By: Dylan Fredette
Every devoted dog owner knows the anxiety that arises when your pooch acts out of character. If your dog stops eating, it’s obvious that something is wrong, but it can be more difficult to understand when their behavior changes in a more subtle way. One concerning habit that a dog can display is ignoring you…and it’s not usually because you’ve fallen out over who’s turn it was to do the dishes. If you find yourself wondering “why my dog is suddenly ignoring me”, this list might have some answers!
The reason behind your dog’s frustrating behavior could be several different things. Maybe you can’t catch your pet’s attention when attending dog training, or when you’re trying to get them back on the lead to leave the park. Maybe your dog is hardly looking at you at all or has stopped responding when you call them for cuddles or food, which could suggest a more complex cause.
We’ve put together a shortlist of reasons your dog might be giving you the cold shoulder. Hopefully, they can help you make sense of what’s going on in your pooch’s head.
If there’s one most counterproductive mistake that dog owners make, it’s getting angry with their dogs when they come to them after doing something naughty.
First, many “naughty” behaviors are simply part of a dog’s genetic makeup. Chewing, running, and digging are natural canine behaviors, and a dog won’t understand why you’re getting cross with them for doing these things.
When your dog carries on running around at the park while you’re screaming its name, it’s no good scolding them when they eventually come to you. Doing so won’t punish their bad behavior; it will punish their good behavior of responding to you. A dog isn’t able to connect a consequence to a specific action unless you catch them in the act. Trying to prevent an undesirable behavior relies heavily on rewarding the opposite, desirable behavior.
If your dog associates recall with punishment, then it stands to reason that they’ll ignore your pleas for attention. This also depends on how harsh you are with them. If you’re yelling at them or trying to discipline them harshly, you’ll be “rewarded” with a dog who avoids you entirely.
It is more effective to use behavioral methods to get rid of misbehavior, such as ending playtime if your puppy starts biting. A good rule is to reward the behavior you want and ignore or walk away from the actions that you want to discourage.
This is a classic problem when it comes to dogs ignoring their owners, especially when going for a walk or doing dog training in a less familiar environment.
At home, your dog is in familiar surroundings, so if you’re practicing commands such as “sit” or “stay”, they’re more likely to stay engaged. In a different environment, there are new sounds, smells, and sights, resulting in a more excitable and distracted pooch.
Dogs love working to get paid in treats. But there are two issues that can arise when rewarding your fur baby with food.
First, your dog can become so used to getting food whenever they do anything that they ignore you unless you have a treat in your hand. On the flip side, your dog may get so fixated on treats that they focus on them at the expense of everything else, including paying attention to what you’re doing or saying.
Getting yummy treats is a huge incentive for your dog to pay attention and behave, but it really matters how you go about rewarding them. Bribing a pet by showing them a treat before giving them a command will teach them to perform behaviors only when they can see the proverbial carrot.
Sometimes dogs will ignore you if you’re using treats they don’t like. As odd as it may seem, dogs don’t automatically want to eat every foodstuff they come across. If they decide they don’t enjoy dog biscuits, it’ll be hard to get their attention when you’re offering them as rewards.
If your dog stops taking notice of you when you say their name or show them attention, it’s possible that they’re experiencing hearing loss. This can be sudden or gradual, and may or may not be reversible.
Some causes of hearing loss are age-related deafness, ear infections, wax blocking the ear canals, prolonged exposure to dangerously loud noises, or injuries that have damaged the ear or brain. Some causes, like age-related deafness, develop gradually, while a ruptured eardrum can cause a sudden change in behavior. Simply experiencing pain can cause a dog to avoid you, as they feel that your touch will increase their discomfort.
The other ailments that can cause your dog to ignore you are psychological or emotional. An anxious dog might avoid contact by hiding away, especially if their anxiety associates with something you have (inadvertently) done. Historical traumas can cause this kind of behavior too; something that occurs more often in shelter dogs previously kept in distressing conditions.
If you have an anxious dog, there are many techniques you can try to help them relax, or you can opt for hemp-based CBD oil or other calming medication to reduce their stress levels. Once they’re more relaxed, they’ll be more responsive.
This issue is a little harder to work with. When you first adopt a dog, it’s quite normal for there to be some distance between you as the dog learns to trust a new person, learns their new name, and starts to feel part of the pack. Your dog feels unsettled too, and you may be coping with anxiety and other issues as they settle in. Now is the time to work on building a relationship. Whether this involves sitting quietly together, going for short walks, or playing ball, it’s all part of building a bond.
If you’ve had your dog for a while, though, their ignoring you could boil down to some breakdown in the relationship. To bond with your pup, it’s essential to spend time together playing or just in one another’s company. Without that, you’ll never develop a close attachment, leaving your dog thinking you’re a stranger, rather than a friend and companion.
Most of these problems point towards a central issue in your relationship with your dog—whether you’re attuned to its needs and wants, and whether or not they consider you trustworthy.
Before knowing how to address a dog that ignores you, it’s necessary to know the dog. Facing these challenges requires engagement and understanding. Get to know your dog and you’ll soon speak their language!
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