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When your dog won’t listen, it’s frustrating. Communicating effectively with your dog is an essential piece of training them. It’s the first step to teaching them how to behave so they can live the “good dog” lifestyle—think of a calm evening walk or “Doggy and Me” backpacking trip to Yosemite.

But don’t cancel those reservations for the dog-friendly bed and breakfast just yet. Even though you might not see it, your dog is, in fact, capable of listening. And believe it or not, they are fully capable of being a great companion on your next adventure. The best way to help your dog learn to listen is to understand why your dog doesn’t hear you.

Here Are The Top 5 Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Listen To You:

1. because they have too much energy

Imagine giving a five-year-old a whole pack of Skittles and then asking them to sit down and quietly listen to a lesson on farm animals. It’s not going to happen—a few minutes later, they’ll be acting more like an animal than learning about one.

It’s no different with dogs. Dogs start each day with a full bank of energy. Of course, puppies get more energy, and older dogs get less. If they don’t get to let that energy out, it just stays stored up, which drives them—and you—crazy.

You’ll hear the phrase “a tired dog is a good dog,” which means a dog who was able to get their energy out in a healthy way will be more capable of focusing and listening when it comes to training time. If you are having a hard time with a dog who won’t listen, first try letting them run, fetching a ball several times, or taking them for a walk or a hike.

2. because your words are just words

If you’re relying too heavily on verbal commands, your words may be falling on deaf ears. Try including a hand signal with your spoken commands. That way, if your dog doesn’t hear you, they’ll see you, giving you twice the chance of getting their attention.

3. because you’re sending mixed signals

“Stay.” “Stay here.” “Don’t move.” Each of these commands can mean something different to a dog. Dogs are simple creatures, and they need simple, consistent commands. If you aren’t consistent with the words and phrases you’re using to communicate with your dog, they might have a hard time understanding. Saying “stay” sounds different from “stay here” or “don’t move.” Dogs aren’t like humans, and they can’t create word associations, so choose one word for each command and be consistent.

4. because the rules keep changing

When you’re training your dog to listen, consistency is crucial.

People understand complexity, nuance, and exceptions. For example, we can know that “sit” can mean “touch my butt to the ground so I can get a snack” and mean “sit here and stay here without a snack.” For a dog, there is no difference, no nuance. If you want the “sit” command to mean “sit here with your butt on the ground and stay here until I tell you to move,” then that’s what “sit” will mean to your dog.

If you allow exceptions, such as allowing them to quickly touch their butt to their ground to appease you long enough to get a treat, then you’ve created confusion in your pup. The next time you ask them to sit and stay seated, they might just touch their butt to the ground and look for a snack.

It’s frustrating for you because you said “sit,” and you know what you mean, but your dog doesn’t. It’s also disappointing for them because the same behavior got a treat last time but is getting them in trouble now. Define what the command means and follow it the same way every time.

5. because of your bad vibes

Some dog owners don’t realize the energy they are bringing to the situation. Dogs may be simple, but they are perceptive. If you are trying to get your dog to listen but you are acting impatient, stressed-out, or angry, your dog will read your energy and respond by not listening. Negative energy can be distracting and contagious and cause your dog to absorb your stress while simultaneously trying to listen. The best approach in this situation is to take a deep breath, calm down, and take a break before trying to interact with your dog.

It can be frustrating and time-consuming when your dog won’t listen to you. Remember, we all need help sometimes. Check out our training programs if you are maxed out, stressed out, and need help getting your dog to listen.