Do you sometimes get the feeling that you and your dog are not quite on the same page? You have dedicated hours to training him, yet he still seems to miss understand, or not understand what it is you ask of him. Why is this? Do you have a delinquent dog, is it because he was the runt of the litter, or are you just unlucky?

STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING RIGHT NOW! I want you to grab a pen and paper, and partake in a little test for me. Simply call your dog to you and ask him to 'sit'. Observe and write down how your dog reacted to this. Did he sit immediately gazing into your eyes waiting for his next cue? Or are you still there asking him to sit over and over again, with your tone of voice changing as you do so, has the dog now moved away from you as he is bored and really does not have the slightest idea what you expect him to do, or has the dog become distracted.

Where did it all go wrong?

There are many reasons why suddenly our dog does not listen to us.


He knows the cue word, right? But does he? Us humans are great at complicating things. Dogs are simple creatures, who require a simple communicative repertoire from their human counterpart. Dogs are also extremely sensitive to our emotions and tone of voice and respond accordingly. Dogs do not understand words, they simply understand a sound paired with an action which has been rewarded. e.g. 'sit', dogs bum hits the floor, the dog receives a food reward. He does not understand the actual meaning of the word, Hence why you can use a completely different cue to obtain a sit from your dog like 'roll', As long as the word has been paired with the action of the sit, and rewarded, the dog will sit when asked to 'role'. Think about your body language, have you left half of you on the sofa therefor not in a confident and engaging stance. All these things will affect how your dog responds to you.

Habit Humans are also creatures of bad habits. We start of on the right foot with good intentions and lost of enthusiasm, but soon slip off. Yet we still expect the same outcome. Take dieting for example. When we sign up for a diet support group we are all about positive thinking, and determination to hit that target weight loss goal. Over the months we gradually lose the pounds eventually hitting our target. Then that's it, we don't continue with our new diet or exercise regime, we start having the "odd" treat here and there. eventually, we wake up one morning to find that we are the same weight we originally started at. Same as dog training if you are not consistent it will not work. When was the last time you revisited your dog's basic obedience training?

Unrealistic expectation Let's face it, most dog owners have extremely busy lives, and yet we expect our furry friends to adapt to this. The once working canine, which was once stimulated by its natural urges to hunt is now expected to lie in its bed for up to 5 hours a day whilst we're at work, oh and they are supposed to love children and other dogs, and behave whilst in public places. Basically, we are expecting them to behave totally unnaturally. Some dogs simply find it hard to cope with certain environments and stimuli, which has a huge effect on their training. You will find it extremely hard to get your dog to 'sit; at the side of the road, whilst you wait to cross if he has a fear of cars!

So what can we do to ensure our furry friend understands us, and that we get the best out of our training?

1) keep it simple: Use single words as your cue and make a GOOD HABIT of only asking once. When we repeat and repeat the cue, we find that the dog becomes intermittent in his response. e.g. one occasion he may sit after the tenth ask or the fifth ask. Ask once and wait. If the dog has not responded within ten seconds or so, move away, come back to him and ask again.

2) Tone of voice: The tone of voice is just as important for both the cue and the reward/praise. Cues should be given with a confident and frim tone - not shouting or aggressive, clear and firm. Praise should be the polar opposite, very high pitched happy tone. if there is no differentiation between the two then the dog does not know what is a cue and what is praise. So how can he tell if he is doing the right thing?

3) Body language: Be engaging, make yourself interesting, make yourself fun. To get your dogs focus, ensure you are engaging with him, and not checking your social media. Turn phone, telly, radio, etc off. take a confident stance in front of your dog. This means you are alert, confident and show your dog that you are ready to train.

4) Environment: Many people make the mistake of training in a hall or inside the home where the dog is able to perform a sit perfectly, but struggle to understand why the dog does not do the same when they are out. as mentioned before dogs are easily distracted, it is much harder for a dog to focus on training when outside. Where there is a possible cat or squirrel to chase. Train in different environments and you will notice a huge difference in your dog's response to you whilst out.

5) Repetition: The more the dog practices a behaviour the more likely he is to repeat it. Schedule several different obedience session a week, do some in the garden, indoors, out in the woods etc. If you repeat an exercise such as sit by rod side, enough times, eventually when you stop at a curb, your dog will automatically sit without the need for you to give him the cue. It will become a habit to the dog.

6) Don't over-train - keep sessions short. You will notice when training on a regular basis, that there is a certain point where your dog will not be responding so keenly as he was five minutes ago. Dogs will get tired during training sessions, and in order to keep them motivated and for training to be fun, we need to note at what point this is and stop beforehand. I.e. if after 20 minutes of intense training your dog start to become less engaging, on your next training session stop at 15 minutes.

7) HIGH-VALUE REWARDS - humans constantly overlook and fail to understand the importance of high-value rewards when training. It needs t be a food or toy they do not get access to on a regular basis. If it is food then the smellier and tastier the better. Remember you want you dog focus, and they get distracted easily. Dry biscuit or packed training treats from the pet shop will just not fo. Liver cake or sausage, on the other hand, is fabulous.

8) Go to school: Dog's are never to old to go to training classes. Training classes don't only offer a benefit to your dog but also to you as an owner. The trainer will be able to pick up on how you are training your dog, what works and what doesn't, advise you of your dogs learning style, and how to adapt training accordingly. Plus constant support and advice on a weekly basis.

9) KEEP IT POSITIVE - above all else, keep it positive. Negative punishment does not work, telling a dog off doing something wrong does not work. Ignore the unwanted behaviours and praise the behaviours you like.

So it can be easily understood by the above where the saying "train the owner" comes from. Many of the reasons our dogs do not listen are due to us. Take some time to re-evaluate the way you train your dog, and watch the dramatic changes take place.

Happy training dog lovers

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