My Dog Keeps Ignoring Me - What Should I Do?
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While all dogs will have their own personalities, it is not uncommon for dogs to ignore people. With strangers, many dogs are reserved or are simply so strongly bonded to their guardian that they do not have interest in other humans. However, a dog ignoring their owner completely is not common and likely the symptom of a greater issue. For the vast majority of cases, the problem is to do with communication.
At AnimalWised, we look at the reasons why your dog keeps ignoring you. By learning these reasons, we can find out the best ways for them to pay a healthy amount of attention to their human guardians.
Why is your dog ignoring you?
There are various reasons why a dog is ignoring you and not all of them are obvious. However, if you look at the context of the situation, you will likely see what is wrong. The most common reasons a dog ignores you are:
- Shouting and scolding: some things our dogs do are very frustrating. They may bring dirt into the house, be hyperactive or even bark loudly all night. However, this doesn't mean we should shout at or scold them. Not only can it harm the dog, but it is usually not an effective way to control their behavior. While individual dogs will react in different ways when they are shouted at, some may ignore because they don't want to be scolded.
- Not exercising enough: your dog is not a machine. They are a multifaceted living being and they have various need to remain healthy. If you do not take your dog on enough walks or provide opportunity for sufficient exercise, they may grow very sedentary. When they lose the expectation of getting the things they need from you, they may start ignoring you completely.
- Lack of stimulation: dogs also need plenty of mental as well as physical stimulation. They need to be engaged with games and cognition strengthening activities. If they do not, their mind can become lazy and they will have little motivation to answer our commands.
- Poor socialization: if a dog was not given proper socialization as a puppy, they may struggle to create and maintain healthy relationships with people.
- Trauma: if a dog had a bad experience when they were younger or were abused, they may struggle to make healthy connections with people due to a lack of trust. This can manifest itself in many ways. However, it is likely they are ignoring you out of fear more than a lack of education.
- Name: while you may have given your dog a moniker which means something special to you, it might be they don't even think it refers to them. If there are too many syllables or the word is too similar to more commonly used words, they may not think you are speaking to them. In these cases, they will usually only ignore you when they can't see you are speaking directly to them.
The bottom line is that we need to meet all of our dog's needs, both physically and mentally. You can't expect them to be loving, affectionate and responsive if we don't give them any reason to be so.
How to know why your dog ignores you
To find out why your dog is ignoring you, we need to look at the context of their behavior. In order to do so, a dog guardian should ask themselves the following questions:
- What is your relationship like with your dog?
Taking care of a companion animal does not simply you have to take care of their immediate needs, i.e. food, shelter and security. A dog is part of the family. If you think it is enough to simply allow them to share your space, but do not share any of yourself, you are making a mistake. Dogs crave an emotional bond with their human guardians. If such a bond is not created, the dog will ignore you.
- How do you communicate with your dog?
This can be answered by looking at what language you use with your dog. We don't necessarily mean what words you use, although vocalization is important. Our body language, how we express to the dog and other aspects of communication are very important. Your dog wants to do what you ask, but your way of asking may be confusing to them. It is also just as important we learn their body language to understand their needs.
- How have your trained your dog?
Poor training can result in miscommunication between a guardian and their dog. It is possible the training has gone too fast or even too slow. You may also be negatively reinforcing some bad behaviors or have even missed some important steps in their training.
A dog is not a human being. They think, behave and feel differently to us. Before deciding to take on the responsibility of adopting a dog into your life, you need to be very clear what this entails. This does not simply mean you have the money to look after them. You have to give them your time, affection and care.
Part of this responsibility is safeguarding their well-being. Just as you would take a child to a doctor or psychologist if they have behavioral problems, the same will stand for your dog. The best person you can take your dog to is a canine ethologist.
What to do when your dog is ignoring you
In the previous sections we have detailed why your dog ignores you and how you can try to determine the reason. Here we suggest some practical ways to improve your relationship and have them pay attention. They include:
- Firstly exercise patience. Results do not happen immediately. The basis of your relationship needs to be love and understanding. Also, some dogs are simply smarter than others. Some will need more time to understand commands and to internalize information.
- Establishing or recovering the emotional bond. It might be helpful to look at the situation a little like a couple in crisis. Spend time with your dog, make it quality time and give them the chance to feel comfortable and secure. For your dog, you are the center of their universe. Show them this devotion is not unfounded.
To regain a positive relationship with your dog, there is a specific way of encouraging closeness. You can do this by:
- Going for a long walk.
- Letting the dog go to their favorite place when they get home.
- Get close, but don't look at them directly.
- Say their name.
- If they turn to look at you, reward them with a treat.
- Start with treats, but do not overfeed them. Move on to petting and then phase out rewarding with treats altogether until they want to pay attention to you because they love you.
Getting your dog to pay attention
Another helpful training session to make the dog pay attention is an exercise to help them answer your call. Start practising at home, but eventually take them outside to do it. Start by beginning in a quiet room free from distraction. The exercise goes like this:
- Attach an appropriate word to the order you are to give. For example, say “come” if you want them to come to you.
- Walk away from them and give the command.
- If they come to you, give them a treat and reassuring pets.
- When at first the dog does not respond, stay calm. It is normal as the dog doesn't know what it is you want from them. In these cases, you can gently pull them towards you with their leash. Give the order and encourage them to go to you.
It is very important these dog training sessions are short so they don't get bored or frustrated. 15 minutes is a good time as it will usually allow the dog to enjoy themselves. Repetition of this exercise is what will help them learn, so it needs to be separated well. Also you should:
- Do the training session after you go for a walk, not before.
- Always start on the leash.
- Vary the places you do it so they can understand this command is applied to everywhere and not just the first place you do it.
All of the exercises we suggest to help your dog stop ignoring you are based on positive reinforcement. Do not shout and scold or it will be counter productive. Love and patience can help you and your dog create the strongest of bonds.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Keeps Ignoring Me - What Should I Do?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.