20th June 2021

Help! Why isn’t my dog listening?!

Help! Why isn’t my dog listening?!

Do you have a dog that is a perfect angel in the house but then it all falls apart when you’re out and about? You are not alone! This is a common training challenge, but the reason behind it is an often misunderstood one.

Here’s the reason why your dog isn’t listening, and it’s probably more simple than you think.

You just have not trained the behaviour well enough yet. That’s it!

Responding to training in the house doesn’t mean your dog knows that behaviour well enough to perform it anywhere else. We have to help our dogs generalize behaviours to lots of different contexts.  It’s not that they are choosing to be stubborn or disobey, I promise! Dogs don’t generalize concepts the same way we do as humans, and they need a lot of practice and help to understand that the cue means the same thing in different settings.

Living in Whistler, BC, the host town of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, I use the following analogy often. Teaching your dog a recall is the first step in training a recall. Recalling your dog away from playing with other dogs at a park is their Olympic event. It doesn’t come together overnight and takes lots and lots of training and practice to perfect that skill.

If you find that your dog’s training falls apart outside of the house, focus on the 3 Ds.

The 3 D’s

The 3 D’s are:

  • Distance- how far away from your dog are you when you are asking for the specific behaviour (recalling from far away)
  • Duration- how long are you asking your dog to hold the behaviour (holding a stay while you’re on a patio)
  • Distraction- what is going on around your dog when you ask for the behaviour (other dogs, people etc.)

Start slow.

If your dog can recall perfectly in the living room, can they do it outside your front door when it’s quiet? Then can they do it at the end of the street when it’s quiet? Can they do it outside your door if a neighbour walks by? Then can they recall in an empty park? What about when there is a dog in the distance at the park? What about…. well, you get the gist. It’s important to work SLOWLY, and anytime you increase one D, decrease the other two to start. Then you can slowly put it all together and have a dog that understands the behaviour you are asking for in lots of different contexts.

Set your dog up for success by practicing often and have a plan to slowly work through increasing the level of difficulty for your dog.

Remember- just because your dog knows the behaviour in one context doesn’t mean it transfers to all contexts. That takes time, practice and patience! It will totally be worth it, though, so make a plan and start training for your dog’s Olympic event!

Want help reaching your training goals with your dog? Reach out to Saundra today!

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