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My dog knows he is not supposed to do that!…..

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my dog knows

I love it when people say ‘my dog knows he is not supposed to… be on the sofa/jump at people/chew furniture/run away and ignore me.’

Because 9 times out of 10 I can guarantee that your dog does not know that at all. Otherwise that is what he would be doing.

It is more likely that your dog is too excited or stressed out to be able to preform the cue he supposedly knows, or he has found something more rewarding!

So what can be done?

Assess the situation

Ask why is my dog ignoring me or unable to do as I ask?

This week I had a lovely young Lab x Pointer mix in for recall training, Larry. Larry’s pawrents told me that he would generally come back when called, except when he is on a wildlife scent. Larry had gotten into the habit of hearing his recall word, turning to look, then running away on the scent!

Larry’s lovely owners told me, ‘he knows he is supposed to come back.’ I must admit, I suppressed a laugh. It always gives me a chuckle to hear about the creative ways that dogs don’t listen, and a good example of learning the wrong thing.

What Larry had actually learned was really good eye contact and response to the cue. I asked the owners what they did when Larry looked at them. Their response was nothing. So we had our answer. Larry was responding really nicely to the cues his owners gave, but the owners were not paying him for the work!

Larry was finding his own payment.

Larry’s ‘payment’ from the owners was not forthcoming, so he went off to find his own rewarding thing to do – sniff out the wildlife.

Humans are similar. If you received no payment for your work, would you still be doing it? Its doubtful, you have bills to pay!

I’m not saying you have to reward every time. But do continue rewarding more often than not! You have to stay more interesting than the environment, and if there is no fun to be had with you, then your dog will find the fun elsewhere. Rewards can include treats, play, verbal or physical interactions!

We are now working with Larry to rebuild the eye contact cue, and improve recall whilst ignoring wildlife.

Stressed or excited?

The other reason is stress or excitement. This can include fear and frustration too.

Nala came to see me after her owners were struggling to walk her past other dogs without barking and lunging. They told me that they had had some success teaching Nala to sit and wait while the dogs passed by, however, when the dog was too close, or appear suddenly, Nala would not respond.

Nala was frustrated by the presence of the other dog. She wanted to greet the other dog, however because she was on a lead, and looked quite scary, she was kept away from others.

Fear can also have the same affect, dogs bark to try to make the other dog go away.

In both situations, the dog is too focussed on the other dog to be able to effectively respond to cues that they may know when at home.

Can anything be done?


First you need to find the motivation behind the behaviour. This is always best assessed by a professional to make sure you have the right answer!

Once you know why your dog won’t, or rather can’t listen in the situation, put together a training plan. The key with any training plan is consistency. Everyone who walks, trains, or interacts with the dog should know the training plan.

Remember, no two dogs are the same. Training plans are completely tailored to the dog in front of you. If you don’t know where to start, please contact a professional!

So does your dog really know what they should be doing?