I’m dog watching my daughter’s cute rescue mix this week. I noticed he doesn’t always listen and wondered if he might have selective hearing so I did a bit of research to find out more.

Selective hearing is that time your dog determines when to listen to you and for what period of time. Selective hearing is not a deliberate intentional or conscious choice your dog is making. There’s usually more at an instinctive level going on rather than just plain stubbornness. The dog is not rationalizing when you have him in a sit position, and the doorbell rings, your dog gets up and runs to the door. 

The best solution to this is making yourself more reinforcing than the door bell, or random animal that runs across your backyard. 

How Do You Know if Your Dog has Selective Hearing?

If you aren’t consistent with your verbal training, you aren’t likely to see a positive and consistent need for them to listen to you. 

In order to communicate effectively with your dog, you have to learn the way they do. The behavior that gets rewarded will get repeated. If good things follow a dog’s behavior, you’ll see more of that. Pretty basic, but not easy to master. 

Timing is everything. We as humans must learn how to change our behavior to become more like our dog’s. They live in the now. 

If your dog refuses to listen when you call him at the dog park by refusing to come when called, even though you’re extremely aggravated - always make sure to praise him when he does finally come. If you continue to yell at him because you are human, and you get angry and it lasts for a while, he will remember that when he comes to you, it was negative. So, next time, he will not come at all. 

On the other hand, if you have a senior dog, and he hasn’t been listening to you lately, it could be that he has a medical situation with his hearing. There are some tell tale signs for example, the dog may feel withdrawn and less responsive to his surroundings. 

Before you assume you have a senior dog with “selective hearing” its best to have your Vet make the determination between that or general hearing loss. 

My Dog Stopped Listening to Me

There could be a number of things going on here. The overall relationship with you and your dog and your family and your dog could be what’s become the issue. It might be time to re-evaluate your relationship with your dog. Do you both spend fun time together or is everything a negative chore? If you find yourself angry lately and taking it out on your dog - take a step back and make sure to spend some quality time together.

I’ll assume for the purpose of this article, that you and your dog have a good positive relationship and that your dog just doesn’t want to listen to you. 

When you train your dog, what treat are you using as a motivator?  Or are you using regular dog food or stale dog treats? When training your dog for any command, the reward must be greater than the distraction. 

When you lose your temper you direct the anger at your dog. If you find yourself loosing patience and getting so angry with the situation - just take a break. It will do you both no good and you’ll get no where with training if the result is shouting, or worse, abuse toward your dog. 

According to some trainers, the worst place to train your dog is in a regular play area. Dog parks, near neighborhood playgrounds or anywhere there’s bound to be loads of distraction, you should avoid those for training purposes. The best place is your home where you can train mostly distraction free. 

The #1 reason your dog ignores you… you expect him to come without any investment in time or training. Dogs are from a whole other different species and without taking the time, patience and care into properly training them to come when you call - you’ll have a dog that ignores you.

How Do You Train a Stubborn Dog to Come

If you have a dog that just doesn’t come to you reliably no matter how enthusiastic you are. Try an extra motivator - a really good treat you know your dog loves. Some dogs require a little more motivation for a number of months. You have to pay your dues and show him how to listen to you. If he’s 100% with the treats, then take those treats into a more distracting environment and keep practicing. 

Some are of the notion that some breeds just don’t listen. That is a big dog myth. Any breed can be properly trained to listen. 

If the outcome to a behavior is viewed as favorable - he will repeat. Dogs are bred to take direction from us, humans. It is on us to help and train them properly. Come when called and stay are two critical commands you should take the time to train your dog. 

Related Resources:

Help! My dog only listens to my wife! 

It’s not uncommon for a dog to behave better for one family member over another. How much time does your spouse or family member spend training and working with the dog? Just because you spent the time necessary to train your dog, but the other family members have not, simply means they are less likely to be seen as anyone to listen to. 

I’ve actually witnessed this in my home where I spent the necessary time working with the dog, teaching him commands, and making sure he was trained well, but I failed to involve my family so the result wasn’t great when it came time for him to take direction from anyone else in the house. Training your dog is a family shared responsibility. 

Anytime one of you is not being responded to by your dog, it mostly has to do with the fact that the other person is acting as main caregiver and because of that their rapport has been further developed. It’s not too late to change your relationship with your dog. Become more involved in the daily care and training of your dog. 

How To Get a Puppy to Listen 

Although this is a pretty broad question, one of the sure ways to get your puppy to listen is right from the start. Cesar Milan, the famous TV dog behaviorist, always talks about practicing exercise, then discipline, and then affection. Make sure you start the day off with a good walk to help drain some of that energy pent up from the night before. 

Always be consistent with the messages you send your puppy. If you and the rest of the family abide by the same rules, every time. If you tell your dog to “leave it” and the puppy ignores you, persist and make it known that was the wrong behavior.  

Always remain calm and in control. If you fly off the handle, this will only make him tune you out completely. Avoid getting outwardly angry or abusive in anyway. 

Have you ever tried non-verbal commands? I’ve actually practiced this quite a bit with my Weimaraner. I would look at him and motion to come with me, instead of actually verbally saying “lets go” or I would put him in a sit position, and hold my hand up indicating stop and wait there until I release you. I never said a word. I would look at him, hold my hand up, turn to walk away, look back, hold my hand back up again, turn to leave. I usually did this while hiding his treat somewhere in the house, and I didn’t want him to follow me while I went to hide the treat. He always sat and stayed and I never said a word. 

It stands to reason that dogs don’t talk to one another, but instead they use energy and body language to communicate. Pay attention to how your puppy is feeling. If there’s any reason for your pup to feel fearful of the area with other dogs, or loud noises he’ll find it really tough to do anything but feel the need for self-preservation. 

Of course, don’t expect the brand new puppy to listen to you immediately. It will take lots of time and lots of focused training time where he’s energy level isn’t high. All those basic commands are the first things you should be teaching your new puppy - mostly for safety. 

About the Author Janet

I'm Janet, avid rescue dog fan, and parent of two rescues - training them to run, hike, and enjoy their new forever home

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