Tag Archives: listening challenge

Picture of a small white dog with large ears to illustrate get your dog to listen

Get your dog to listen

If you’ve ever said “my dog doesn’t listen” you’re not alone. We saw it over and over again in the comments sections of our videos. This one is for everyone who has a failure to communicate with your dog.

It’s a common experience for both dog owners and parents. Sometimes you feel like you’re repeating yourself endlessly and the object of your attention isn’t paying any. While we can’t offer much help with your offspring, we can suggest ways to get your dog to listen up.

Universal truth

Picture of a small white dog with large ears to illustrate get your dog to listen

The absolute truth about dogs is that they always, every single time, do what’s most rewarding for them. This makes them selfish, but not necessarily in a bad way. It makes dogs absolutely predictable. If your dog isn’t listening to you it’s because you haven’t made it sufficiently rewarding. “Because I said so” doesn’t work with dogs any better than it works with most people.

Nobody just blindly does what they’re told. People need a reason to do something, either to prevent something bad or realize something beneficial. It doesn’t have to be a huge difference-maker, but it does have to further the objective. Dogs need a reason, too. 

Why should they?

If you want your dog to look at you when you say their name, give them some motivation. We’re setting a challenge for everyone who says “My dog doesn’t pay attention.” For the next three days, randomly and often, say your dog’s name and immediately give them a treat. That’s all. Do it at least 10 times a day. For three days. 

At the end of those three days, we can practically guarantee that when you say your dog’s name, their head will whip around to look at you. They may even come running from the other room. They’ll have a reason to pay attention.

Enjoy it while it lasts

As long as you maintain the habit of rewarding your dog for attention, you’ll get the attention. You can even start randomizing the treats – give one every second or third time instead of every time. It’s still motivating to the dog.

But if you slack off and just go back to calling your dog’s name with no reason for them to listen, your dog will quickly revert to ignoring you. Think of it as a scale with two sides. If your dog has been generously rewarded for attention, that side of the scale is much heavier than the “ignore” side. When you really need your dog to pay attention, even if you don’t have a treat on you, the chances are that they’ll do it. We learned that back in the day when our Brussels Griffon Razzmatazz was heading toward the skunk that got into our yard one night. We shrieked his name “Razzy, Come!” and he did. Even though we didn’t have a treat. It worked, because of that heavy side of the scale.

When you do something like we did, and ask for your dog’s attention without reinforcement, realize that you’re lightening that side of the scale. Compensate for that by going back to heavy reinforcement. That way the scales will always be balanced in your favor.

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