Why Should Your Dog Listen to You?

Among the most frustrating things people encounter is their dog not listening to them.  Generally to solve this, people will yell a little louder when the dog doesn’t respond the first time.  The irony in this is the stupidity of the human.  A dog can hear a flies wings flapping at 10 meters.  So you think that yelling the command a little louder will break through that impenetrable barrier?  NO, he’s ignoring you!

There are two reasons for this:
1. the dog really doesn’t know what you want – which means you didn’t teach him.
2. He doesn’t feel he has to do what you’re asking him to do.

Let’s look at these two situations separately: 

1.  If you have not taught your dog what a command means, for example COME, how can you expect him to do it?  Remember, teaching him something means proofing it – even under distractions.  Teaching a command to a dog is a series of exercises to be sure that the dog understands exactly what is expected of him.  These lessons must be clear and they must be fair to the dog.  Simply yanking the dog to come or popping his leash to get him to jump, is not teaching.  Motivating your dog to do something and making it fun, challenging and rewarding at the same time – that is teaching.  A dog requires several follow ups to cement an idea in his mind, then he needs periodic refreshers.  Just because he knows it today, doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll know it tomorrow.  Teaching your dog is like going to the gym and dieting: if you attain your desired results and suddenly stop going, you stop looking good.  In a more clear comparative, imagine going to Greece for an extended stay and learning Greek.  All the while you are there, you are able to comprehend what people mean when they speak to you.  Once you are back home and a few years have passed, your understanding will have faded too unless you’ve kept it up.  So it is with your dog’s understanding.

This is the fault in people who insist on sending their dogs away to training and expect the dog to be perfect when he comes back.  Even if he is, it will begin to fade after some time goes by.  While at training his commands were taught and reinforced.  You may keep up with it for a few days, weeks, or months, but then its back to the old system.

2. If your dog knows what you want him to do but refuses to do it, you have a breakdown in your relationship.  This is all-too-common and I see it all the time.  The primary reason a dog does what you want is because of the relationship that you’ve established with him.  How is this relationship defined?  Is it all about fun, punishment, structure or none of the above?  Dogs must trust their person in order to perform commands willfully.  If a dog is raised in a fair manner, given good structure and fair lessons to learn and has a solid bond with his human, he will be more than willing to listen and obey.  If your relationship is all about fun and no structure, he will see you commands as a game and listen when he deems it fun.  If, on the other hand, he sees you as an authoritarian he may look for an opportunity to get away with something because you can’t reinforce what you are asking for and its his nature to test you.

The best trained dogs are those that have a solid bond with their humans.  A solid bond is based on a balance of structure and fun.  That means I will make it fun to follow my commands and reward the dog for positive actions.  I will also enforce what I say once I’m clear the dog knows what I’m asking for.  Most often this is not too necessary, but when it becomes necessary, you should be sure to do it.  That is not to say that you beat a dog for not coming when called.  It does mean that if he decides not to come, you go get him and make him come.  This can be done with a fair leash correction and bringing him to you.  We don’t correct the dog once he comes if we didn’t go get him.  If we’re too lazy to go get him and wait for him to come and keep yelling COME COME, then we have to be satisfied with the sloppy results of our training.  If he doesn’t do what is asked, we need to teach him or remind him of what it means.

The key thing here is to be aware of how we relate to our dogs and how our dogs relate to us.  Is this a relationship based on fairness, or are we the ALPHA DOG that dictates our dog’s lives?  We should be in charge, but we don’t need to be dictators.  Our relationship should be based on fun and fairness..

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