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How to get your dog to listen

Note: Thank you to Minette at 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!

Amy Williams

Tuesday 7th of March 2017

I'm having a problem with a puppy we just adopted. She listens almost flawlessly to my fiancee but will not respond to me at all. I'm home with her all day while he is at work. She won't play with me she is a high energy puppy but she lays around all day waiting for him to get home before she will play with her toys even by herself. She won't respond to commands that I give even for treats and she hides her toys from me when I try to play with her. She completly ignores me. With my fiancee she responds to commands and plays on het own when he's home and he'll throw her toys and she'll bring them back to him over and over. I don't know what to do.


Friday 24th of October 2014

We are having a problem with a foster dog/ perspective rescue for our family she is great with me when my fiancé is home but when I'm at work she's anazing for him but as soon as I come home she's horrible doesn't listen or anything to him....I ignore her and nothin works she will jut sit and whine she just refuses to listen to him when I'm home this behavior is not allowed and we have tried a lot of suggested steps for the past month and nothing seems to be helping any suggestions?

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 28th of October 2014

Have you tried having your fiance do more of the "fun" things the dog likes best like take her for walks (without you), feeding her, working on obedience commands with treats, etc.? Maybe if he takes over some of these jobs she will learn to view him as more "exciting" and fun. He could also play with her.


Saturday 15th of December 2012

Okay my dog is aq papillon and ive tryed everthinig it wont just listen not to my dad or anybody else ive tried to be nice and to relax but instead theres some abaned cats in our nieborged and thers woods my dog takes the nieboregeds trash with the cats and she the olny female to in place theres alot of male dog she just a pup the males are one year

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 19th of December 2012

You probably need to take things really slowly, in very small steps. Are you able to take the dog to obedience classes or to hire a personal trainer? I think you would really learn a lot.


Thursday 19th of January 2012

Same 4 my dog. When I walk her I'm getting yelled at because she won't come when I call her becuz when da door is open she runs away when I put on her leash. But she listens to my dad not me!

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 5th of March 2010

Yeah I know what you mean! We're trying to teach our cat not to meow before eating. He's gotten very, very bad at begging and harasses us nonstop from the moment we get up until we feed him. Guess who always rewards the cat by feeding him as he's meowing? Not me!