Note: Thank you to Minette at TheDogTrainingSecret.com for sharing her tips on how to get a dog to listen. Her tips are a good reminder for all of us to be consistent with our dogs – something I need work on!
One of the problems I deal with frequently is that the dog or dogs in the house only listen to one of the owners or family members and not everyone. There are several possibilities and reasons that this problem occurs, and it is important to fix the structure in the household so that the dog respects, loves and listens to everyone equally.
The first scenario I find is women complaining that the dog does not listen to her like he/she does to her husband. Often dogs simply respect the tone of the male voice. Men less often “chatter” to their dogs such as “How are you honey?” “You're such a pretty dog,” “Whatcha doing?” “Who’s my best boy?” etc.
As women, we tend to chat a lot to each other, our friends, spouses or significant others. We want to talk about our feelings and discuss politics. If there is a lull in the conversation we are bred and raised to change the subject and keep things flowing. It is no wonder we have idle conversations with our pets.
There is no problem with talking to your pets, but they don’t speak English, and after a while they tend to tune out our ramblings. Men are less likely to chit chat with their furry family members at random intervals, and if they do they use a commanding tone when they want something which makes dogs listen. We can take some lessons from the men in our lives. If you want something, command it, believe in yourself, and make it happen!
Dogs need consistency
Another reason for our dogs tuning us out is because we are not consistent. Consistency is the most important part of dog training. Again, dogs don’t speak English, and the only way for them to learn is through our consistency and the consistency of people around them. I can’t tell you how many couples I work with that each have their own set of commands.
One person says “go lay down,” the other says “get away,” or “take a break” and the dog has no idea that the commands are all the same. You must use the same commands for the same actions every time and everyone must use them consistently for your dog to be successful.
Only command a dog when you are in control
Another part of consistency is reliability and your control of the situation. I would never give a dog that I could not control a command. I only give a command when I am in control. If my dog is in the yard I would never tell him to sit, or down, or come unless I knew with 95 percent accuracy that he would obey.
People often give commands that they can’t enforce. If you give a command and your dog does not comply and you cannot control his complicity, he learns that the command means nothing.
I would never tell my dog to come to me if I thought he was not going to or I had no control or no ability to make him come to me. It waters down the word and makes it mean nothing to your dog. When you give a command, make sure your dog complies!
Enforce the command, help your dog or make your dog listen to you the first time so that your commands are meaningful. I often liken this to unruly children I see in Wal-Mart or out shopping with their parents. You often hear parents saying “Timmy, get down from there, don’t make me come up and spank you. Timmy, I mean it get down here. Timmy, don’t make me come up there!”
This is an example of a parent who is not consistent. Timmy knows that his parents aren’t likely to make him comply so he continues to ignore them. If my mother told me to do something, I was falling over myself to comply because I knew she would do whatever she threatened. She was a very consistent parent!
Don’t threaten your dog. Help him comply in the beginning with consistency and he will choose good behavior. Consistency is one of the kindest things we can offer our animals and our children. I have to imagine that it is horrifying to never know when your parent or your owner will fly off the handle and get upset at you for something that you have done several times.
Inconsistency is unfair! Make sure you and your spouse use the same commands and that if you give a command you make your dog obey.
Have fun with your dog, but always enforce rules
The other situation I see is the fun parent vs. the enforcer. Again, this is like raising children; you can’t make an appearance in parenting occasionally or be a friend or a litter-mate and be respected. You must be both the fun parent and the parent who enforces rules.
If the dog ignores one “parent,” the other parent should not step in because this only teaches the dog that “Dad” is the only one he needs to listen to. Dad should ignore it and let Mom correct the behavior. This goes back to being consistent. Decide as a couple what your rules are and everyone has to adhere to those. Anything else is confusing and causes animosity between dog and owner.
No one wants to feel like they are constantly enforcing rules and never enjoying the relationship with the animal. This is just one more reason to utilize positive reinforcement training, because even when you correct a behavior it can be fun for everyone.
Use a commanding voice when you want your dog to obey and remember that sometimes he does tune out our “chatter,” so let him know when you are giving a command. Be consistent by utilizing the same commands and making sure they mean the same thing to everyone. Be consistent about what happens when a command is given and when a command is ignored. And, everyone should have fun working with the dog, even correcting behaviors and teaching your dog something new should be fun!