But it’s not always easy to get to the root of the problem. So where do you start if your dog doesn’t obey — either in specific situations or all of the time? Here are a few problems you may be encountering.
Talk to your dog. Do you know how much he/she understands? When your dog first comes home with you it is as if he/she has been sent to a foreign country. Dogs know no English, French, Spanish, etc. They must be shown what each word/phrase means – EVEN THEIR OWN NAME! Dogs DO understand “dogspeak” – the tones and body language of canines. The easiest way to get a concept across to anyone (including a dog) is to speak to them in their own language. Since we are unable to bark, etc., the best we can do is use our tone of voice to communicate our desires to our dogs early in our new relationship. With proper training techniques, dogs CAN and DO learn not only English, but whatever languages their owners use.
Go back to basics
Does your dog truly know the command? It can take hundreds or even thousands of repetitions for some dogs to learn a new skill. Practice makes perfect. You may need to focus on training again to ensure your dog really has it down.
Sometimes words are not enough when communicating with a dog. Since dogs must learn what each word means, all the other “extra” words are just a bunch of “Blah, Blah” to them! Consider the Gary Larson cartoon that shows an owner scolding his dog, Ginger, then shows what the dog hears “Ginger, blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah…”.
Notice your dog’s emotional state
Beyond pent-up energy, your dog may be distracted by a number of emotions. If you are trying to train her to come when a neighbor’s dog approaches, your pup may instead be so focused on claiming her territory that she’s tuned you out. Or she may be so frightened by the sound of thunder and lightning that there’s little mental space to hear your command to go to her crate. You have to deal with the underlying issue before you can get your dog to really listen to you.
If you continue to have problems, consider hiring a professional to help. Communication between you and your dog is important for both of you and worth the investment of your time and energy.
“Praise Sounds” are harder to create. My dog knows she has done really well when I say one of several words I reserve ONLY for really good work: EXCELLENT! or ALRIGHT!, or PERFECT! I say them very cheerfully, but not with the falsetto “Good Dog” voice. I will often follow any of these words with a beloved scratch on the chest, or an extra-special tidbit (small and chewy, not crunchy) that I use only for extra-special rewards.