard
- At the park
- At a store with no dogs
- At a store with other dogs
Lack of consistency from the handler:
We often give our dogs mixed messages without intending to. Perhaps we changed the word for “sit.” Or we use “Down” both for laying down and to stop jumping. Our dogs are so adept at learning our body cues, that sometimes a flick of a ponytail or a hand gesture become an important par of being asked to sit, and we aren’t even aware of it! Here are some tips for being more consistent with our communication:
- Teach one behavior at a time
- Make sure a cue has only one meaning
- Video yourself training to see if you are adding in words or gestures without intent
For more tips from the Karen Pryor Academy, visit their website.
To learn more about Karma Canine, visit About Me!