Why Does My Dog Not Listen to Me At Times?

Dogs are not naturally obedient; most breeds are quite stubborn. But with proper training, you can improve your pet’s listening skills and obedience. 

Are you tickled with the questions of dog owners such as “Why does my dog not listen to me? and  Why doesn’t he follow my instructions, or sometimes does the opposite of my commands?”

Read on and I’ll walk you through to the answers.

8 Reasons Why Does My Dog Not Listen to Me

Has your dog suddenly stopped listening to your commands? You’re not alone; a trained dog listens and obeys instructions. But listening to your commands and obeying them are two different things.

If your dog has no hearing issues, then it can hear you and not follow your commands. 

Your dog may be willing to do as asked, but it’s too focused on something else to listen.

There could be several reasons why your dog may not be listening to you. And in most cases, disobedience may not be the issue; your dog may not understand your commands. Understanding the underlying factors can help you address the issue more effectively. Here are some common reasons:

1. Lack of Dog Training

We often mistake rewarding our pets for doing something correctly a couple of times for them learning a command. But it’s not about the number of times you teach them; it’s about how you train them. If you don’t layer the commands appropriately, your dog may not understand them.

If your dog is not listening to you due to a lack of training, then you should try the following:

  • Start Basic Dog Training: Begin with basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, and lie down. Use positive reinforcement techniques, rewarding your dog with treats, praise, or toys when they obey your commands.
  • Short and Positive Reinforcement Training Session: Keep the positive reinforcement training session short and positive. Dogs have shorter attention spans, especially when they are learning new commands. Aim for 5-10 minute sessions and gradually increase the duration as your dogs learn and become more attentive.
  • Use High-Value Rewards: Find treats or toys that your dog finds particularly enticing. High-value rewards can be especially effective in reinforcing positive behavior.
  • Patience and Positive Reinforcement: Different dog breeds learn at different rates. So you should avoid punishment-based training methods, as they can lead to fear and anxiety. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement to encourage desired behavior. Patience is crucial; dogs may take time to understand and consistently follow commands.
  • Training in Different Environments: Practice commands in various environments like the dog park to generalize your dog’s training. Start in a quiet space and gradually introduce more distractions as your dog becomes more reliable.
  • Build a Strong Bond: Spend quality time bonding with your dog. A strong connection can enhance communication and make your dog more willing to listen. Engage in play, walks, and other activities that strengthen your relationship.
  • Be Clear and Confident: Your dog understands clear and confident communication. Use a firm but gentle voice when giving commands, and avoid sounding uncertain or hesitant. You can even contact a professional dog trainer for assistance. A dog trainer can help you create a perfect training schedule for your dog.

2. Distraction

Dogs can easily get distracted by their surroundings, other animals, or interesting smells. If your dog is not paying attention, it may be challenging for them to respond to your commands. 

This is a common challenge, especially for folks whose dogs are naturally curious. To manage distractions, you should do the following:

  • Start in a Quiet Environment: Begin training in a quiet and familiar environment where there are fewer distractions. This helps your dog focus on you and the commands without being overwhelmed.
  • Gradual Exposure: Gradually expose your dog to more distracting environments as they become more proficient in following commands. Slowly increase the difficulty level so that your dog can learn to concentrate in various situations.
  • Increase Distance: If your dog is easily distracted, start training at a greater distance from the distraction. You can gradually decrease the distance as they become more focused and responsive.
  • Use a Leash: In distracting environments, keep your dog on a leash to have better control. This prevents them from wandering off and helps you redirect their attention more effectively.
  • Use Verbal and Visual Cues: Combine verbal commands with visual cues, such as hand signals. This dual approach can enhance your dog’s understanding and responsiveness, especially in distracting situations.
image 2

3. Inconsistent Commands

Dogs thrive on routine and consistency. If you use different words or gestures for the same command, your dog might become confused. Consistency is key in training, so make sure everyone in your household is using the same commands and cues.

Keep your commands clear, concise, and easy for your dog to understand. Use one-word commands consistently for each behavior. This will ensure that your dog doesn’t get confused.

Choose specific cues, such as hand signals or verbal commands, and use them consistently. This helps your dog associate a particular cue with a specific action. But most importantly, you should avoid mixed signals. 

If you’re using verbal and visual commands, you should use them together when commanding your pet.

Dogs don’t focus on your words; they focus on your body language. You should use the right body language when giving commands. If you’re cheerful when telling your pet to sit, then you should be consistent.

4. Lack of Motivation

Dogs, like humans, are motivated by various factors. If they don’t find your commands or interactions rewarding, they may be less inclined to listen. Here are some reasons why your dog might lack motivation:

  • Lack of Reinforcement: If your dog doesn’t receive positive reinforcement for following commands, they may lose interest in listening. Ensure that you consistently reward your dog with treats, praise, or toys when they obey your commands.
  • Inconsistent Rewards: If your dog receives rewards inconsistently, they may become uncertain about what behavior is expected. Be consistent in rewarding your dog every time they respond correctly to a command.
  • Low-Value Rewards: The rewards you offer may not be enticing enough for your dog. Experiment with different treats or toys from the pet store to find what your dog finds most motivating.
  • Overuse of Commands: If you use a particular command too frequently without offering rewards, your dog may become desensitized to it. Use commands sparingly, and make sure to reward your dog when they respond appropriately.
  • Health Issues: If your dog is not feeling well, they may be less motivated to engage in activities or respond to commands. If you notice a sudden behavior change, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.
  • Lack of Engagement: Your dog may not be motivated to listen if they are not engaged with you. Incorporate play, interactive toys, and positive interactions to strengthen the bond and make listening more enjoyable.
  • Negative Associations: If your dog associates certain commands with negative experiences, they may be less motivated to follow those commands. Ensure that training periods are positive and enjoyable for your dog.
  • Stress or Anxiety: Dogs experiencing stress or anxiety may not be motivated to engage in training. Create a calm and supportive environment, and address any underlying issues that may be causing stress.
  • Lack of Variety: Dogs can get bored if training becomes monotonous. Introduce new commands, tricks, or activities to keep your dog mentally stimulated and motivated.

5. Medical Issues

If your dog is not listening to you, it’s essential to consider the possibility of underlying medical issues. Dogs may exhibit changes in behavior, including a lack of responsiveness, when they are experiencing health problems. Here are some medical issues that could potentially affect your dog’s behavior:

  • Pain or Discomfort: Dogs may become less responsive if they are in pain or discomfort. This can be due to conditions such as arthritis, dental issues, injuries, or any other source of pain.
  • Hearing Loss: If your dog has experienced a loss of hearing, they may not respond to verbal commands. Hearing loss can occur gradually, especially in older dogs.
  • Vision Impairment: Dogs with vision problems may struggle to see or interpret visual cues, affecting their ability to respond to commands.
  • Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome: This is a condition similar to dementia in humans and is more common in senior dogs. It can lead to changes in behavior, including confusion and decreased responsiveness.
  • Thyroid Issues: Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland is underactive, can lead to changes in behavior and responsiveness.
  • Neurological Disorders: Disorders affecting the nervous system can impact a dog’s ability to process information and respond to commands.
  • Infections or Illness: Various infections or illnesses, whether internal or external, can affect a dog’s overall well-being and behavior.
  • Medication Side Effects: If your dog is on medication, certain medications may have side effects that impact behavior or responsiveness.

6. Anxiety

Anxiety in dogs can manifest in various ways and may affect their ability to respond to commands. Here are some reasons why anxiety might contribute to your dog’s lack of responsiveness:

  • Fear: An anxious dog may be fearful, making them hesitant to approach or respond to commands. Fear can be triggered by specific situations, people, or environments.
  • Stress: Dogs can experience stress due to changes in their environment, routine, or social dynamics. High stress levels can affect their overall behavior and responsiveness.
  • Lack of Socialization: Insufficient socialization during a dog’s early development stages can lead to anxiety and discomfort in new or unfamiliar situations.
  • Separation Anxiety: Dogs with separation anxiety may exhibit stress-related behaviors when left alone. This anxiety can extend to other situations, affecting their ability to focus on commands.
  • Noise Sensitivity: Some dogs are sensitive to loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks. Anxiety triggered by noise can distract a dog from listening to commands.
  • Past Trauma: Dogs that have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect in the past may develop anxiety-related issues that impact their behavior.
  • Medical Issues: Certain medical conditions, such as hormonal imbalances or neurological problems, can contribute to anxiety in dogs.
  • Change in Environment: Moving to a new home or significant changes in the household can cause anxiety in dogs, leading to behavioral changes.

To overcome anxiety, you should create a positive and comfortable environment and work on building trust with your dog.

7. Age and Energy Levels

Age and energy level can play significant roles in a dog’s responsiveness to commands. Understanding these factors can help you tailor your training approach to better suit your dog’s needs.

  • Puppies: Puppies are naturally curious and full of energy, but they also have shorter attention spans. Training periods for puppies should be short, fun, and positive. Be patient and consistent in your commands and rewards. As they grow, their ability to focus and follow commands tends to improve with consistent training.
  • Adolescent Dogs: Adolescent dogs, typically between 6 months to 2 years, can be more challenging to train. And that’s because they may go through a phase of increased independence and testing boundaries. Continue with consistent training, and be patient during this phase. Providing mental and physical stimulation is crucial for keeping them engaged and responsive.
  • Senior Dogs: Older dogs may experience changes in hearing, vision, or mobility, which can affect their ability to respond to commands. Be mindful of their physical condition and adjust your training methods accordingly. Shorter and less physically demanding activities may be more suitable for senior dogs.
  • High-Energy Breeds: Some dog breeds are naturally more energetic than others. High-energy breeds may require more physical and mental stimulation to keep them focused during training. Regular exercise and engaging activities can help manage their excess energy levels.
  • Low-Energy Breeds: On the other hand, low-energy breeds may require gentler exercise and shorter training sessions. Tailor your training to suit the individual needs and preferences of your dog.

With proper training and the appropriate rewards, you can manage your dog’s energy levels. But you should be ready to take your high-energy dog for a walk every day.

8. Lack of Bond or Connection

A lack of bond or connection with your dog can indeed contribute to a lack of responsiveness. Dogs are social animals that thrive on positive interactions and a strong bond with their owners. Here are some reasons why a lack of bond or connection might lead to your dog not listening:

  • Limited Quality Time: Dogs value the time spent with their owners. If you have limited interaction or quality time with your dog, they may not feel as connected to you.
  • Lack of Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement, such as praise, petting, and treats, helps strengthen the bond between you and your dog. If positive interactions are infrequent, your dog may not be as motivated to listen to your commands.
  • Inconsistent Affection: Dogs appreciate consistency in affection. Inconsistent affection and more scolding than praises can make it hard for your dog to interpret your interaction.
  • Absence of Play and Engagement: Playtime is a crucial aspect of bonding with your dog. If play and engagement are lacking, your dog may not associate positive experiences with you, making them less inclined to listen.
  • Negative Experiences: If your dog has had negative experiences with you, they may develop fear or anxiety, affecting their willingness to listen. Experiences like punishment without understanding or harsh corrections can confuse your dog.
  • New Additions to the Family: Changes in the household dynamics can sometimes affect the bond between you and your dog. It may take time for your dog to adjust and feel connected in new situations.
  • Stress or Anxiety: Dogs may become stressed or anxious in certain situations. If your dog feels uneasy or threatened, they may not be as responsive to commands. Building a strong bond can help alleviate anxiety.
  • Inadequate Training: Dogs feel more connected to owners who provide clear guidance and training. If your dog hasn’t received consistent and positive training, they may not understand what is expected of them.

Final Thoughts

There is nothing more time-consuming and frustrating than a pet that doesn’t listen to our instructions. This pet can be destructive and may get injured or lost while playing in the park. Therefore, pet owners try everything possible to get their dogs to listen. And with the above tips, you can correct this issue.

Suppose the problem persists then you should contact a vet or an experienced trainer. A vet can help sort out a medical issue, while a trainer can help you curb the issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you discipline a dog that doesn’t listen?

Too much attention can make your dog misbehave, so when it doesn’t listen, you can try time-outs. You can take its toys and stop giving them attention, but you should never hit your pet.

Why is my pet not listening to my commands?

The leading cause of this problem is improper or inadequate training and energy levels. An energetic dog can become stubborn if they don’t get their daily walks.

How can I train a disobedient dog?

If it’s energetic, you should start by helping it burn the extra energy and then start training. You should be consistent with the dog training and show them you’re the leader.

Jake Willhoite
Jake runs AnimalDome.com and has had cats and dogs his entire life. As a kid his family adopted several dogs from the local shelter which set him down the path of animal rescue.
Photo of author

Leave a Comment