“Help! My Dog Doesn’t Listen!”

by mindi on May 28, 2023

“My dog comes when I call him if he knows I have a treat; but if he’s barking at something in the backyard, he totally ignores me.” “My dog will sit when my wife asks him to but won’t do it for me!” Sound familiar? This is all too common in dog-loving households, and even trainers have experienced the dreaded “he only comes for a treat” phenomenon. This happens for a VERY large number of reasons but here are the common culprits:

  1. The behavior hasn’t been practiced in multiple situations.
  2. The behavior hasn’t been practiced with distractions.
  3. Treats were faded out too quickly.
  4. The dog doesn’t have enough of a reinforcement history for this behavior (meaning, not enough good things have happened to motivate the dog to do what he’s being asked).

If you find your dog not responding to a cue in a given situation, go back to basics and practice the behavior in an easier situation. Then gradually add in distractions. Don’t start fading out treats until your dog successfully does the behavior a bunch of times over many days. When you do start fading out treats, do so SUPER slowly. The goal is to teach your dog that performing that behavior leads to good things, so that he wants to perform the behavior reliably.

There are so many nuances involved in dog training! Need help going from “he won’t listen” to “he is so well-behaved!”? Contact our behavior specialist, JoAnna, at [email protected]


Written by JoAnna Rogowski, MS, KPA CTP