One of my main concerns when I’m helping people with their dogs is, believe it or not, the person’s health and well-being. Who knew human emotional health was going to be such an important part of being a dog behavior consultant? Not me.
I frequently see people get very upset with their dogs, very quickly, for not listening. We all know how frustrating it can be when someone isn’t listening to you, especially when you really need something from them. I hope the information I share today will help improve your blood pressure.
When you need your dog’s attention I recommend first testing to see if he can even hear you at that moment. Make a silly sound or call his name. Does he look at you? If yes, then reinforce him with a treat for looking at you because we need that behavior to be a frequent and strong one. If not, it’s important that you understand that your dog’s brain is processing other information at the moment and he literally cannot hear you. He isn’t choosing to ignore you. His lack of response to you is involuntary. This is important for your blood pressure because when we think dogs are choosing to ignore us, we get very frustrated very quickly. Because that would be frustrating! But don’t let your blood pressure creep up on you here. If your dog isn’t responding to your test then your dog is unable to voluntarily control his body and mind at the moment. He's not choosing to ignore you.
This is where I’m going to beg that you do not escalate your own behavior by getting louder and repeating cues (what I like to call, "nagging"). That will only serve to upset you. Take a few deep breaths. Watch your dog to see what he’s worried or excited about. Then try the test again by saying his name or making another silly sound.
If your dog still doesn’t look at you, you have two options: 1.) you can move your dog farther away from the thing that’s got his attention (distance is your friend here), or 2.) you can accept the fact that your dog cannot hear you and try to ride it out. If your dog is barking, growling, or lunging at something, then your best bet is to move away as quickly as you can, and go as far as you need to until your dog can hear you again.
You’ll know when your dog can hear you again because he will either look at you or he will start sniffing around and/or looking at other things. Now is your chance to get his attention, reinforce it and ask him for whatever it is you need or want.