Disobedience occurs when your dog just decides not to listen to something you tell him to do. This is something different than incomprehension. If the dog doesn’t know what you want, it’s not really his fault. But, if he does know and just doesn’t do it, you need to take strides to teach him who is boss.
The only way to really know if your dog is being disobedient is if he has performed the requested task reliably in the past. If he has done it 2 or 3 times he still may not be sure what is going on. If he has been doing well for months, or years, then he is just misbehaving by not doing it now.
Most people just see this as being inconvenient. The reality of the matter is that it is a pretty serious thing for your dog to disobey a direct command. This could end up being dangerous for your dog in certain situations and will also be bad for your relationship with your dog.
The most important part of your relationship with your dog is gaining his respect. You need to be the pack leader, not the dog. Disobedience is, in reality, your dog challenging your alpha status. He is looking you in the eye and saying “Who are you to boss me around?”. This type of passive aggressive behavior will continue to get worse and worse until you do something about it.
I always try to stress the fact that your dog MUST understand that you outrank him in the pack. If he thinks he outranks you you are in big trouble. Good luck getting your boss at work to do something just cause you told him to! Same goes for dogs. You must reinforce your status at the top of the social hierarchy in order to gain dominance.
However this may sound to you, it would sound like Mozart to most dogs. It is actually in your dog’s best interest, psychologically, to have someone else making all his decisions for him. In a pack the alpha always leads the other dogs(or more likely wolves) around, even in their every day behaviors. They also make sure to do little things to gain obedience by establishing their dominance. In a wolf pack all other members must wait until the alpha is done eating the choicest pieces of meat before they begin eating.
Having a solid human/dog relationship hinges heavily on your dog understanding that you are the authority figure. He should be at the bottom of the chain of command in the house. Here are a few tips to help you reestablish dominance and gain your dog’s respect:
- First off you should not give the dog free, unrestricted access to the whole house. Make certain places, like beds, couches, or even entire rooms off limits. Remember, its your world and he’s just living in it.
- Always be the initiator of play. If your dog brings you his toy, or starts nudging you to play what he really means is “I want to play, and since I am the boss, we’re gonna play now.” Don’t want him thinking that way. When this happens ignore him, maybe go do something else, until he stops trying. Then, if you are ready go ahead and have a little playtime. Playtime is important, but you need to set the rules.
- Always make sure you are the first one out of the house or car. In a dog pack the alpha always goes first, since he is the biggest and strongest. If you let your dog first you are acknowledging him as being the bigger and stronger of the two of you. This will start to inflate his ego and make him much more disobedient. By the same token you should always make him wait for his food. Put it on the floor in his bowl and make him stand at you heel. When you have made him sit there for 5 or 10 seconds tell him to “go ahead”, or some such thing. Just like the alpha dog who would make his pack wait until he decides it is time for them to eat.
- A great way to make your dog more obedient is to have a basic obedience training program. It can start out at around 10 minutes a day, and trail off to about 5 as your dog becomes more proficient at obeying the commands. Keep the following tips in mind for a good training program:
- Always make sure you can reinforce all commands immediately if the dog disobeys. This will probably mean keeping your dog on a leash whenever you are outside the house until he understands the commands, and starts listening.
- Use verbal cues properly. When interrupting your dog you should try to avoid using the word “No”. Other sounds will better get your dog’s attention. I use the word “Hey”, although it sounds more like “A” when I say it. This cuts through the dog getting his instant attention. Also make sure to use tone of voice to your advantage. Praise should be in a light cheery tone, with lots of smiling. Corrections should be using as deep and powerful a tone you can use, without yelling.
- Never repeat a command. Use a correcting tug on the leash if the dog does not listen. This will remind him that you are still here and still in charge.
- Keep training sessions short. Your dog is not as intelligent as you are and cannot keep up the learning process for long periods of time. He will likely start losing interest and paying attention to other things after not much more than 10 minutes. Try to keep sessions between 5 and 15 minutes.
You may also want to try formal obedience classes. This is especially helpful for puppies. While the things you will learn here are helpful they can also be learned, for the most part, from books and other people. The real benefit to this that goes beyond a normal home training program is the socialization factor. Interacting with the other dog’s and their owners is healthy, and will also help you teach your dog to listen to you with the many distractions found in public.