Why Does My Dog Ignore Me? Am I Invisible?
This is one of the most common questions we hear from dog parents. We've all been there... you call your dog, and he heads the other way. Or you tell him to stay, and he jumps right up. Many of us repeat the command and sometimes even threaten our dog, "If you don't come by the count of 3, there will be big trouble, Fido." That never really works, and all those words confuse him.
Contrary to what some people think, your dog is not challenging your authority or getting back at you. The bottom line in dog training is that the behaviors that get rewarded are the behaviors that get repeated. Your dog wants to make you happy but often can't figure out how. Here are some ideas to help you become a better dog trainer.
Dogs communicate visually; with their posture, tails, ears, and eyes. Yet, with us, they need to learn to communicate verbally. It's not their natural communication style, so it takes practice. It is best to teach only one or two words at a time. For example, "sit" is easier for your dog to understand than, "Rover, will you please sit right now."
The next important idea is timing. Our dogs live in the moment, so timing is critical to their learning. When your dog responds like you want him to, you only have a second or two to let him know he's on the right track. For example: imagine you ask your dog to sit, and he does. Then it takes you a minute to get the treats out, so Fido gets bored and lays down. When you give him that treat, he thinks he's getting it for laying down, not sitting. It's essential to be ready with praise and treats so you can give them to Fido immediately.
Here is where it gets harder - when Fido does the wrong thing. Let's say you let Fido out in your fenced yard to potty. After 10 minutes or so, you call Fido, and he doesn't respond. You call some more, and he continues to dig or play with his toys. Now you're getting angry. You try to lure him with a treat, but Fido is still doing his own thing. So when Fido finally moseys over, you grab his collar and take him inside, telling him he's a bad dog.
Fido just learned: "I came over to my mom, and she's yelling at me." In truth, you should have rewarded Fido for coming, even if it's 5 minutes after you called him, because the behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.
Remember, dogs are more likely to learn with high-value treats (cheese or bits of turkey). Some dogs are more motivated by a special toy, so if that works, use it! The bottom line is the reward has to be fantastic when training.
These ideas are actually simple; you need to think more like your dog. And once you understand a few basic ideas, your dog training will be so much easier for you and Fido!