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Every dog parent wants to have a good relationship with their precious pooch but achieving that requires a good deal of work and clear communication.
But what happens when your dog ignores you when you call them, they avoid you when you come near them, or they just don’t want to listen to your commands?
It can be heartbreaking to see your canine companion acting like you don’t exist and you might be wondering why is my dog suddenly ignoring me?
First, you need to rule out any medical conditions like deafness or an ear infection. This could also be a behavioral issue caused by stress, inconsistency in training, or mental trauma. Some owners might be reinforcing this behavior involuntarily or giving unclear instructions.
There are many reasons why your dog isn’t too keen on following your commands. For some of you, this could be an ongoing struggle, or this might be an unexpected change.
Either way, we’re here to explore all these reasons and find the right tools to mend your communication!
Why Is My Dog Ignoring or Avoiding Me?
All dogs have their own personalities some are energetic fluffballs while others are less enthusiastic.
However, living with a dog that has been always avoiding you or outright ignoring you not only is devastating, but it might make you doubt your parenting skills or your compatibility.
There’s always a reason why our dogs behave in a certain way, but this behavior isn’t carved in stone and luckily, we have the ability to change it, but first, we need to understand it.
Reason 1: You Still Haven’t Bonded
Research has shown that dogs are capable of creating attachments and the relationship between humans and dogs resembles that of a caregiver and infant.
But this doesn’t mean that this deep bond will happen overnight. If you recently adopted a puppy then you should expect that it might require weeks or even months until they become fully familiar with you.
Let’s not forget that for that strong bond to develop you’ll need to spend lots of energy on training, playing, and spending quality time together.
If your puppy is ignoring your commands, they’re avoiding eye contact and they seem to do whatever they want, then be patient and keep up with their training.
Then again if you’ve adopted an older dog from a shelter and you feel that they don’t listen to you, or they’re avoiding you then they might be suffering from past trauma.
This doesn’t mean that they will ignore you or run away from you forever.
It takes more time to build the confidence of a dog that has been hurt, but creating a safe space for them in your home and using training to understand their body language will help you strengthen your bond, and your doggy will start listening to you without fear.
Reason 2: They Need More Training
Whether you’ve just adopted your puppy or you’ve been together for a few years, noticing that your dog isn’t always responsive or they’re consistently ignoring you when it suits them could mean that you’re not spending enough time training them.
And don’t get me wrong, maybe you’re spending 15 minutes a day training them which is the minimum according to Debra Horwitz, DVM. But it could be possible that your dog and their personality require more time, or perhaps they want to be trained in short 5-minute sessions spread throughout their day.
Early training will determine how well they listen to you, but training isn’t linear and a lot of the time what your dog has learned during their puppyhood may need to be undone and re-taught for better results and communication.
If you notice that your dog is more often than not acting out by ignoring your commands, then going back to the basics of training can help them see that you don’t accept this behavior.
Reason 3: They Don’t Understand You
Simply using treats or praise to give out commands isn’t enough. Understanding your dog’s body language is part of the training process, but your dog also needs to understand you.
When we talk with our friends or family, we tend to use long sentences or drop certain words because we know that as a species we can understand things from the context that is given, but our dogs can’t.
Don’t get me wrong dogs are not stupid on the contrary they’re incredibly smart animals and perhaps your dog is just like Rico, a border collie that according to research could learn the labels of over 200 different items right away and remember them after four weeks had passed.
But most dogs need constant practice, and you need to use the same words to make them understand what you’re asking of them so they can actually follow your commands.
Your dog might be ignoring you because they simply don’t know what you want from them and if this keeps happening then you’ll see rejection come your way.
Complicated commands, the use of unfamiliar words, and failing to follow a routine will most likely mean that your dog won’t complete the task given, whether that’s fetching you the ball, or not climbing up the couch, and at some point, they might just stop trying.
Reason 4: They Are Not Getting Anything In Return
We’ve all had that moment of initial joy when our dog has finally listened to our command and handed us their paw. Perhaps just like me, you thought that from now on this will happen all the time, but this isn’t always the case.
By performing what we asked them to, means that they did listen and understood our command, but they were also happy to know that they’ll be getting something out of it, their favorite treat.
Usually, with positive reinforcement, you begin to train your dog by giving them a treat four out of every five times while they are performing the trick. Along with the treat you need to also praise them. Over time you can reduce the treat reward but not the praise. This way your dog will keep performing the trick expecting praise in return.
However, according to Human Society, you still need to reward your dog occasionally and if you decrease the rewards too quickly your dog could become “frustrated or confused.”
If you’ve stopped rewarding your dog completely or you do it rarely this means that your fellow friend might stop listening to your commands, because praise isn’t good enough.
I mean if you were not getting paid for your job wouldn’t you stop taking orders from your boss even if they kept telling you how awesome you are?
A 2014 study also showed that dogs won’t listen to a human if they think they’re unreliable. So, if your dog knows that they won’t get anything in return they will simply ignore you!
Reason 5: You Have High Expectations
As I’ve already mentioned, training a dog takes time and for every dog, the time and effort you have to put in may differ.
When your dog isn’t listening to you or a certain command, you need to take a step back and see if you’re asking too much of them too soon.
Let’s take puppies for example. During early training, a puppy won’t know the meaning of the word like sit or stand. “The key is to associate the word, in this case, “sit,” with the action of placing the hind end on the floor,” explains Dr. Horwitz.
She also adds that “it takes repetition, time and perseverance for the puppy to predictably and reliably respond to commands in a variety of situations.”
Even for older dogs learning a number of tricks and commands like rolling over can take a long time and for certain breeds of dogs with traumatic pasts, this can be a back-and-forth process.
If your dog is feeling that you’re overdemanding and you’re asking too much of them they’ll simply ignore you. Not everyone is an A+ student from the very start, some need hard work, but one thing is certain they all need help and support during this journey.
Reason 6: Your Dog Might Be Spoiled
I know how easy it is to succumb to the pressure of those puppy eyes and let your dog do what we think makes them happy.
But being a dog parent also means knowing when to be strict to encourage positive behaviors that won’t simply benefit you but also your dog.
If you notice your dog ignoring you, that they walk away from you instead of listening to you then perhaps you need to ask yourself whether that’s a behavior you’ve been reinforcing without even realizing it.
For example, if you feel bad when your doggy runs away from you or doesn’t seem to notice you then your first reaction might be to lure them in by using treats, offering them toys, or showering them with extra love and attention.
With time your dog might realize that they can only get treats and your attention when they ignore you. To change this you’ll need to start rewarding your pooch when they do show interest in you and refrain from giving them any love when they begin to avoid you.
I understand that you love your dog unconditionally but if you’re not asking anything in return then you will most likely get nothing.
Reason 7: They’re Not Feeling Well
Sudden changes in your dog’s behavior should be enough to make you worry especially when your obedient pooch stops listening to you.
If this is an involuntary behavior, then your dog might be suffering from hearing impairment which is quite common in senior dogs. Hearing loss can be gradual, and it might take you a while to realize that your dog isn’t simply ignoring you but they can’t hear you.
According to AKC “As your dog loses his hearing, you might find him “ignoring” your cues, such as not sitting when asked or failing to come when you call him.” Commands that seemed to come easy to them might feel confusing now.
PetMD also states that “More than 30 breeds of dogs have a known susceptibility for deafness” Among them are the Australian shepherd, Boston terrier, cocker spaniel, dalmatian, and others.
An ear infection, disease, or a ruptured eardrum could also affect your dog’s responsiveness. Elizabeth Racine, DVM, states that “whining, scratching, and head shaking are often the first symptoms of the problem.”
She also says that dogs are more prone to ear infections because of the shape of their ear canals. But allergies, injury, or a foreign body getting stuck in your dog’s ear could also create discomfort and you’ll suddenly find yourself in the company of a dog that has a hard time listening to you.
Of course, any sort of medical problem that causes pain can make your dog seem restless, they might be avoiding you because they might not want to be touched.
That’s why if you feel like your dog is all of a sudden ignoring you then contact your vet or better pay them a visit so they can examine your dog for any medical issues that are causing this behavioral change.
Reason 8: They Have Anxiety
Aside from medical reasons that can change your dog’s behavior, their mental state can also be responsible for suddenly ignoring you.
Perhaps you’ve been too busy at work and you’re spending less and less time with your pooch. This abrupt change in their routine and your less active participation in their life can also make them distant and by ignoring you they might want to get you to notice them more.
Separation anxiety is usually the leading cause of dog anxieties and stress. Being left alone leads to destructive behaviors like howling, barking, digging the yard, and destructive chewing among others.
When you’re back your dog might act clingy or distant especially if you’ve left them alone for a prolonged time or they had to stay at a kennel.
It’s also possible that your dog will need some time to bond with you again after your absence, so you’ll have to put more effort into their training and generally spend more time with them to get them to listen to you.
If your dog is ignoring you, but they don’t have any medical issues then they could be depressed. Try to observe their overall behavior, perhaps they no longer enjoy the things that used to drive them crazy.
Your dog might even refuse to eat food or do activities like playing or going out for a walk at their favorite park.
Depression could also be a sign of a deeper medical issue, or Dr. Sinn states that “it could be the loss of an owner, the loss of a buddy that they have grown up with, or a huge lifestyle change—a big move, or the addition or subtraction of key members of their social group. It tends to be context-specific.”
Understanding what stressors are causing your dog to ignore you can help you change their environment or your own behavior. By investing in some quality time with your dog and doing the things they enjoy you can bring back their lust for life.
Not only will they start listening to you but they’ll also be happy!
Reason 9: You Look Different
This might seem like a silly reason to you, but perhaps the sudden shift in your dog’s behavior has to do with another change.
If you’ve changed your appearance by letting your beard grow out, or perhaps you went for a crazy hair color and hairstyle this could affect your dog’s perception of you.
Of course, your altered appearance shouldn’t make a lasting difference unless your dog sees a different meaning behind it.
For dogs that were traumatized and abused by their previous owner who had a long beard your facial hair could become a reminder of that trauma. This could make your canine companion wearier of you and ignoring your commands could be a consequence.
Beards also tend to hide a great part of the face, and if your dog is still young, or they’ve never seen you with a full-grown beard then it’s only natural that they’ll be avoiding you, at least at the beginning or until you shave it all off!
Reason 10: They’re Holding A Grudge
I know we want to see our dogs as these fluffy adorable and innocent creatures and while they are, they also have complex personalities, and some can kind of hold a grudge against us.
At least that’s what the 2019 research has shown, according to which dogs possess the cognitive and emotional capacity to feel negative feelings after someone has done something to hurt them.
This grudge could come in the form of avoiding the person or ignoring them.
If you feel that your dog is giving you the silent treatment perhaps it’s because they’ve associated being recalled with a negative consequence.
I’m not saying you necessarily used punishment, which would most definitely lead a dog to misbehave and ignore you, but even raising your voice could be seen as a punishment or a negative reaction by your dog.
It’s also possible that your dog misinterpreted your actions. Perhaps you weren’t yelling at them but at the TV, they just happened to be there and see this intense reaction as something to avoid in the future.
Dogs with PTSD from past owners can easily associate loud noises, yelling or abrupt walking, and hand gesturing as a threat. This could make your dog distant so they can avoid getting hurt again.
Some dogs can avoid their owners if they know they did something bad, like chewing your favorite shoes. Perhaps you’ve never punished or yelled at them, but told them they were a “bad boy”.
While the word itself might not hold much meaning, your body language is enough to let them know that you’re frustrated.
During walks or training, you will find that it can take a bit of time for dogs to perform a task if they sense that you’re feeling annoyed even while they do perform the task eventually they will create an association.
So why should they listen to you if you’re just going to be mad or annoyed?
This truly shows that our body language, what we say, and how we express ourselves matters and it can leave a lasting effect on our dogs.
Reason 11: You’re At The Park
The circumstances under which your dog doesn’t seem to listen to you or they even run away from you matter. These things can give you the context to understand why their usual obedient self is being rebellious all of a sudden.
You might want your dog to always pay attention to you, but your dog might be too occupied with something at that moment.
Usually, dog parks offer a magnitude of interesting things. Children are playing, other dogs are running around or people are walking, running, and throwing frisbees. There could also be small rodents like squirrels and birds in the area that your dog wants to chase.
For puppies and young dogs that aren’t properly trained yet, and haven’t been to the park before, this can be an overwhelming experience and it might be difficult to get their attention at least not right away.
Of course, with training and proper socialization, your dog will be able to control their excitement and listen to your voice above all else, but still, they might not respond straight away.
That’s why training shouldn’t only take place in your house, but it should be an ongoing process that needs to happen in different places under different circumstances.
Of course, not all at once, but slowly and with lots of patience!
Reason 12: You Have Visitors
If you’ve never had a problem with your dog listening to you, but you suddenly find them ignoring you for the first time when you have friends over then it’s really not that surprising.
And of course, I understand that you’ve put in hours upon hours of training and teaching your dog to follow your lead, but especially a puppy or a young dog can be too thrilled with the new people to listen to any of your commands or perform any tricks.
Dogs that haven’t been socialized as puppies to meet other people and dogs can display an array of different behaviors, and if they feel nervous around strangers it might seem like they’re ignoring you.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before past traumatic experiences can make dogs feel nervous and shy around new people and they might seem like they’re avoiding their company as well as yours.
There are different ways how you can approach your dog’s enthusiastic or shy behavior when having visitors.
First, you need to introduce your dog to your guests outside of the house and ask your friends to give your dog some space. People that don’t have dogs can find it difficult to understand that dogs also have boundaries and it’s your job to make them respect those boundaries.
When the dog is obedient the guests can give them treats. This way the visit becomes a safe encounter and a positive one.
Taking your dog to group lessons can also help them socialize and be more open to new people, while also listening to you during such interactions.
How Can I Get My Dog To Listen To Me?
There are plenty of reasons your dog is ignoring you, whether it’s a behavior they acquired recently or not, there is a solution to your miscommunication.
Like most relationships, it will take a good amount of work to get your pooch to listen to you so let’s see what that may involve!
Rule Out Any Medical Causes
Any changes in your dog’s behavior shouldn’t be ignored and if you find your dog unresponsive to your commands then you should take them to the vet for a check-up.
You might also notice that they appear off-balance, perhaps they get startled when they realize you’re close by or they can’t seem to stop rubbing their ears.
These could be signs of an ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, or even deafness. Ear infections are common in dogs and even the build-up of ear wax can lead to scratching and further injuries.
But even if it’s not your dog’s ears that are bothering them it could be another underlying condition that is causing them pain which can make any dog appear more lethargic. Not only they might not be able to hear your commands, but they might be in enough pain that when you call them they won’t make the effort to come to you.
Chronic pain, past emotional trauma or a recent traumatic event can also cause depression or anxiety in dogs which can lead to destructive behaviors and ignoring your commands.
That’s why taking your dog for regular vet visits, especially as they age or whenever you see them feeling under the weather can help you rule out possible illnesses, but also get advice on how to lift your dog’s spirits up.
Your vet can also recommend a dog behaviorist that can pinpoint possible errors in your training or help you figure out what is making your dog so unhappy that they choose to ignore you.
It’s important to understand that you don’t have to and you shouldn’t do this alone, sometimes an outsider’s perspective can truly help us see a piece of information we’re missing out on.
Consider What Is Different When Your Dog Listens To You
If your dog doesn’t always avoid you or ignore your commands a good start is to find out what are you doing differently when they do.
Perhaps you’ll start noticing a pattern in your own behavior that’s causing them to misbehave like this.
Some dogs don’t respond well to loud noises, so if you’ve raised your voice when you called for them, even if it wasn’t in a threatening manner your dog might feel that they’ll get punished for doing something wrong and choose to avoid it.
Consider their environment, are they obedient when you’re at home but they act out when you’re at the park? Perhaps the presence of other dogs makes it harder for them to listen to you.
Have you been away from home more often or have you decreased the amount of time you spend walking, playing, and training your dog? Your absence can be responsible for your dog ignoring you.
Their environment, their health, as well as your own behavior can have a great impact on their responsiveness.
Train Your Dog To Pay Attention To You
I’m sure most dog parents are on top of their dog’s training, but if they still don’t seem to listen to you then perhaps you need to take a step back and revisit all the basic commands you have been teaching them.
Focus on three simple skills you want your dog to understand and follow like:
- Recognizing their name when you call them.
- Understanding and listening to the command you use to call them, usually “come.”
- Sitting, standing and lying are also useful commands whether you are home or outside.
Make sure you always use the same commands for the same tasks, don’t complicate things by using different words or variations of these words.
Be consistent with your commands and the rewards you give them so your dog knows that you’re a reliable person that is worth listening to.
Don’t just train them at home, use these commands in every part of the house, in your yard, outside on the street, and of course the park.
Your dog should begin to understand that there is consistency in their training and that you expect the same behavior no matter where you are.
You also need to accept that certain areas evoke excitement in your dog and they might need more time to learn to listen to you even when there are other people, guests, or dogs around.
Create a routine in your dog’s day-to-day activities and keep up with their daily training even when you think they’ve stopped ignoring you. If they feel neglected or that you’re being an unreliable person once again they’ll begin to avoid you as they did before.
For those of you that struggle with your dog’s training and can’t seem to get their attention, I’d suggest taking a few lessons to help you take control over your relationship with your fellow friend.
Work On Your Communication
As you’ve already seen above, sticking to one-word commands like sit, stand, and come can help your dog stay focused.
You also need to understand that being consistent isn’t enough, because you might be doing the same thing over and over again but if your dog doesn’t understand you they still won’t listen.
Teach them one command at a time instead of cramming them all together, because rewarding each command individually is what’s going to help your dog understand the difference between calling their name, the word “come” or “sit.”
Notice when during these commands your dog loses his interest, are you talking too much? Perhaps you forgot to give them a treat.
If your dog is hard of hearing, verbal commands won’t be enough. You will need to add gestures to reinforce verbal communication. But even with gestures, you’ll need to be consistent otherwise your body language might seem confusing even contradictory to your command.
There’s always a reason why your dog is ignoring you and maybe a family member is responsible. They might be using a different form of communication to train your dog which can be confusing.
Communication is key, but only if you’re willing to listen to your dog and use your verbal and body language in a way that they can understand.
Choose The Treats They Actually Love
Your dog might love consistency and the safety of an established routine, but we also don’t want them to get bored, especially when it comes to treats.
Most dogs love treats and these little things are one of the most efficient ways you can make your dog listen to you, but if what they receive after each task is a basic dog treat then they might not be as enthusiastic next time.
If you notice that your dog doesn’t gobble up the treat in excitement and they begin to ignore your commands even though they know treats will be involved, then it’s time you made some changes.
This is a good moment to experiment with different flavors, textures, and shapes and discover what treats make your doggy go crazy.
Try rotating their favorite treats so they don’t get bored and always keep an eye out for a new treat you could add to the mix.
Then again if your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy treats perhaps they prefer toys. Instead of choosing squeaky toys go for a flirt toy that offers plenty of prey drive. This is basically a cat toy but much bigger and resilient, and if that sounds like something your dog would enjoy you can check out my favorite flirt pole from Outward Hound and get a better idea of how they work here on Amazon.
Choosing their favorite treats, or toys as rewards will make each session exciting and unforgettable. So, not only will they listen to you, but they will also be more eager to learn and perform the task the next time.
Set Up Playtime With Your Dog
Understanding your dog’s personality and needs is a crucial part of getting them to listen to you.
For example, a hyper dog that enjoys the outdoors is more likely to ignore you since all they can focus on is the pent-up energy they need to release.
By taking your dog for longer walks, perhaps a run outside of the city or a park where they can go off the leash can help them release all that excitement which will help them return their attention to you.
Just look at this Greyhound he doesn’t have time for socializing he needs a good run first to show off his super speed!
Younger dogs, in particular, need more exercise, and having a dog means that you’ll need to set aside some hours of the day for daily walks, and playtime.
This time can be used to bond with your canine friend which means that they will no longer ignore you since they see how happy you try to make them feel.
Then again older dogs might not have the same energy levels, and the reason they are less responsive could be because of joint discomfort. So, even if you call them over, they might choose to ignore it.
Try to explore the possible things your dog loves, what does their personality tells you, and with time you should find the balance between being a fun person to be around and someone they can listen to and do the things you ask them to.
Don’t Use Punishment
Your dog doesn’t ignore you out of spite, instead, they look for positive outcomes and that’s what will get them to repeat a behavior or a task.
However, negative associations and punishment can have a serious impact on your relationship and your dog could start ignoring you out of fear.
Studies have found that when dogs look like they’re feeling guilty they are simply reacting to human body language by taking on signs of submission and fear like hanging their head low, tucking their tail, and avoiding eye contact.
If your dog gets punished each time they fail to perform a task you will most likely find them avoiding you so they can also avoid getting guilt-tripped.
It’s clear that dogs don’t learn well if they are being punished or shouted at, while positive reinforcement and the use of treats and praise are the kinds of training techniques that will make them listen to you and give you good results.
A healthy relationship is when a dog listens to you out of love and doesn’t ignore you out of fear.
Why Does My Dog Ignore Me When I Call Him?
If all you see when you call your dog’s name is a blurry image of them running away and ignoring you then they most likely need more training.
Of course, puppies and young dogs are easily distracted especially in places that are crowded and fun, but you might be using the wrong command that ends up confusing your friend.
By being consistent, using the same word to call them back, and rewarding them with a treat when they do as you say you’ll be teaching your dog to listen to you.
I’d also suggest using a safe space, perhaps a dog class that’s located in an area with a fence so you don’t have to worry that your doggy will escape or hurt themselves.
It’s also possible that your dog knows that when you go to the park they will have to go through training and commands and won’t get much play out of you. So, try to make training playful and fun so they can actually enjoy their time at the park with you not away from you.
Why is My Dog Ignoring Me But Not My Partner?
It’s a wonderful feeling seeing your loving dog being friendly with your partner, but this feeling can easily turn to heartbreak if you find your dog choosing them over you.
Perhaps you and your partner adopted the little pooch together, but you don’t seem to get the same attention and love that your partner does.
To an extent this doesn’t have to do anything with you, it could be that your dog and your partner have matching temperaments that have made their bond stronger in a short period of time.
Certain breeds like the Rottweiler are known to single out an individual in the family that they shower with affection. But this doesn’t mean you can’t win your dog’s love back or be as equally important to them as your partner.
Take a moment to observe your partner and how they behave around your dog. Perhaps they spend more time at home training and playing with your dog. Are they the ones who feed your little pooch and fill up their water bowl?
If you want to improve your relationship with your dog you’ll need to participate in these activities just like your partner does. So, while your partner isn’t home take a moment to work on a few commands with your dog and re-establish your relationship through play.
Don’t let your partner take the role of the fun parent, while you’re there establishing the rules. Divide these responsibilities equally and most importantly, take your time to get to know your dog.
Enjoy the process and don’t focus on the end goal rather on the journey and I’m sure your soft pooch will surprise you one day by taking a long nap beside you!
So, you might be worried that your dog doesn’t love you anymore.
That’s why I really want to point out that a dog that is ignoring you doesn’t hate you or loves you any less.
This misbehavior more often than not is the consequence of miscommunication and fortunately, it’s something you can improve by putting in the work.
In some cases, you’ll need to build a stronger bond or work on articulating your commands clearly and at the right time.
Perhaps using the right treats is the way to get closer to your dog’s heart, others might prefer a toy, and then there are those doggies who simply want you to pay more attention to them!
Now tell us, have you ever been ignored by your dog and how did you get them to listen to you again?