Our furry buddies can be so occupied that their ears turn deaf to our calls. It’s frustrating for pet owners and it also sends the dog to harm’s way. Imagine them bolting to the street and not minding your call for them to get back. It will only take one fast-moving car to turn the high-speed chase into a drive to the vet. Before I knew how to make my dog listen to me, it took me countless training sessions and patience-testing moments.
It can be nerve-racking, especially for inexperienced owners. However, leashing or jailing the doggo to the crate isn’t the best solution to this. It will only fuel the behavioral problem of your dog. But if you want to keep your sanity while training your pet to pay attention, you have to point out the problem.
Why dogs don’t listen to their owners
There are times when our doggos seem to be oblivious of our presence. As if our firm “come back here!” is nothing but a whisper in the air. I will admit that it irritates me to the point that I want to shout just to be heard. But years of owning a dog taught me that it won’t do any good.
So here’s the question: why do dogs don’t listen to their owners? The answer to this lies on what you do to catch their attention. Do you simply call them and don’t exhibit any physical gesture? Dogs observe what we do and more often, they remember verbal cues if it’s done with movements.
Think about this: you speak English or whatever language, but your pet speaks doggo language. So what do we do when another person can’t understand our words? We use our gestures. The same goes for dogs. They are more attuned to physical communication rather than verbal. Ask yourself this: is my dog not paying attention or he doesn’t really understand what I’m saying?
Here are more possible reasons behind the lack of attention:
He doesn’t find you fun enough
Maybe your dog finds chasing the critters on the yard more fun than your dog attention training. If you don’t engage them with physical activities like playing fetch or catching the Frisbee, they will decide to ignore you. They’d rather look for their own adventures than to rely on what you have to offer.
The doggo needs more training
Some dogs are born to have poor attention. Basset Hounds and Beagles, for example, are born with powerful noses. Once they get hook with a certain smell, they will follow it whatever it takes. This makes them deaf to any verbal cues from their pet owners. Training and regular obedience drills can help fix this problem.
He is afraid of punishment
If you just call your dog to serve punishment, there’s no need to discuss why the pooch isn’t listening to you. For example, your dog had wandered in the neighborhood for hours and you’re in a state of frenzy looking for him. If you punish him for going back, the dog might think that his act of returning is something bad. Aside from ignoring you, the doggo will also leave you.
Will basic training work?
Basic training will definitely work, but only if you pair it with physical cues. If you call his name, you should always associate it with something positive or pleasant (more on this later). You can pet him or say “Good Dog” happily. This way, he will associate the word to some kind of reward. Soon, he will listen to you and pay more attention.
This worked for my dog, but it will still vary on each breed. Once you establish the name recall, you can now pair it with a simple command. Once he does what you want, say sitting or running back, you should praise or reward him right away.
Like toddlers, dogs can have mood swings if you ask them to do something on a time they don’t like to. For example, if your dog usually naps in the afternoon, you’re not supposed to wake him up for training. You shouldn’t take them out on the grocery store or a mall during their rest periods. They will just give you a hard time, not to mention the public meltdown of intense barking and resisting to walk on a leash.
How to make my dog listen to me? I focused on proper timing. Due to your dog’s short lifespan of about 12-15 years, everything around him moves fast. An hour of putting him on a crate can feel like a day. So when you’re teaching him new things, you should be quick in giving rewards and pointing out bad behavior. That way, you can make the connection and your dog will learn to pay attention.
Using treats as leverage
There’s no best reward for doggos than sumptuous dog treats. If you want him to pay attention during dog attention training, give out some treats when he’s done something right. And if he resists heeding your call, don’t punish him by hitting or crating. Instead, deprive him of his favorite snack.
A nice treat will overrule any disobedience and distraction. This becomes more effective if you get a smelly treat.
But like your dog’s food, get treats that are healthy and packed with added nutrition. Watch out for no-go ingredients that can harm your dog’s body. For teething pups, I suggest that you get a chewy treat that can ease mouthing.
It’s important that you get a variety of dog snacks to keep the excitement going. Make sure to store it in a locked cabinet if you don’t want to be outsmarted – because my dog did!
Don’t reward your dog out of the blue. It will break the accomplishment-driven sense of giving out treats. Trust me on this one. If you have a firm rule with the treats, your dog is going to watch you with a hawk eye and run fast toward you the moment he hears his name.
The crucial point here is to avoid using treats as a bribe. If your dog is throwing tantrums and doesn’t want to pay attention, stand your ground and don’t let the treat slip. You should also learn how to reduce the treats as you progress with training.
Dog attention training tips
If you’re dealing with a doggo with a poor attention span, I’ve listed here some of the things you can do. Take note that this may or may not work for all dogs as behavior varies on each breed:
-Release their energy
If this is your dog’s first walk for a couple of days, that pooch will be thrilled and excited. The doggo is only focused to release the energy that’s currently taking on his body. No matter how hard you call him to sit, it would be difficult to do so. So what can do you here?
For 15 or 20 minutes, play fetch or run with your dog on the yard. Give him exercise and then squeeze in some discipline drills when he’s starting to tone down. Remember to reward only after a command is accomplished.
After that, you can take him for a walk to drain the energy left in him. Your pooch will have an easier time listening to you when he is a bit worn out. This is exactly what I did on how to make my dog listen to me.
-Establishing your command
Dogs only follow the pack leader. If you fail to show that you’re the boss, he will ignore and reign over you. This shouldn’t be the case. Establish your command by proving that you’re not a pushover. You can start with his toys. Retrieve it during bedtime and don’t let him reign if he resists. That way, your dog will realize that you call the shots inside the house.
Just remember that you don’t have to shout or hit your pet just to let him know you’re the leader. You can do this with alternative ways like controlling his feeding schedule and imposing a permission-based setup.
-Going beyond verbal cues
Again, dogs don’t understand our language. When they communicate with other dogs, they use their bodies and energy to send the message. So no matter how you bombard them with verbal cues like “sit!”, “come back!”, or “no!”, they won’t understand unless you pair it with gestures.
Use your tone of voice to indicate displease and happiness. If you don’t want what he did, say a firm “no” and make a stopping gesture with your hand. They may not understand what you said, but the dog will realize that you’re not happy with their behavior.
If your dog suddenly listened to you, point out what changed on your setup. Are you looking in a different direction? Is he hungry? Are you sitting near the treats jar? You can use these as your leverage.
Yes, the classic “Good boy!” and “Good girl!” praises work the trick! Make sure to reserve some words for the purpose of praising like “Good job!” Avoid using this around the house randomly so you will maintain the excitement and the eager-to-please attitude of your dog.
Always say your praises with a cheery voiced paired with a pat on the head or a short belly rub. You can give out some treats too if the dog has maintained his attention longer than usual.
-Removing the distractions
A lot of things can distract your dog – a falling leaf or the smell of the meal being cooked in the kitchen. By limiting the distractions, you’ll have your dog’s attention. It’s best to train them on a fenced yard with locked gates.
Aside from external distractions, you should also address the internal. A hungry dog is a grumpy dog. You can’t expect your pet to pay attention if he has a growling stomach. Most likely, he will sniff around and look for something to chew on. Even if you’re giving out treats, it’s not best to perform dog attention training in an empty stomach.
But once your dog is starting to pay more attention, you can introduce a distraction to up the game.
-Using positive reinforcement
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it would be negative reinforcements don’t yield any results. It would just send your dog wandering away and fearing training time. To encourage them to pay attention, it’s best to use the reward system to get them hooked. I used treats as a way on how to make my dog listen to me.
Never resort to physical punishment like spanking or confining them to the crate when they stopped paying attention. As I’ve said earlier, this will give your training sessions a big disservice.
-Understanding the breed
Take note that there are dogs that can be easily distracted by moving objects. Hunting and herding breeds simply can’t resist chasing a squirrel during training time. But this doesn’t mean that their behavior is beyond fixing.
You just have to practice more patience and creativity so your doggo will learn to practice restraint. The more you get him to pay attention to the presence of a distraction, the better.
By knowing the innate behaviors of your dog’s breed, you can devise a better dog attention training plan.
-Knowing what they feel
Your pooch has feelings too. He’s probably heartsick from being ignored earlier or he’s getting afraid of the tone of your voice. It’s important to know that when dogs are threatened or exposed to intense fear, their self-preservation instinct takes over. It blocks them from performing complex thinking, thus the failure to pay attention.
Even if thunder or rainfall sounds non-threatening to you, it could be too loud for your dog. That means there’s no mental space to process your call because his system is flooded with fear.
If in, any case, you can’ handle attention training well, you can always hire a dog trainer.
So how to make my dog listen to me? I practiced these steps and asked the advice of an expert. It will take a bit longer for some breeds, but they will soon get used to the physical and verbal cues you’re giving. You just have to be consistent.
On this video, dog expert Zak George gives more tips on how to make your dog listen: