What to Do If Your Dog Ignores You
Hi John: I just read your recent article on “pure positive” training vs training with consequence. Can you provide some tips on how to properly discipline a dog? Our dog won’t ignores us. She knows exactly what we are asking. She just chooses not to do it.
Have a look at whether you’ve given the dog any reason to believe you should be in the position of disciplinarian. That’s often the reason a dog ignores direction.
Dogs are the only species in existence that have for 1,000’s of years been selectively bred to love human beings. We don’t enjoy that kind unconditional love from a spouse or a child. It’s a bit of a trap though. While dogs may naturally love us they don’t naturally respect us. They rely pretty heavily on who’s stronger, faster, more agile and they’ve been taking notes from day one.If a dog can’t be caught, it can’t be taught and once a dog thinks it’s stronger, it’s not going to seriously listen any longer.
Before you worry about corrections, leave a leash on in the house and a 30 footer on outside and start supervising the dog like it’s a 2 year old child. You’ll find in ten days a dog that takes you much more seriously. It doesn’t mean you won’t need to provide consequence and reward but the dog will not only more receptive when you do, it can be applied much more subtly.
When I use the word discipline or consequence keep in mind I’m not talking about physical intimidation. If I’m trying to discourage a behaviour the correction will be what the dog reads into my tone and body language when I have its attention. Emphasis on “attention.” If necessary and within reason, I have no reservations about using a leash and collar to get a dog’s attention. Emphasis on “if necessary and within reason”.
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If sufficiently painful, leash and collar corrections will dramatically alter a dog’s behaviour. Whether you’re a dog or a human, avoiding physical and emotional pain is a survival mechanism. That’s not what training is about. I would no more use pain as a foundation for teaching a dog then I would consider causing a child pain, parenting.
There’s a big difference between using a leash and collar to cause pain and using to get a dog’s attention. I’m not talking about twirling a dog around my head. I’m talking about the equivalent of my kids grabbing my tie or pant leg and giving it a yank to get my attention. There’s no point talking to a dad or a dog if you don’t have his attention. If dad’s doing the dishes it doesn’t take much of a grip on the tie, if he’s watching the super bowl better use both hands.
I don’t know whether anti-discipline trainers would interpret my son’s tie tugging as a form of abuse but I know some that would if it was a dog wearing the tie. For them, any physical contact is inhumane and they insist that if we – just reward the good behaviour – ignore the bad behaviour all will be well. I don’t think much more of that then I do using pain as a training tool. I would no more use rewards-only as a foundation for teaching a dog than I would with a chid. I want a dog’s tail to wag because I smile encouragingly, not because I reach into my pocket.
I know that if you work on getting your dog’s respect – (supervision and leash dragging for 10 days) make sure you have undivided attention before start teaching and use your tone and body language to do so. With very little repetition your dog ignoring you days come to an end and instead will happily “do it” without need for extremes.