So Your Dog Ignores You?

Photo by Patrick Danforth |

Photo by Patrick Danforth |

I got to thinking just how simple it should be to have a cooperative dog, so why do our dogs so often ignore us?

The other day, as I watched one of my clients call her dog and as he sat looking up at her expectantly, I had a flashback to many years ago.

When my youngest daughter was about three, she had a little game that she thought was hysterical. I would be driving the car and from the back I would hear,



"Mum? Mummy?"



"Yes?" (This could go on indefinitely).... I knew what was coming by now!

"NOTHING!" Ha ha ha

After a while, particularly if my mind was elsewhere, I would ignore her. I may not even hear her anymore.

An owner calls his dog to him, "Buster - Come!" Buster runs over to him.


Or, "Buster, Here.....Sit". Buster comes, sits and looks up at the man expectantly.


On a walk a woman calls her dog to her. He may come running to her a few times, but if each time it's "nothing", will he keep on running to her?

My train of thought here is just how many people expect obedience or cooperation from their dog whilst offering their dog no reason that he can see for doing as requested - and certainly there is nothing in it for him.

Why don't people like to carry food with them on walks? How can people 'not believe in using food', like rewarding their dog is akin to worshipping the devil; or feel that thanking their dog for doing as asked is bribery? These are usually people still with old-school ideas that if the dog does not do as asked, then there will be a punishing consequence.

Converting them over to allowing their dogs to earn some of their food in return for willing cooperation is something I need to do with many of my clients, some of whom are resistant. Call the dog by all means but give him a reason why - a treat or a game or a fuss or anything he values. Payment.

Certainly not just "Nothing!", or even worse, something he doesn't want at all, like a lead going on or being sent to his bed.

Ask him to sit if that's what you want - but let him know what he's sitting for. "Nothing" a few times will simply teach your dog to ignore you. You could call it 'crying wolf'.

Sooner or later, particularly if his mind is on something else or his head is down a rabbit hole, your dog may well not even hear you at all. In comparison to everything else on offer at the time, in order of importance you will be somewhere near the bottom.

Here is the story of such a dog who was expected to obey with no 'thank you'.

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Positively Expert: Theo Stewart

Theo Stewart is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer and a full member of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers. She is also a qualified schoolteacher.


3 thoughts on “So Your Dog Ignores You?

  1. Katy

    Great article, but some dogs (like mine) have a very good recall (500m or so in the fields... with a whistle or normal "come") - she ALWAYS gets a treat - cheese, hot dog, anything. ..but sometimes I may even be throwing all the treats in her directions and she just sits there and stares at me...

  2. Nev George RE

    I get the "You want me to do what?" look, no treats or anything else will get the little so and so back, he either just stands and looks at me or just lies down. My daughter has a pup of the same breed and she is completely opposite she is a foodie and will come if there is treats involved or even when there isn't, her favourite this is to wait for the other to chase a ball which he drops after catching it and she retrieves it and puts it in my hand...for treats 🙂

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