Why Won’t My Dog Listen To Me?


 If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘why won’t my dog listen to me’, you may be interested in this Holidays4Dogs article! We look at the reasons  why some dogs seem to ignore their frustrated owners and more, importantly, what owners can do to change this.

Firstly, dogs really don’t ignore their owners out of defiance, or spite. Once owners realise this, they can begin to work out the reasons for their pet’s apparent lack of attention or, selective deafness.

Frequently, a dog will not respond to their owner’s commands simply because they do not yet fully understand what is being asked of them. Dogs will always respond really well to reward based training and the majority will work well if there are suitable rewards on offer.

What’s in it for me? (says Fido!).

An owner’s job is to try and establish what those preferred rewards are. Most dogs will respond to tasty treats – like small pieces of liver, or cheese.  Others will respond better to games, or a toy – like a ball on a rope.

Some are happy enough to receive verbal and tactile praise. There are very few dogs that will not respond to one, or a combination, of these rewards. The majority of dogs can be taught all sorts of skills with clicker training.

What owners should never do is reprimand their dog for not paying attention. If a dog is not listening before his owner starts shouting at him, he certainly won’t be interested once he’s been told off!

How to be more interesting to your dog.

Short of wearing a string of sausages around your neck, you need to find out what it is that stimulates interest in your dog.

Food is always a big winner, but it needs to be something that the dog doesn’t ordinarily eat. Tiny pieces of cheese, liver or ham for instance, are usually hands down favourites.

Avoid ‘crunchy’ foods that make the dog’s mouth dry and are less easy to swallow. At the start of training, you will be providing a lot of treats!

Your dog may be the type that goes crazy for a particular toy, like a tug rope – spend time with your dog and find out what it is he goes crazy for.

Now what?

The next step is to help your dog understand that rewards are available and they are easy for him to get. When you start off training your dog, you need to make sure that rewards come thick and fast.

Many people make the mistake of asking far too much of their pooches before letting them have a reward. The result? The dog quickly loses interest in the thing that his owner seems reluctant to part with.

However, if your dog gets ‘paid’ handsomely for doing very little you can get your dog to sit up and pay attention.

Rather than expect lots of behaviours before you reward your dog, be more generous in the early stages. Make it easier for your dog to earn the things he likes, for not much effort.

A good tip is to make sure that, in the early stages of training, you have plenty of rewards handy so you can be spontaneous with them throughout the day. A training schedule at the same time, in the same place, is all well and good.

However, part of the process is that the dog needs to understand he will never know when good things happen. If rewards and games are on offer in different places and contexts, he will be more inclined to pay attention to his owner in general.

Fine Focus.

Your dog will soon begin to learn that good things happen when you are around. After a while, you will notice your dog begins to focus and listen to you much more. Once you have gained his attention in this way, you will be in a much better position to work with him and teach him new things. Getting your dog’s attention and encouraging him to focus on you is half the battle.

Remember to be spontaneous with your rewards throughout the day. Keep your dog guessing about just when the fun is going to happen. You can be sure your dog will always keep one ear open at least.


It isn’t feasible for us to simply demand attention from our dogs. Unfortunately, the question isn’t as simple as, ‘why won’t my dog listen to me?’. We have to create a relationship that communicates to our dogs that being attentive pays off. It doesn’t necessarily happen overnight and some dog’s can be more challenging than others. However, with time and a little patience, most dogs will be more than willing to give us their undivided attention.