10 Reasons Why Your Dog Ignores Your Commands

Obedient dog on a loose leash sitting quietly looking up at owner

Everyone want an ‘obedient’ dog

Who doesn’t want a dog that sits right by your side when you ask them to? Do you ever wonder why your dog acts like you aren’t in the room when you request something from him?  Does he keep sniffing or pulling the leash or running away from you when you call?  We’ve got the top 10 reasons that could be happening.  Some of them you may not have considered…

1.  The Treats Aren’t “Treats” To Your Dog

It’s true that dogs like to make their owners happy, but not to the extent that most people think!  Dogs want to be sure that THEY get something out of the game (learning process) too.  If you’re offering a ‘so-so’ treat, you may as well not even try to train.  Using the right (usually smelly and tasty to your dog) treat can make all the difference between an eager-to-learn (aka: eager to obey) dog and one who yawns and lays down when it’s learning time.   Only use treats that your dog gets excited about when you’re trying to get them to learn.  Break them into smaller bite sized pieces to keep the learning going without filling up your dog in the process.  You’ll want your dog to have his attention on you (and receiving that wonderful goody) and not other distractions.

Here’s a suggestion: Try to use what respected veterinarian, trainer and writer Dr. Ian Dunbar calls the Ferrari of dog treats: Freeze-dried liver.  Most dogs love love love these treats and they are easily breakable.

2.  You Are Not Consistent In Your Rewards

Dogs are all about the stimuli going on around them, so you’ve GOT to keep rewarding and reinforcing the behavior you want. 

It’s a game that you’ll play with your dog until he ‘gets it’.  He’s got to find you (and of course, the treats you provide) more interesting than what’s going on in his environment.  Your part is to make sure that YOU are more interesting and exciting than the smell of the grass or the rabbit that across the street or other things happening in their environment.  Dogs are so smart – they entertain themselves with everything around them. 

In the beginning of the learning process you must be sure to ALWAYS remember to reward the behaviors that you like in your dog.  If you forget (in the beginning) to reward your dog there will be no association with the behavior and the reward established in his thinking.  Give a reward for every success.  After awhile, you can start to give a reward for every other success and your dog won’t forget the rewarded behavior.  

3.  Your Starting Standards Are Too High

When you first learned addition and subtraction in school you didn’t jump right into it.  You had to learn your numbers and what they signified first and then you could add and subtract.  Your dog will learn the same way … one step at a time.  Sometimes when dogs don’t respond to a command it just means there needs to be some steps in between.  Break it down into smaller pieces of learning.  For example, if you were trying to train your dog to touch the tip of a stick with his nose, you could reward him first for touching any part of the stick with his nose.  Once he get that, you can move on to just rewarding him when his nose touches the top part of the stick.  And, keep in mind that your dog may start to get fatigued.  Don’t make your training sessions too long – short and sweet and fun is the key!

4.  There Is Too Much Going On In The Environment

Dogs are smart and they (usually) are very aware of what’s going on around them.  They learn best when there are minimal distractions around them.  Start your training (their learning) in a quiet room with low distractions.  If you start on a busy street or at the dog park right away, your dog may not respond well simply because you’ve not yet built a proper foundation for the desired behavior.

Once your dog is able to perform the desired behavior you’re asking in the quiet room, you can build from there and gradually start asking your dog to perform the same behavior in a noisier environments. Then, progress to the yard, a busy street, the dog park and so forth.  In other words, increase the distraction level slowly as the dog can do what you desire in the lessor stimulating environments.

5.  Your Dog Has Never Been Trained Before

There’s a chance the dog may have learned he could get away with certain behaviors and has learned to ignore people around them.  This might be the case with an older adoption or even with your own dog if you’ve never trained before.  Take Heart!  Dogs are smart and curious and LOVE to work their brains. Keep in mind that the concept might be entirely new to them. It is up to the person training to become interesting and worth listening to by investing in reward-based training methods, like the ones taught in Adrienne Farricelli’s Brain Training for Dogs course.  

6.  Your Cues Are Confusing

Dogs (like us humans) like consistency.  Using the same command (between all the people in the dog’s life) is very helpful for your dog.  If you see that you dog is not responding to a command after a time, think about the other members of your family or those who are interacting with him … are they using the same command?  It’s common for one person to say ‘off’ when the dog is jumping and a different person in the same family to say “down” to express the same requested behavior from the dog.  That can get confusing for the dog.  
Verbal cues are important too – Using your hands to express your intent goes a long way toward your dogs understanding of what’s wanted.  Just be sure that everyone is using the same verbal AND nonverbal cues. 

7.  You Are Not In The Correct “Head Space” To Train

Dogs know the energy that surrounds them.  Dogs know when you or someone else in your family is upset or frustrated.  When your feeling are becoming impatient or frustrated while training your dog, it’s time to step away.  Try again later when YOU feel better and more patient.  NEVER let your feelings get to the ‘angry’ stage.  Walk away before your feeling get that far. 

Watch your voice tones too.  Dogs will sense the tone of your voice before the words sink in, so saying something to them in an angry tone will make your dog afraid of you.  If you’re like me, you don’t want your dog to fear you – you’d just like your dog to do as you ask when you ask it.  Always try to make the interactions between you and your dog pleasant ones.  

8.  Your Dog Is Feeling Nervous, Fearful, or Anxious

Dogs feel negative emotions, just like humans.  If you notice your dog is anxious, nervous, or fearful he may not be in the frame of mind best to learn new things.  It’s best to wait until your dog is calm and in a good mood to introduce new things (like training).
As an example, if your dog was frightened of thunder, instead of immediately exposing him to recordings of thunderstorms on full volume, you should first play them at a very low volume, where he acknowledges the sound but does not become scared.  After rewarding your dog while the sound is played, you would, over time and numerous training sessions, increase the volume at which you play the recording. This process is known as desensitization and is a common technique used in dog training.  You may even try playing games with your dog while the recording is playing (low at first) to see the level of anxiety present.

9.  Your Dog Is Feeling Discomfort In Some Way

If you notice that your dog is no longer paying attention to you (whereas he did before) this may be an indication that something physical is going on.  Take your fur baby to the vet and get a check up.  Arthritis and joint pain may cause your dog to be reluctant to lay down or sit on command. 
Another consideration (this one is often missed by people) is that some dogs may not like to be trained on certain surfaces, or perhaps the weather is too hot, too windy or too cold – there are a multitude of possibilities. We have one pet sitting client that has a dog that does not like the linoleum floor.  I can’t imagine trying to train her on that surface!  Perhaps your dog is thirsty or has to use the bathroom before training.  Consider how well you could perform in an exam if you were busting to use the bathroom!

10.  You’ve Forgotten How Smart Your Dog Is And Their Need For Mental Engagement

Dogs are so smart.  Yet many owners are happy to leave their dogs bored by the fireplace all day, leading to a wide variety of unwanted behavior problems. The simple secret to a dog who will listen to you is engaging their mind and getting them thinking.  If you don’t provide stimulation for them, they will find it themselves – most often in ways you’ll find unacceptable.

Did you know, that in the wild, before domestication, dogs would spend much of their lives performing tasks necessary for survival. Even in more modern history, dogs had special roles to perform in their relationships with humans. You can still see these natural drives in dogs today! For example, you will notice how beagles love to follow scents, how some terrier breeds love to dig, and how treeing coon-hounds bark upon noticing prey up a tree. Unlike humans who perhaps dread the 9 to 5 grind, dogs actively WANT to work, and when they don’t, they become prone to behavior problems, disobedience, and poor psychological well-being. Many owners spend THOUSANDS on dog training when the solution could be as simple as providing Rover with more mental stimulation!


Fortunately, there is “Brain Training for Dogs” and it offers an awesome solution to this problem. It was written by a professionally certified trainer (Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA).  Herw work has appeared in USA Today, Everydog Magazine, Nest Pets and more, and her Brain Training for Dogs is one of the first training programs to not only teach obedience, better behavior, important skills and tricks, but to also work on increasing intelligence and engaging the dog’s brain too. This training is so comprehensive – it even offers 21 fun and simple games that you and your dogs can play to get those canine brains engaged, learning, working, and happy.  Her novel and scientifically-proven methods are sure to improve the lives of both you and your dog! By the end of Brain Training for Dogs your dog will be able to tidy up his toys, play the piano (yes, really), and identify his toys by name – all while being a better behaved and more obedient dog.

You will want to check out the course by clicking here:

Your Dog IS Smart! I Promise!

As you can see, there are many reasons why your dog may not be listening to you. Don’t be so quick to label your dog as ‘stubborn’, or worse (and OH so incorrect) ‘stupid’! Don’t begin shouting commands like a drill sergeant, and don’t give up training altogether – instead, try to give your dog a break and consider what may really be going on. A better understanding of how dogs think and learn should pave the path to better training.

Hope this helps!