How to Help Your Dog Listen & Respond

by Lydia Janssen
    Consistency and training are the keys to helping your dog listen.

    Consistency and training are the keys to helping your dog listen.

    Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

    A dog who doesn't listen can be frustrating and destructive in the house and may put herself in danger outside. Learning to attract and maintain your dog's attention will give you a calmer and friendlier companion and the control you need to keep her safe in an emergency.

    The right tone will help your dog know when you're happy, when you're displeased and when she needs to pay attention. When you give your dog a command, keep your tone firm and the word short. Remember that you are telling your dog, not asking her. When praising her, use a light, high-pitched tone, and when you tell her "no," use a lower, stern tone.

    Your dog is more likely to listen and respond if you use rewards that she can get excited about. For some dogs, this may be a dog biscuit or a piece of meat. For others, it's a quick game of fetch. Others get excited by petting and praise. Try different rewards until you find a few that really get your furry friend to perk up and pay attention. Use a variety of lower impact rewards, like a piece of kibble, and high impact rewards, like pieces of sausage, to keep training interesting.

    Communicating with your dog requires a fast response time, and confused dogs may get frustrated and struggle with commands. Reward good behavior immediately so she understands which behavior you want. You can use clicker training, using a sharp sound to mark the correct behavior the second it occurs and following it with a reward shortly thereafter, to create even more clear communication between you and your best friend.

    Your dog will be more likely to listen to you if she always knows what to expect. Once you make a decision, such as no attention when your dog is jumping up or no begging at the table, make sure that you stick to it and everyone in the house knows and enforces the rules. Give commands when you have her attention so she doesn't get into the habit of ignoring your instructions, and when she doesn't listen, avoid repeating yourself.

    Most dogs have trouble listening when they are excited or distracted. Set your girl up for success by slowly introducing distractions into your training sessions. Once your dog masters a trick at home, start asking for the behavior in the backyard, on walks, or when you have visitors. The key is to gradually build the level of distraction. If she starts struggling, take a step back and give her time to solidify the behavior. Working with your dog in a clear, consistent manner in a variety of situations will help her understand what you want and how to listen to you.

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    About the Author

    Lydia Janssen began her career writing news articles for the SPCA to connect adoptable pets with their potential owners. She moved into professional writing in 2009 and uses her experience as a dog trainer, SPCA kennel worker and veterinary technician to bring quality information to responsible pet owners.

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