“Do as I say, not as I do.” True confession here: I don’t know what to do when my dogs won’t listen to me. I am not a very patient person (though I’m always working on that) and sometimes my dogs really push my buttons when they won’t listen. I sometimes raise my voice. In addition to that, I keep foolishly repeating the same thing over and over. “Sit, sit, SIT”. “Luke.” “Luke” “LUKE”.
In further truth, that repetition does no good, but raising my voice with Luke actually does. I know that’s frowned upon in positive pet training circles. However, when I’m trying to get his harness and leash on for a walk, he jumps around in excitement. When I finally get it on, he starts chewing on the harness and leash while I’m trying to get a wiggling Cricket ready. I lose my patience, and honestly, a firm “NO” or “STOP” quiets him down (albeit only temporarily).
It works, yes, but it’s still not my preference. I don’t like having to raise my voice to my dogs.
I like to write from personal experience. On the occasions I’m given an “assignment” to write – whether it be a product review, or a blog hop subject, I like to make it relatable, not just a dry factual post. When we chose our topic for this month’s Positive Pet Training Hop, I was challenged, as you can see from my above experiences.
“What to do when your dog won’t listen to you.” I obviously don’t really have a clear answer for that. I enjoy doing research as well, so I posed that question to google just to see what I’d get, if I could find some inspiration out there. Google didn’t have a lot of clear answers either.
I wish I could tell you that my dogs are so well behaved that this hasn’t been an issue for us, but I’ve already told you how false that would be. I have a beagle and a Labrador retriever mix after all. Their noses, their appetites, and their excitement about activities often trumps whatever words might be coming out of my mouth.
Luke is the first dog I’ve done serious training with, and he’s certainly the first dog that I’ve used positive training with. It’s not that I ever did anything extremely aversive with past dogs, I’m too soft-hearted for that. The truth is, I’m still learning about positive pet training, and I think having dogs is an ongoing learning process for all of us, because each dog is different.
I know that loud voices can scare some dogs, and I am working on not doing that so much. Our golden retriever Moses was very sensitive to being yelled at. If you even raised your voice a little, he would throw himself on the floor, roll on his back, and not move. Any further words were completely wasted on him.
We learned that about him and had to do things differently. However, I’ve learned that a raised voice (not yelling, but louder and firm) gets Luke to listen, and it does not upset him. If you’re a long-time reader, you know that I am very sensitive to Luke’s reactions to things because of his fears. I’ve also said before that Luke has some personality quirks. If I raise my voice at anyone else – say I drop something and curse out loud in irritation – that DOES bother him, he’ll run off into the other room. But if raise my voice AT him – such as when he’s bouncing around with excitement as I’m trying to put his harness on him, or biting at the leash – it doesn’t upset him at all, and he does listen to me.
I use Luke as an example, because Cricket, being so much older, is far more well behaved than her “bratty little brother” (we prefer that fun term over “willful” or “stubborn”; though I do think “opportunist” describes him well too!). She has her moments as well though, like being under my feet in the kitchen, or being out in the yard at night with her nose to the ground and not listening when we’re calling her in. Both dogs can seriously slow a walk down by stopping to smell something seemingly FOREVER. I can stick a treat right in front of their nose and get no reaction when they’re on a scent.
But that doesn’t hold a candle to Luke’s counter surfing. Just the other night he stole a piece of pizza out of the box on the kitchen counter, and completely forgot what “leave it” and “give” meant. When Luke really, really wants something, it becomes a game to him and yelling or anything else isn’t going to work anyway. He bounces off down the hallway all happy with himself, and chasing him down is only going to make him eat it faster.
That brings me to the answer to our question. On the immediate level – what if your dog has something in his mouth that is dangerous for him, or what if he runs away from you on the loose? We’ve had that happen too. Two things have worked for us with both dogs in those instances (as long as what they have, like pizza, is not better than a treat) – using the word “treat” in a happy voice, or shaking a can of treats. Yes, we use bribery, if that’s what can work when we’re in immediate need.
On the long-term level, Google turned me up the same answer, time and time again – MORE TRAINING. I would add MORE PATIENCE, for me anyway. I need to make both Luke and Cricket stand still for their harnesses, or they don’t go out the door. That’s easier said than done, especially if we’re in a time crunch. I’ve had some time free up now, I’m unemployed, so I hope for more walks and more time to work on that.
I would also add MANAGEMENT. I need to not let the situations that bring about the bad behaviors occur. Of course, we need to go for walks, so that doesn’t count. But we need to be more diligent about keeping food out of Luke’s reach (another true confession, I’ve been so preoccupied this week, Luke not only got pizza he got a piece of bread I had out to make a sandwich and half a French toast muffin that was very yummy – I really kicked myself for that one), and we need to always be diligent that gates and doors are closed so no one escapes to run free.
Add training to that – better recall – but the answer isn’t always that easy. We can work on recall all the time in our yard, but we’d better practice on walks and in other places too. But we can’t ever practice the true to life situation where they escape from the yard and “yahoo!” – they get to run free! That freedom can also trump a can of treats, but ultimately when this has happened, they have come back. Therefore, we must be doing something right, but as with all training, we can’t ever stop practicing, or having a plan for when these things happen.
What I want you to take away from this post is to just keep trying, training, and practicing. None of us are perfect, and sometimes the answers aren’t as easy as we’d like them to be. Maybe one day I’ll have one of those perfectly trained and behaved dogs that I see in other places, but I have a feeling that requires more patience than I have.
I also like to keep things in perspective. My hubby gets really upset when Luke counter surfs. It’s not the end of the world if he steals a piece of bread, and it is a tough thing to break him of. Yelling at him is pointless, but keeping things like a whole turkey out of his reach is important. I want my dogs to be happy and enjoy life too…I want to see them excited about going for walks, or playing fetch (Cricket can get out of control barking at me with impatience sometimes). At the same time, I know how important training is to keep them safe, so we’ll never stop working on that.
What do you do when your dog won’t listen to you? I’m looking forward to reading the other posts in this blog hop, maybe I’ll learn a thing or two, and so might you, so follow the links below!
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “What to do when your dog won’t listen to you”, however, you may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not!