Want to boost your dog’s obedience? Trainer reveals why it all comes down to avoiding these six mistakes

Dog walking beside woman
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Having a dog that doesn’t listen can be incredibly frustrating. Whether you’re trying to get them to drop something they’re not supposed to have or you’re attempting to stop them barking at the doorbell, it’s easy to label your dog’s lack of attentiveness as them being dominant or stubborn.

But as it turns out, it’s usually not quite so black and white. From figuring out how to stop a dog from jumping up to learning how to stop a dog from pulling on a leash, giving some thought as to why your pup isn’t listening to you during training sessions or at other times throughout the day can help you to figure out the best way of getting them to respond.

And thankfully, expert trainer Sean O’Shea has come to the rescue with a great Instagram post where he shares six things dog owners often overlook when their canine companion isn’t listening to them. If you’re looking to boost your dog’s obedience, read on to find out what O’Shea has to say. 

1. Your dog is stressed: “Address the anxiety, move further away from the scary thing, or ask your pup for something easier,” O’Shea advises when it comes to trying to deal with a dog that’s become stressed or reactive around a particular trigger.

2. They’re distracted: “Start easy and gradually add in distractions to your training. Make sure you’re setting your dog up to succeed by not asking for too much.”

3. They don’t feel well: Just like us, sometimes our beloved bundles of fluff are simply feeling under the weather and understanding this can go a long way in helping us to have compassion for why they might not be listening to us. “If your dog is in pain, nauseated or tired, forget about training until your dog feels better,” O’Shea advises.

4. You’re being unclear: Sometimes we give our dog confusing cues without realizing that we’re not being as clear as we think we are. In these instances, O’Shea has some straightforward advice: “Slow down and make sure you’re making sense to your dog.”

5. You’ve rewarded your dog for ignoring you: O’Shea says that rewarding a dog for not listening is a common mistake he sees dog owners making. A great example of this would be if you’re trying to get your pup to obey a command but you allow them to drag you over to another dog in the park so that they can say hello. O’Shea says it’s crucial that you don’t reward your pup for behaviors that you don’t want them to repeat.

6. You haven’t taught them what you’re wanting: “Did you actually teach the cue you’re asking for or do they just sometimes guess the right answer?,” asks O’Shea. If the answer is the latter, his advice is simple: “Back up and train!”

Learning how to work with your dog so that they listen takes time, patience and consistency. If you feel you’ve been undertaking obedience training with your pup for several months and you’re not seeing the improvements that you’d like, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer for some 1:1 support. 

For more great canine content, check out our guide to the three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it).

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.