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Why My Dog Doesn't Listen to Me: Dog Communication 101

Why My Dog Doesn't Listen to Me: Dog Communication 101

13 minute read

My dog doesn’t listen to me.”

This is one of the most upsetting complaints that we hear from dog owners.

We know that you love your pup so much. Every good pup parent wants to provide the best life possible for their furry friend. This means treats, quality food, fun toys, and many outdoor walks together.

So when your dog suddenly starts ignoring you, it can be hurtful. 

There are many reasons why your dog might not listen to you, but first, it’s important to evaluate the factors behind your dog’s behavior. For example, does your dog listen to you inside the house but not on walks? Did your dog used to listen to you before, but seemingly doesn’t listen anymore? Has your dog always refused to obey commands?

The more you understand the factors that shape your dog’s behavior, the better you will be able to communicate with your dog!

Below, we explore the basics of dog communication so you can determine the reason why your dog is not listening to you. After reading this article, you'll no longer have to ask yourself, "Why doesn't my dog listen to me?"

Why Doesn't My Dog Listen to Me

Does your dog ignore you when you call him or her?

Does your dog refuse to obey commands that it previously obeyed?

Well, one of the reasons your dog might be ignoring you is because of age.

Similar to humans, dogs have multiple developmental stages. Think of it this way: when it comes to humans, newborn babies are much different from a child experiencing puberty. A teenager might be more rebellious than an elementary schooler or someone in their 20s.

Well, dogs have similar stages of development.

Puppies have a socialization “window” before they reach 12 weeks of age. This means that they are more willing to explore new places and meet new people. If you socialize your dog when it’s still a puppy, then it is more likely to be friendly to a wide variety of people.

The opposite is true. Dogs that weren’t properly socialized as puppies can become fearful or frightened.

So what does this have to do with obedience?

Dogs that weren’t properly socialized as puppies are more likely to become skeptical of people, including their human companions. They may hesitate to obey commands because they are suddenly frightened by things that never bothered them before.

And similar to defiant teenagers, dogs experience a rebellious phase between 6 months and 18 months of age.

If your dog is in this age bracket and you find yourself thinking, “Why is my dog suddenly ignoring me,” then age might be the answer. Attention issues are not uncommon for young dogs. These are normal growing pains for most dog parents. 

Despite this, it is important to stick to your training routine. Remember, consistency is key to a well-trained and well-behaved dog!

Additionally, for dogs that have not been fixed, this is a time of raging hormones. Even if your dog has been spayed or neutered, they are still going to discover more about the world, especially if other dogs are around, resulting in more distractions!

Still, stick to your training routine and remember to reward your dog for good behavior and for obeying commands! The next time you find yourself frustrated that my dog doesn't listen to me, it's important to be patient. Training doesn't happen overnight!

Click here to read expert tips on how to train a small dog with an electric collar.

why doesn't my dog listen to me

Your Dog Might Not Understand Your Commands in New Settings

It’s easy to forget that canine logic is very different from human logic. 

For example, when we think of the word “sit,” it means the same thing regardless of circumstances.

However, there are some dogs that get confused when you say the word “sit” in different situations. A dog that knows to “sit” in the living room might not understand that he or she also needs to “sit” when you say it during a walk.

Here’s an illustration to consider: Have you ever been surprised to see someone out of context? You can easily recognize your neighbor across the street, but what happens when you unexpectedly see your neighbor at the mall? You might be taken aback and not recognize them at first! The same might go for your boss, coworker, or even a family member.

The same is true for dogs. The same commands but in different environments can be confusing, especially for young pups. 

They need time to learn that commands are commands, no matter where you are. 

So you might think your dog is suddenly ignoring you, but the reality is that they might just be confused because you are in a new environment.

If this is the case, then continue training your dog like you have been and try various commands such as sit, stay, or lay down in different locations. Dogs are quick learners, so this should not be a major hurdle to overcome.

Your Dog is Too Distracted

Even if your dog typically obeys your commands, they might suddenly appear to ignore you.

One of the common complaints we hear is, “Why is my dog not listening when I say come to me?”

The answer could be as simple as: your dog is too distracted.

Now, there are several reasons your dog might suddenly be distracted, including but not limited to:

  • Your dog isn’t getting enough exercise. Without enough exercise, your dog has pent up energy. This energy makes them easily excited and distracted. There’s a reason people say, “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.” In general, aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day for your dog. Some breeds such as Dachshunds, Yorkies, and Terriers might need even more physical activity than other small dogs.
  • Your dog simply isn’t paying attention to you. Let’s say your dog is playing in the yard. Even if they look at you, your dog might be in “play mode.” As much as we think of dogs as part of the family, they are still animals and therefore have animalistic tendencies. An electronic collar with a remote will help you communicate with your dog by getting his or her attention, even from across the yard.
  • Your dog is scared, in pain, or injured. Dogs are not obedient when they are afraid. If you think your dog is afraid, then try to figure out why. Are they misinterpreting your body language? Is there a new dog in the vicinity that they are afraid of? In the worst case scenario, there might even be medical issues. Perhaps your dog is depressed or maybe something has damaged your dog’s eardrums (this can happen to dogs who play outside for extended periods, especially if they love rolling around twigs and gardens). If you are worried that this is the case, then you might want to visit your veterinarian. 

If your dog is too distracted, these are some factors to consider. Try to view the world through your dog’s eyes, and that might help you determine the root cause of sudden disobedience.

Instead of thinking "my dog doesn't listen to me," ask yourself, "How can I better communicate with my dog?" By asking this question, you'll be better equipped to stop and prevent unwanted behavior.  

Why Is My Dog Ignoring Me?

Before we examine how a training collar for small dogs might help your dog listen to you, we want to be very clear. 

There is a difference between:

  • A stubborn dog
  • A dog that ignores you
  • A dog that doesn’t obey your commands

Of course, these are all related in that they are behavioral issues, but they are not the same thing. 

It’s easy to claim that a dog is a “stubborn dog,” but maybe the dog is not obeying your commands because it doesn’t understand your commands. See the difference?

We’ve already covered the main reasons why a dog might suddenly stop obeying your commands. 

But what is the difference between that and “ignoring”?

Ignoring is when your dog doesn’t acknowledge your presence at all. You don’t even have to say a command. Let’s say you walk into a room. A dog ignoring you would mean that they didn’t look at you or otherwise acknowledge that you approached.

The main reasons why a dog might ignore you include:

  • A ruptured eardrum
  • Depression
  • Inappropriate punishment

If your dog is ignoring you, then you should schedule an appointment with the vet if you fear a medical reason. 

Inappropriate punishment can also result in fear, which causes dogs to act “invisible,” which comes across as though they are ignoring a human companion. 

To prevent ignoring, be sure to provide a safe, clean, and loving environment for your dog!

my dog is not listening to me

How to Get Your Small Dog to Listen to You

At Wiggle Kingdom, we specialize in training collars for small dogs. Some people also call this an electronic collar or a shock collar.  

When used properly, it’s not about the shock. It’s not about punishment. Rather, this collar is designed to be a communication device to help get your dog’s attention so they can listen to you.

So that raises the question, how can you communicate effectively with your small dog?

  • Consistency is key.

    You need to be consistent in every sense of the word. For example, if you want your dog to sit, then you need to use the same command every time. Using different words for the same command can be confusing. “Sit,” “sit now,” and “sit here” all sound the same to us as humans, but again, will register differently to dogs. Their vocabulary and reasoning is not the same as ours.

    In addition to being consistent with your language, it’s also important to be consistent with your training, timing, and expectations. This is especially true if you are attempting to stop unwanted behavior such as barking, chewing, or biting. Find out more about how to train small dogs.
  • Practice at home.

    Hey, practice makes perfect, right? Practicing at home ensures that your dog learns in a less stimulating or less distracting environment. After all, if your dog can’t obey simple commands at home, then how can you expect them to listen when you are out on a walk or at a dog park?

    For some dogs, especially smaller breeds, a simple walk around the neighborhood can be overstimulating.

    If this is the case, then start by training your pup inside your home. When things are going well, consider transitioning to your backyard. Once your pup masters proper focus and obedience in an environment, then move up to the “next level” where there are more distractions (such as in the front yard, sidewalk, or driveway).
  • Make sure you have your dog’s attention.

    It sounds simple, but your dog might not even be paying attention to you, especially if you are outside. A shock collar for small dogs is designed to help you get your dog’s attention, not to punish your dog. High quality training collars such as the ones sold by Wiggle Kingdom have multiple settings: sound, vibration, and shock.

    This ensures that you are able to find the right stimulation level without hurting or scaring your dog. This tool can help you get your dog’s attention so that they will hear and obey your commands, which allows you to stop unwanted behavior.
  • Be patient.

    Because of the language barrier, effective training doesn’t happen overnight. This is yet another reason why consistency is key. Just as you wouldn’t expect a small child to learn important life lessons overnight, we shouldn’t expect our furry friends to understand what we’re trying to communicate immediately.

    Remember, dogs learn by association. The more they experience something over time, the more they understand that concept. 
    Also, patience is key to keeping your dog happy. Dogs have an incredible ability to sense human emotion. Too much pressure, anger, or frustration can make your dog scared of you and make them aversive to obedience. A scared dog is more likely to give up and seem disconnected from their owner. Similarly, a dog that is truly stubborn may actually get more stubborn due to impatience. 

So if you’ve been wondering “what are some reasons your dog might ignore you,” we hope that this article has answered some of your questions and given you some insight to approach the issue. 

After you've had the opportunity to try and implement all these tips, hopefully you'll never again have to ask, "Why doesn't my dog listen to me?"

Pro Tip: Training is All the Time

It’s easy to think of training your dog as a similar concept to sports “practice.”

For example, when you train for a sport such as baseball or football, you have a training session.

However, when it comes to dogs, training never stops. 

Every interaction you have with your dog either reinforces or changes a behavior. 

Even if you are not actively working on a command or working on stopping unwanted behavior, your dog is always taking visual and verbal cues from you. 

This should once again underscore the importance of consistency and clarity.

If you're frustrated that my dog doesn't listen to me, make sure that you are being timely, consistent, and clear with your communication. Otherwise, you might be confusing your dog. 

Additionally, you should focus on timing. Dogs don’t have the ability to “reflect” or ponder on past events like we do. It’s impossible for us to communicate to them that something they did a few hours ago was wrong. Instead, if your dog misbehaves, you need to stop the behavior at that moment. 

Similarly, if your dog does something right or good, then you need to reward them in that moment.

By using a training collar and incorporating these principles, you are bound to have a better relationship and communication with your dog!

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