Dog not engaging with your commands? Canine psychologist explains why you should say less

Dog playing around
(Image credit: Getty)

We've all been there - repeating commands to our canine companions, only to be met with indifference or a lack of response. It can be frustrating and leave us wondering why our dogs aren't listening. But fear not, there's a new approach that might just revolutionize the way you communicate with your four-legged friend.

Canine psychologist Ridge Vogel, an expert in dog training and the brains behind the Ridge Dog Behavior Instagram account, has uncovered a game-changing solution that promises to bridge the communication gap between humans and dogs. With years of experience and a deep understanding of our canine companions, Vogel has developed an innovative technique that challenges the conventional wisdom of incessant talking during training sessions or having to solely rely on the best dog treats to gain your dog's attention

According to Vogel, the key to effective communication lies in saying less and showing more. "Humans are primarily verbal species while dogs are primarily non-verbal," notes Vogel. Canines respond better to visual cues and body language rather than a constant stream of words. Instead of repeating commands endlessly, Vogel advises pet owners to focus on meaningful communication that carries weight and clarity.

Perhaps you have a very hyper pup on your hands and reached your wit's end trying to learn everything there is to know on how to calm a reactive dog. Or on walks, you've been saying "Heel!" to your dog repeatedly, but they continue to dart ahead leaving you wondering how to stop a dog pulling on a leash

It's in these challenging scenarios that Vogel suggests a different approach. Instead of wasting energy on repetitive commands, simply stall and physically demonstrate what "Heel" truly means. By taking action and showing your dog the desired behavior, you establish a clear connection between your words and the associated action.

"We have to make sure that our words mean something. I don’t say those commands until the dog understands what the expectation is," explains Vogel. The underlying principle of his technique is to ensure that your words have meaning and purpose. Instead of mindlessly repeating commands, take a step back and evaluate if your dog genuinely understands what you're asking for.

By respecting a dog's primary mode of communication, you can strengthen your bond with them and create a more harmonious training environment. Vogel's method challenges the status quo and encourages pet owners to prioritize action-based learning for optimal results.

If you're having more persistent problems with your dog and in need of a breakthrough moment in training with them, you should consider gaining some professional help. Finding a local or online certified trainer for 1:1 is advised, but make sure you check out our guide on how to spot dog trainer red flags before booking one in for a session.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.