Photo edited by Hannah Briant
That smug look they make as they walk away, as if they have not heard your call, wagging their tail with their head held high. “Are they even listening?”. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Throughout my studies and my experience, I have come across so many situations when even I, question my own belief, but thankfully, there is an explanation.
That treat that is drooping down in front of him wafting of doggy goodness, has unfortunately met its match. It seems that something else is much more interesting. If the treat had a mind of its own, its almost like a slow motion scene involving the treat calling out “ wilson” “wilson”.. as the dog ponders off in the distance.
Whether it be a momentary relapse or something that your dog has not come across before, his mind is too far gone and all training forgotten. Now I know what most of us automatically do, or used to do.. we get louder and more angry. In a dogs mind, we must remember that this is not engaging or fun and the dog will definitely not want to return if this is what they are hearing. We need to take a step back and remember…they are not robots, they are dogs, with fall backs and mistakes just like us.
Sometimes we may need to reteach the command that is being used, perhaps it has not been properly reinforced. In this case why are we not using what our dog truly loves?. I mean every dog is pretty much food orientated but some dogs may like running, playing or even just being let off the lead can be a big reinforcement to something that has been done well. So lets take the example that your dog is off the lead walking casually beside you, and suddenly he runs too far ahead. Is there a trigger or a behaviour that you can watch for? Could you have interrupted earlier if you tried? What about if you ran off in the other direction instead of running after him, whilst calling his name…mmm I wonder. Try restarting 10 minutes a day training sessions to reintroduce a new command and an even better reinforcement, and then move this training and try again in an area with a few more distractions. This may be a way to start improving his response.
If a dog has just recently eaten, this can be a massive contribution to whether he will listen to you and be responsive. Maybe he is bored of the same treat you have been using since he was a puppy, or maybe he found something nicer in the cupboards that you were not aware of. With dogs, its all about pre-empting what is going to happen and why your desired behaviour did not happen. We can not predict everything, but the more we watch our dogs, the more we will learn and you will be surprised how many different signals are shown before a behaviour.
So to sum up and hopefully put a smile on your face, your dog is not choosing to ignore your commands, and unfortunately something better is just in your way. We need to rewind, find a way to reinforce your re-call, or what ever behaviour you are asking for. Remember that using something that they love will only build a much stronger bond with your dog, shouting and getting angry will only distance your bond. Don’t be fooled that a quick method works the best, it is all about setting your dog up for success, and making sure there will be as little fall outs as possible.
Hope I given you something to think about, or if not just made you chuckle, Happy Training, Dog Lovers!