I have to admit, there is one environment where Chester struggles to listen to me. He does listen, but it takes every controlled impulse in his body to do so. It is also when he would much prefer to pretend that I do not exist, as he splashes about and dives head first into the shallows at the beach. It is hands-down his favourite place in the world. His ten year old body metamorphoses into a puppy’s and he is truly at his happiest. It is here that I rarely ask Chester to do anything. Mostly because I know it will take everything in him to resist more exciting things, and the beach is his time, not mine.
So, when does your dog stop listening to you? I bet I know when:
- When your dog is on a walk or
- When they are at the dog park or
- When they are anxious / afraid or
- When there is something far more motivating to focus on than you- such as food. Other animals, other people, toys, smells, sights, sounds – the list is often endless
- When you are less interesting than what is in your dog’s foresight.
People really aren’t that interesting. Especially, when we are fighting against the hyper stimulating world a dog experiences after having been on their own for several hours. For dogs, they spend most of their time without purpose. When we are at work, they are left to entertain themselves, or sleep. When we are home, our dogs are often left to entertain themselves or sleep, as we catch up on social media for the 50th time that day or sit and watch TV. It is understandable that our demanding voices become white noise when a dog has the opportunity to be purposeful.
So how do you get your dog to listen to you and have purpose at the same time? Well my friend, you gotta become more interesting. By this, I mean you need to incorporate your presence into a dog’s purpose, which is usually done by pairing yourself with many positive experiences. Positive experiences are what-ever your dog is motivated by at that moment. So, if you want your dog to come back when you call them, become part of the motivation.
Here's some tips to being more interesting:
1. Don’t take your phone with you on a walk. The social media update from 2 minutes ago will not be ground breaking.
2. Take treats, toys and dedication to your dog with you on a walk
3. When your dog is distracted by something, grab your dog’s favourite squeaky toy to get their attention, call their name and magically offer a small handful of chicken to them, all within a few seconds. THEN (this is the most important part), let them go back to what they were doing.
4. Don’t let your dog off lead, until you have mastered the art of being more interesting.
5. When you have your dog’s attention, keep it for a very short amount of time, and move away from your dog before they move away from you.
6. Start to not give a rats about what people think of you and your dog. Have fun and be silly with your dog, call them in high pitch voices and run away from them, allowing them chase you. Dogs LOVE to chase you. They do not like you chasing them.
7. Never take your dog somewhere that is too distracting. If your dog is afraid of other dogs, do not let them off lead at a dog park.
8. Always take your dog somewhere they are engaged by, but somewhere they are comfortable with. This may be your backyard for a start, as you hide yummy treats and toys around the yard for half an hour each day together. Then it may be a friend’s place. Then it may be a quiet area away from other dogs. Then it may be a social environment where pro-social dogs attend. This all depends on your dog.
9. Always give your dog more than what they are expecting from you. If your dog is expecting 1 small treat, and they get 5, they will remember what they needed to do to get that again. Then, provide this intermittently and watch their motivation increase!
10. Keep the purpose alive on your walks. Don’t stop your dog from sniffing trees, weeing on them and stopping to pick up on the latest pee-mail. This is important to your dog.
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