Ask Piper - My Dog Ignores Me!

Ask Piper

Advice from a Mini Aussie, Mystical Muse, Mistress of the Sofa

Q: My dog knows how to sit and lie down and all that. 

I'm sure he knows it because he does it just fine at home. But when I take him on a walk or to training class, he completely blows me off!!  

How can I teach him I mean business?


Steamed in St. Louis

A: Dear Steamed,

All righty. Let's try this mental image on for size.

You've finally arrived. It's your favorite day of the year - the day of the big car show. Corvettes, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, maybe a Bentley or two and even a Ford GT. You're mesmerized, wandering down the aisles, picturing yourself in the driver's seat when all of a sudden...

It's your 11th grade calculus teacher, Mrs. Williams.

"Sweetie," she says. "Would you mind sitting down and finishing your homework you forgot to do in 1983?"

She hands it to you.


Not only are you enthralled by the sights around you, you don't even remember what a partial differential equation is. I mean, you THINK you do but it's just slipping through your...


Mrs. Williams taps her foot. 

"Wha? No, I just.. I..." :nervous glances around: :sweat appears on your brow:

Ok, so you get the idea. Now here's the deal. When we take our dogs out, things are DIFFERENT, man. There's so much world out there for them to look at. Distractions galore. And besides, did you really teach your dog that "sit" means to sit any time, anywhere? Or just "sit in the kitchen when I'm wearing my treat bag the night before dog class desperately trying to do all my homework in one 10 minute session".

And here's another one. motivation. Are you bringing the good stuff on walks? Chicken, hot dog? Do not EVEN try to give me a Milk Bone for listening to you around SQUIRRELS.

And last, there's always stress.  Not only can the big world be exciting, it can be scary. Who has time to worry about sitting when you're trying to figure out if that long giant yellow miniature-human-mobile is going to LITERALLY SMASH YOU as it squeals to a stop at the curb.

So here's the deal. Stop taking it so personally. It's not you, it's her. You'll need to introduce your dog to distractions more slowly, make sure you teach the behavior in multiple environments at a level that your dog can get it right, give your dog some GOOD snackies when she wins, and introduce your dog to new environments in a way she can feel safe and confident.

If you're ready for the challenge, here's a cool article on the Give Me a Break game, which is a super fun game (read: I get snackies) that teaches your dog to choose you over the environment.

Ok, so now you know the truth. Your dog isn't being stubborn, disobedient, or any of those other words you humans use to try to avoid taking responsibility for training your dogs. (Hey, I don't blame you, it's hard work). The good news is that you don't have to send your dog to therapy for a personality flaw, you just need to keep catching your dog getting it right and working at your dog's level.

You'll get there. Together. Teamwork!

Squirrelly yours, 
piper's signature

Last modified: Thursday, 16 December 2021, 10:03 PM