Why Wont My Dog Listen To Me?

Is your furry friend not listening to you? Then you’ve come to the right place! Before we get started though, I thought you might enjoy this video:

On a serious note though, a dog that won’t listen is a troublesome thing. Here’s what you need to know (and do) to overcome the “My Dog Won’t Listen To Me” dilemma.

Step One: Establish Communication

Talk to your dog. Do you know how much he/she understands? When your dog first comes home with you it is as if he/she has been sent to a foreign country. Dogs know no English, French, Spanish, etc. They must be shown what each word/phrase means – EVEN THEIR OWN NAME! Dogs DO understand “dogspeak” – the tones and body language of canines. The easiest way to get a concept across to anyone (including a dog) is to speak to them in their own language. Since we are unable to bark, etc., the best we can do is use our tone of voice to communicate our desires to our dogs early in our new relationship. With proper training techniques, dogs CAN and DO learn not only English, but whatever languages their owners use.

Start with your tone of voice. Women have the easiest time with what I call the “Good Dog” tone of voice – the one that is most often high pitched, soft, sweet, and generally in a falsetto. Men have the easiest time with the “Bad Dog” tone – the one that is deep (but doesn’t have to be!), stern, and sometimes gravelly. Men also have the easiest time with the “Command” tone – the one that is neither good nor bad, but has a firm (usually lower) tone. Try telling your dog that he/she is bad using the “Good Dog” tone; then try praising your dog using the “Bad Dog” tone. Watch your dog’s reaction to each. Even if they understand some of the words, they generally react to the tone first.

Many people have a difficult time getting their dogs to obey their “Command” tone of voice. Often it is because they “tell” their dogs in the form of a question: “staaaaaayyyyy?” – with a voice raising at the end of the command. Remember, commands must be firm, short, and to the point, with the tone going down at the end, never letting the word drag on.

Step Two: Basic Training

To start to teach your dog your language, you need to combine the words with an action that shows the dog what you want, and some reinforcement – either positive or negative. Say your dog’s name. Does the dog respond (look at you, wag his tail, move toward you)? Your dog should ALWAYS have a pleasant experience when s/he hears his name – NEVER unpleasant. Some people create a new “Bad Dog” name to use for those bad dog times. To teach the dog his name, position your dog close enough to touch, preferably on a leash so s/he doesn’t move away. Say the name cheerfully and give his ear a tug, or his leash a tug toward you, or move his muzzle in your direction. When the dog looks in your direction, immediately use your “Good Dog” voice and praise and stroke your dog on the head or chest. Practice this until looking at you happens without the tug and continue to practice for the dog’s entire life! It reinforces the communication link between the owner and dog.

Teach other words the same way. Simple one word commands work best. Say the dog’s name (to get his attention – remember that communication link!), follow with a command, and then SHOW him what you want. PRAISE IMMEDIATELY when the action is completed – even if you MADE him do it! Eventually you dog will learn to respond to the command without needing to be shown – but you should never forget to praise!

Step Three: Getting Your Point Across

Sometimes words are not enough when communicating with a dog. Since dogs must learn what each word means, all the other “extra” words are just a bunch of “Blah, Blah” to them! Consider the Gary Larson cartoon that shows an owner scolding his dog, Ginger, then shows what the dog hears “Ginger, blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah…”.

I have learned that a sort of modified canine language can get a dog’s attention faster than human words. Those of you who have been dog owners probably have already learned just how insignificant the word “NO” is to a puppy. This is especially true if it is said frequently (kinda like kids, in that respect…). the word “no” to a dog is a nice soft word, with no sharp sound to it. Therefore there is nothing in the word to catch a dog’s attention, or to stop them from continuing the action you wish to halt. I find a gravelly, growly “EGH!” (hard to spell a sound but it’s like you are vocalizing while pushing air out of your lungs) can be used to halt activity. Or try “Angh, Angh!” – our sound for no, without saying the word – only say it with a growl, and sharply. That is also a good sound to use! If you are having problems with your dog mouthing you, try a very shrill and loud “OW!!”, which ususally stops them in mid-chew! Their littermates and other dogs use sounds like that to set limits on mouthing behavior.

Praise Sounds…

“Praise Sounds” are harder to create. My dog knows she has done really well when I say one of several words I reserve ONLY for really good work: EXCELLENT! or ALRIGHT!, or PERFECT! I say them very cheerfully, but not with the falsetto “Good Dog” voice. I will often follow any of these words with a beloved scratch on the chest, or an extra-special tidbit (small and chewy, not crunchy) that I use only for extra-special rewards.

Still Have Questions?

Simply get in touch with us at Dog Training Basics – we’d love to hear from you!

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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

27 CommentsLeave a comment

  • My black Labrador Shadow doesn’t stop chewing,when you tell him not to do something he walks away but when we are not around he does what he was told not to do,he is chewing our alarm beams,i dont know how to stop him,please can I have some advice on how to stop this dog from chewing everything he wants to.

  • Shadow also doesn’t stop chewing tyres,he won’t stop chewing our motorbike tyres and chases after the bikes when we ride them,he also attacks the wheelie bin wheels and the wheel barrow wheels,how do I get him out of this habit?

    • Do you have a treadmill? Sometimes keeping the dog busy while running the motorcycle or wheelbarrows can stop the behavior. Used more for when they are scared but that might be the reason he goes after such things. like when they attack vacuums!

      • My Dog Gus is extremely crazy at times going after feet of my 15 yr old, he just wont stop and he is like this everytime a new person comes in or other dogs. He gets so out of control we have to seperate him, every time. He sometimes will attach or nip at me when i try to get a hold of him to tell him no or when i am seperating him. He also pees sometimes which is due to his excitement. I have older children 15 but i also have a 3 yr old autistic child and a 1.5 yr old so getting this behavior under control is important. Its just everything we have tried and reinforced and are consistent with he just doeant get it. Its been since we got him at 8 weeks old he gets so over excited and wont calm down.

  • My dog copper will not listen when we let him outiside to go potty. I will call him and he will look at me then proceed to do what he wants or just run around. what can I do to get him to listen again? this has beenhappening for the last month or so.

  • I cannot tell you how much pain me, my family and the neighbours went through to get our dog to listen and obey. But we got there in the end.

    For me it was vital to get some help from one person who knew what they were doing. I didn’t find a solution checking out lots of youtube videos because there were so many conflicting ideas.

    Love the part about praise sounds. All i have to do is change the tone of my voice and my dog listens.

    Thanks

  • Dear Chelsea, This has happened with my Dog Bella, Copper just needs some stern language.
    EXAMPLES:
    “Copper! Come here boy!! Come here!”
    or something.
    -Savannah
    Owner of Mandy and Bella

  • Excellent write-up. I absolutely love this site. Thanks!

  • I have a related question. I have two dogs, a Rottweiler and a golden retriever. Especially the golden retriever obeys pretty well, but now, I’m trying to teach him not to listen to commands we give to the Rottweiler. He doesn’t seem to grasps this concept however. If we give a command to the Rottweiler, the golden obeys as well, and looks pretty confused when we’re not pleased. Do you have some tips to accomplish this?

  • Hi,

    i am now taking care of my friend’s dog because I am staying at his house during Spring break and he is away for a several days, but he is not listening to a word I say!

    He knows who I am because I have been his house quite a few times, and he would like my feet(….) and keep nudging to me. But when I try to get him out of cage for potty or food, he doesn’t give a crap.

    Please help me!

  • my jack/chi must be super smart,walks next to me off leash just roams less than 50 feet away from me.i call he comes.hold up the leash,he jumps off the couch.he has free roam of the house.i say bed bang he is in the bed.running free at the dog park,i call his name show him the leash,he comes of sits down.

  • Training one’s dog seems to be a complicated task. Yet, educate one’s dog properly is not that difficult, even if you are new at it.

    No need to make your dog a circus animal: a good education will make you and your companion accomplices.

  • I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I leave him at home he pees in the house: on the carpet, on the bed, on flowers..
    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  • How do i get my shi-po puppy to use a puppy grass pad to potty on? I live in a
    Apartment and she only weighs 4 lbs

  • My 9 month old lab when I leave her off leash at the beach and sees another dog and human she does not list to my “come” command… she’s a great listener other wise .. what do I do when that happens?

  • I live on a main road my little girl has got out back gate and front door twice, she just runs she has run over main road she just won’t come to me she is very tiny I’m so worried that she gets badly hurt or worse. What can I do to get her to stay even when door or gate are open.

  • Thanks for sharing. Your blog is full of useful info.

  • How do I get my few weeks old chihuahua to stop biting and to get him to potty on his practice mat and not the carpet??

  • Interesting site, regular physical exercise helps the dog learn

  • My puppy is 9 weeks and I play with it all the time it bites me now all the time it doesn’t want to do nothing but go out side and bite me in a playful way what do I do to get her go just like spending time with me

  • I really like your tip about establishing communication when it comes to training your dog. That really seems like something that would be important so that your dog understands what you are wanting them to do. We are working on training our new puppy right now and it has definitely been a challenge. We will have to keep these tips in mind, thank you for sharing!

  • my dog listen only to me and doesnt responds to other family members what to do?

  • My dog refuses to when I try to bring her back indide after she uses the bathroom. She is small and starting to ignore the boundries of the yard as well. What should I do?

  • My dog likes to pick up skins and other dead animals when we are outside and when I tell him to drop it, he won’t listen. He’s a Toy Fox Terrier Chihuahua mix (Taco Terrier) and is very stubborn, but I don’t understand why he doesn’t get the concept of drop it. Should I use a different term?

  • Thanks for the article and the great blog with so much info!

  • I have a 6 year old Blue Heeler female and she is not fixed. I would love for her to have a litter of puppies but I have not found the right male yet. From the time I got her at about 9 weeks old, she thinks that I belong to her instead of her belonging to me. She is on my heels all day long, sometimes I even hit her face when walking. If I get up in the middle of the night guess who is right on my heels! I have quite a few other animals and she’s jealous of every one of them. If I yell at the ducks, she has to have the last word, like she thinks she’s helping me. If I don’t lock her in the house when I do my chores, she barks at me ( or the other animals) I don’t know which the whole time I’m outside. When I come back inside she gets on to me like I did something wrong in her eyes. She bites at the vacuum cleaner and I can’t even take a bath or shower without having a fight with her over the water running. She is a very caring and smart Dog, but she hates anything or anyone I pay attention to. I don’t know what else I can do or try to get her to listen to me and enjoy the other animals along with the!
    Robin Brandon

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