Why doesn't my puppy listen to me?
By Sarah Groves Dog Training - your puppy training specialist covering Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea
So your pup is doing something they shouldn't do - you tell them to stop, tell them no or call their name but they just don't listen and carry on - if anything, even more!
Why is this?
What can you do to change things around?
Top three reasons to why your puppy isn't listening, and what you can do straight away to change things around:
Reason #1 - your puppy doesn't understand what you want from them
Learning takes time.
Your pup may have only been on this planet for a number of months, and of course, doesn't speak or understand your words.
Therefore, any words such as 'No', 'Stop' and even the pup's own name can have no meaning attached to them right now.
Infact, telling your pup NO when they are doing something you don't like has been found to escalate the issue further.
In my experience, when a pup is doing something wrong and the owner tells them NO over and over again, this series of events will take place:
1) The owner isn't getting the outcome they desire, so will repeat 'no' harder and louder.
2) The puppy will then start to feel scared/worried or frustrated that all of a sudden their guardian is shouting loud noise at them.
3) This frustration can build and the behaviour outcome can look like barking, biting, lunging, or snarling.
What can you do about this instead?
Make a list of the behaviours that you don't like, along with a list of behaviours that you WOULD like your dog to do instead.
What my pup is doing:
Chewing on the furnature
Jumping up at people when they come into the house
Jumping up and begging at the table when i'm trying to eat
What I would like my pup to do instead:
Move away from the furnature when I ask and chew on appropriate toys
Greet people with a sit
Lie on his own bed when i'm eating
My making a list like this, you will get a better idea of what steps you can put into place and what behaviours you can start teaching your puppy.
So, from this small list, I would suggest teaching the following basic behaviours:
- An attention noise (also known as a positive interruptor)
- Lie down and relax on a mat/bed
Once you go back to basics with training and teaching the behaviours you would like to see instead, your pup will start to build a vocabulary of words and phrases that they will understand and is more likely to listen to you when you need it the most.
Reason #2 - your dog isn't MOTIVATED to do the thing you want
In other words - why should your puppy do what you want, when there's a better offer elsewhere?
What can you do about this?
Find what your puppy LOVES and use this as motivation and a reward for the things you like seeing from them.
Most puppies will enjoy their own food - if this is something that your puppy enjoys, keep some of their own food allowance in your pocket through the day so you have the chance to redirect your puppy's focus when you need it, and reward better choices by giving them a piece of their own food when you see behaviour which you like.
There are so many different rewards you can use, but your pup's own food allowance is a great start!
Reason #3 - your puppy is overstimulated or over tired and not in a good mindset to listen or learn
Young puppies will get over stimulated very easily and it doesn't take an awful lot for this to tip over into behaviour decline.
Throughout the day your pup will be exposed to exciting events - and each exciting event will increase the stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol - in the body.
These stress hormones will raise and raise - there will be only so much the body can take before it goes over a threshold where the pup is able to cope.
Once we go beyond this threshold, this is where we see behaviours linked to something which we call 'oversrousal'.
Behaviours which you might see during this time includes:
- Over exaggerated biting
- Jumping up
- Not in a good mind set to listen
- More intense zoomies than usual
Other activities which contribute to this adrenaline stack includes:
- Certain types of play such as chasing a ball over and over
- LOTS of exercise
- Scary events
- Playing with other dogs for a long period of time
- Barking at the postman
- Being excitingly greeted by family members when they come home from work
And the list can go on....
Of course, some of these events we can have limited control over, but there are some steps that you can put into place to make sure your pup stays under 'threshold' and in a better mindset to hear you when you need it.
1) Provide your pup with calming enrichment activities through the day such as a licki mat, Kong or snuffle mat.
These activities will help channel your pup's excess energy and help with promoting calm.
2) Provide your pup with a variety of chews
Chewing will help to relax your puppy.
4) Reward calm behaviours
If your dog is lying down and appears to be doing noting - tell them that you really like them doing that behaviour by calmly placing some of their own food allowance infront of them.
4) Take a look at what's in your dog's food
Go to the website 'All About Dog Food' to find the nutritional rating of your dogs food along with the ingredients. Look for a food with a lower percentage of carbohydrates.
6) Make sure your puppy is getting enough sleep
Young puppies need around 17 hours of sleep in a day
7) Create a 'doggy diary' of your pup's daily routine and spot any patterns to when behaviour decline might be occuring. See if you can swap overstimulating activities for more calming activities.