Why Does My Dog Ignore Me?
Bringing a new dog into our life is an amazing process. If you have children, you get to enjoy their anticipation as well as your own excitement. But in the days and weeks following the arrival of their new family member, many owners experience an emotional low. Here at Fenrir, we call this phenomenon the “puppy blues”. This phase is not the privilege of puppy owners: It can also befall people who have adopted an older dog. And one of the core reasons for having this emotional low is that people feel ignored by their new dog: “Why doesn’t my dog pay attention to me?”, is a question many people ask us. Even experienced owners can suffer from feeling ignored by the pet they love so much. In this article, we give you simple methods to build engagement with your new dog. First, however, let us see why dogs are ignoring the people who care about them most.
Top 3 Reasons Why Dogs Ignore Their Owners
1. The New Relationship Needs Time To Grow
People who complain about their new dogs ignoring them often only see one side of the story. It is understandable to feel disappointed if your cuddly puppy or your adorable rescue dog ignores you. And yet, from the dog’s perspective, you are a complete stranger. They have just been removed from everything they have known so far in their lives: mother and littermates, breeders or caretakers at the shelter. Getting used to their new environment will take time. And bonding with a new social partner does not happen overnight. Just like any relationship, the connection with your new canine companion needs time to grow.
2. Lack Of Leadership
Dogs thrive on calm, consistent leadership. If this component is missing from their lives, they are not fulfilled, happy and relaxed. Many people are surprised to hear this. But we suggest watching experienced canine professionals and balanced trainers working with untrained dogs – or with dogs that have behavioural problems. Such sessions usually start off with an ill-mannered dog. This dog is usually pulling on the leash, and completely ignoring the person holding the leash. But then, as the session proceeds, observe the dog’s body language: You will witness an amazing transformation. At Fenrir, we call this phenomenon “watching the weight of the world fall off a dog’s shoulders”. Formerly aggressive, fearful or reactive dogs visible relax. They look up to their handler for guidance and direction. They perk up, and happily take treats from the handler or play with them. These training sessions are a joy to watch.
3. Lack Of Engagement
The third reason for your dog ignoring you is very closely related to the absence of leadership. And that is lack of engagement. Out in public, most dogs pay little to no attention to their owners. Some of them walk with their nose glued to the ground, eager to absorb any scent that is present. Others are ever-alert, their heads on a swivel, and their eyes eagerly scanning the scenery for signs of other dogs, cats, or anything else that could be of interest. These dogs are wonderfully engaged with everything in their environment – just not with the person on the other end of their leash.
How Do I Get My Dog To Listen?
Think about all the dogs you see out in public with their owners. Ask yourself how many of them walk on a nice lose leash, and routinely look up to their handlers. Most likely, almost every dog in your neighbourhood pulls on their leash and ignores their owner. And yet, no one thinks anything of it. So, if you feel ignored by your dog, take comfort from the fact that most owners share your fate. Nevertheless, as your dog’s loving leader, you want to encourage them to pay attention to you. And doing so is quite easy: All you need to do is remedy the 3 factors we have listed in the previous section. You want to build engagement, relationship and leadership with your dog. And here is how you can do this.
1. Become A Calm, Consistent Canine Leader
Everyone in your household should be your dog’s calm, consistent leader. To become such leaders, they have to spending time with the dog, and take care of them. Therefore, we recommend asking your family members to share in the responsibilities: Let them take turns in feeding your dog, grooming them, playing with them, and walking them.
At the same time, dogs greatly benefit from having one primary caregiver. As you are reading this article, we will assume this primary canine leader will be you. In this capacity, you should be the first person to teach them new skills. These include basic obedience commands such as “Come”, “Down”, “Sit” etc. Once your dog has learned the meaning of these cues, the other people in your home can practise them with the dog.
2. Build Engagement
The easiest way to stop your dog from ignoring you on walks is by introducing directional changes. To do this, you simply stop walking, turn around and walk back.in the opposite direction. If you leave some slack in your leash, this movement will cause your dog to experience a sudden pop. Initially, no verbal cues are needed – just focus on repeatedly changing your direction.
After a while, your dog will start to engage with you, simply because they are learning to look to you for cues. Over time, you can mark these directional changes with a cue like “Let’s go. So, you stop walking, give the cue, and then give your dog a moment to comply. If they do, you praise them. If not, they receive a pop on the leash. Initially, verbal praise is enough.
Our Ragnar Slip Leash is an ideal tool for this exercise. Easy to handle and suitable for dogs of any age, the Ragnar Leash is very safe to use: Unlike conventional slip leads, this model has an adjustable metal plate. This feature allows you to control how far the leash contracts. In this way, you can communicate with your dog without worrying about their health.
3. Spend Active Time With Your Dog
The best way to strengthen the bond between you and the new dog in your life is by spending active time with them. Cuddles on the sofa are great, but dogs love doing fun things with their owners. Good examples for such enjoyable bonding activities are walks, hikes, road trips, dinners in dog-friendly restaurants, and visits to friends and family. Once your dog is well-socialised and trained, taking them out in public should be a joy – and not a burden. And by doing so, even more socialisation and training take place. Once you have laid the foundation of leadership, your relationship will blossom. And once this relationship is established, you can easily communicate with the dog. At this point of your journey, you can take them with you to any (dog-friendly) place you like.
If your dog is not paying much attention to you right now, you are not alone: Countless dogs are ignoring their owners, at least in certain situations. But life with your canine companion does not have to be this way. No matter what your dog’s age, or for how long you have owned them - you can always improve your bond. If you are spending lots of active time with your dog, and honing your leadership-skills at the same time, you are well on your way to success. Be the calm, consistent leader that your dog needs to be happy. And soon enough, they will be looking to you for guidance and direction in all circumstances and situations.