Same you. Same dog. But different dog behavior.
It makes you wonder:
“Why is my dog suddenly ignoring me? Did I do something wrong?”
I know how upsetting it could be.
Not to worry. This article will answer your questions and give you valuable insights.
- A weird reason why your dog ignores you (spoiler: it’s not what you think).
- Why a small mistake like #5 can make your dog ignore you all of a sudden.
- One simple trick you can use to make your dog listen to you on demand.
- The most common mistake dog parents make when their dog is ignoring them all of a sudden (are you guilty of it too?).
- And much much more…
Table of contents
Why is my dog suddenly ignoring me?
Your dog suddenly ignores you because you’ve changed your looks. Or because you don’t reward them when they obey your commands. It could be also because you’ve scolded your dog at the wrong time. And now they think bad things follow when you call them. But it could happen due to a medical issue.
People also ask:
9 surprising reasons why your dog is suddenly ignoring you
#1: It’s your looks
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you’re ugly.
But I am implying that your dog might not be a fan of your new hat, jacket with a big hood, or pair of sunglasses.
No matter how good they look on you or how much you paid for them. Or even how dear of a present they may be to you.
And for the gentlemen… or at least for those of you who have beards, it may come as a surprise.
But guess what?
Some dogs are not fond of beards. They’re scared of them to be precise. And it’s natural, especially if they’re not used to seeing you with one.
Imagine how your beloved pooch must feel when they see you. If they could talk, they’d probably ask you, “Who are you and what have you done with Dad?!”
I mean, you probably would avoid a stranger if they look shady. And if they’re trying to approach you by invading your personal space.
If you act by impulse, you’ll likely turn away. Even before you hear what they had to say…
#2: They have their eyes on the prize
You want your dog to do that cool trick you taught them recently. And you want it now.
But your dog might not be quite on the same wavelength as you.
Depends. Maybe you want them to perform a command without having a reward. And trust me, that could be a bummer.
You see, dogs don’t understand the concept of working for a salary as we humans do. Their thoughts are unburdened of tasks they have to finish by the end of the day.
But dogs do understand the concept of working for a reward. Especially when play and fun are involved.
And they’re not willing to mindlessly follow orders. They’d work for it, if you make their “salary” appealing.
And what happens when you want Fido to do something just like that (for free)?
They could do it the first time.
But what about next time?
That depends on your feedback though. Based on it, they’ll either repeat the behavior or ignore your request.
Research has found out that:
If your dog finds you as an unreliable source, they’re not going to respond to your cues.
The experiment was done with dogs reacting to pointing gestures.
Dogs were pointed at 2 containers. One empty and another one with a piece of food.
It turned out that most dogs stopped following the cues after being pointed to the empty container. Simply because they no longer perceived the pointer as a reliable guide.
It’s amazing how dogs can determine whether someone is reliable or not so quickly! This speaks of their high levels of social intelligence.
In short: Your dog is likely to repeat the behavior you reward. So don’t underestimate the power of giving treats at the right time. Which is immediately after your dog has done what you ask of them.
Rewards could come in many forms such as petting, belly scratches, and treats.
#3: You’ve scolded your dog (at the wrong time)
Maybe you’ve called them a “bad dog.” Sure, they won’t understand the meaning. Which makes them unlikely to get offended, but…
Dogs do get your queues.
And if they sense you’re frustrated for some reason, they wouldn’t want to be around you. Because in that state you might look very scary in their eyes.
Not to mention that when people get angry, they’re sometimes unpredictable.
So you can see why your dog might not find scolding very appealing.
And that’s not all…
What’s worse, is your dog being scolded after they’ve done something right.
You must be confused. I can hear you asking “Why would I scold my dog for doing the right thing?”
You wouldn’t. But human nature functions like this:
You call your dog to come to you during a walk.
But they don’t do it the first several times you call them.
Your patience is coming to an end and frustration slowly starts to creep in.
Then, your dog finally comes. And what’s your reaction?
Maybe it goes something like:
“What did I tell you?! Come here immediately!”
“You won’t listen to me? I’ll show you!”
And then you speak in an irritated manner. And leash them.
I’m not saying you, in particular, react this way. But many people do.
And there’s an explanation why.
We, unlike dogs, tend to think about the past, present, and future. From all of these, we’re least likely to focus on the present, unfortunately.
Which makes us prone to bring stuff up from the past.
For example, you calling your dog and them not coming was in the (recent) past. Your dog coming to you when you call them is in the fresh present moment.
But you’re still holding on to that emotional baggage from the (one-minute-ago) past. And you vent out your frustration. Like you would do when speaking to a fellow human being.
And what does that lead to?
Dogs live in the moment. That’s why in the first two seconds after your dog does something, you want to give them feedback. Because they’ll associate that feedback with their last action.
So if you raise your tone at them or even worse-yell, what do you think your dog will understand?
They’ll link responding to your call with receiving frustration. And trust me, for your dog’s wellbeing and your convenience, that’s the least you’d want.
#4: Your words are overwhelming your dog
You ever had an annoying coworker who just wouldn’t drop the subject of work even in the breaks?
Or someone who just wouldn’t stop blabbing even though you show no interest in the topic?
Then you have an idea of how your dog might feel.
Don’t take this literally now. Say you’re mumbling to yourself about someone who annoyed you in front of your dog. Your dog wouldn’t understand.
But what about if you want them to follow commands?
Fun fact: Research has found out that a Border Collie named Rico was able to memorize the names of over 200 items.
This process is known as “fast mapping”. It’s present in children. It’s not limited only to humans and dogs.
So, nothing wrong with teaching commands. But it all boils down to how you ask.
As with humans, the art of asking is one you should master.
First off, if you ask someone for too much at a time, what do you think will be the outcome?
You’re bound to get rejected. A big fat “NO” will come your way. It could be clothed as a “maybe”. But the result will be the same – you won’t get what you asked for.
Secondly, what if you explain your request in a complicated manner?
Complicated things take more time to understand, let alone fix. So again, the likeability of your request being fulfilled is not big.
These communication foundations work for human-dog communication as well.
If you don’t have a specific word for each command, you’re confusing your dog majorly.
And if you drop several words at a time, without following a routine, it can get too much for Fido.
You might want to use some body language as well. After all, dogs communicate mainly through it.
#5: The treats just don’t speak to your dog
You want your dog to follow your commands.
“Sit”, “stay”, and “come” are amongst the simplest commands. And your dog might have even already done some or even all of them.
But all of a sudden they don’t anymore…
And you’re left confused. Staying there, and waiting for a miracle.
But have you thought about the rewards?
Rewards are an essential part of your training approach.
That’s why you can’t expect your dog to listen to you if the treats are, well, not worth it.
Let’s take my own pooch Lissa as an example. She received some vegan dog food for Christmas from one of my family members (I know, it’s weird).
The dog food was of high quality and we prepared them according to the instructions. But… Lissa would barely sniff them until she got very hungry.
And even then, she wasn’t very enthusiastic about them. She was calmly munching on them and throwing me a look as if to ask, “When am I getting some real food?”.
Don’t get me wrong. As a dog parent, you have the privilege to choose the best possible food for your pooch. Be it vegan dog food or a snack like carrot pieces, banana, or even pet-store-bought treats.
But… and this is a big one… if your dog isn’t excited about it, you shouldn’t be using this particular treat for training purposes.
Because giving something semi-tasty or hard-to-chew is like saying “I don’t care what you like, this is what you get.”
And your dog’s response will be “I don’t want to eat this anyway, so I’m not gonna try to earn it.”
Note: You want to choose a high-value treat for your dog when teaching them something new. And you want to keep it exclusive for training. So that they get the message that they only get this treat if they do what you ask of them.
#6: Your dog’s environment is to blame
You might want your dog to listen to you but they’re far too occupied with something else at the moment.
This happens often in places such as the dog park. That’s why you should avoid any crowded, noisy place while you’re working on your dog’s obedience.
I mean, yeah, the dog park sounds like the perfect place for your dog to be. But not while you’re training them. Because in reality, there are tons of distractions there.
Some of these are:
- Flying frisbees.
- A squirrel running nearby.
- Some crows picking on trash from that bin close to you.
- Other dogs trying to sniff your dog’s but and gain information.
- A couple having a romantic picnic and luring your dog in with the smell of pizza.
And so on, and so forth.
So if your dog suddenly ignores you when you two are at the dog park, this could be why.
But hey, your dog is not to blame.
Let’s look at it from a human’s perspective.
Say I love eating cake. But I’m also trying to lose weight.
Would you say it’s reasonable for me to go to a pastry shop while I’m trying to avoid carbs?
Most surely not!
I shouldn’t step near any of these places while I’m trying to change my cake-eating habits. Because it’s way too easy to slip back into my old patterns.
And even though my rational mind could be whispering “Don’t do it!’, I’ll most likely ignore it.
It’s hard to resist that delicious-looking cake once I get too close. So better not risk it.
The same goes for dogs.
If your dog is presented with countless opportunities, do you think they’ll try to resist?
Nope. They’ll just go run after that squirrel. They’d try to fetch the frisbee that was thrown for another dog. Or a ball.
Anything but listening to you.
It’s their nature after all. They live in the moment. They’re opportunists. And they’ll do the thing that seems most fun.
Tip: Train your dog in a calm environment.
Consider also things that could be making your dog uncomfortable such as:
- Feeling thirsty
- Being in need to relieve themselves
- The weather being too cold, hot, or windy
#7: You’re handing everything to your dog on a silver platter
Okay, okay – in other words, you’re spoiling your dog.
You’re giving them everything they want. But you’re not asking for anything in return.
And by that, I mean teaching them appropriate behavior in the meantime. And allowing them to follow your commands.
So if your dog is used to getting everything they want why should they bother listening to you?
It’s not like something super exciting awaits them. Or anything they haven’t seen before.
It’s like this…
Say you get showered with gifts and money. And you don’t have to work an average 9 to 5 job. Or even work at all.
Would you be then looking for opportunities and applying to every job offer available?
Well, it’s the same for your dog. The good treatment and all the benefits they receive along with it are a given to them.
You can’t possibly expect them to want to work their asses off in that case. After all, all they want they already got.
#8: You expect too much but do too little
This one is a bummer. Sure – in your head you want simple things from your dog.
Be it to come or cuddle on demand.
But have you invested some time in training your dog?
Sure, maybe at home your dog responds to “sit” or “lie down”. And that’s great.
… it doesn’t automatically mean that your dog understands they should do this in other situations. And in other places.
Let’s look at it this way:
In the first grade, you were taught how to read and write. Then, it wasn’t until you have mastered this art when you were asked to read books. Or take daily lesson notes in your notebook.
You wouldn’t call a kid “dumb” if they’re just starting out. And you wouldn’t also expect them to progress with the speed of light.
Instead, what you’ll do is wait until the actions have turned into a habit. From there on, you’ll build further.
It’s pretty much the same with dogs.
You teach them short and easy commands at home. In a quiet environment.
After sufficient repetition and success, you can upgrade. By this, I mean trying to get their focus, although something more interesting could be happening.
Such as the pizza delivery guy appearing at your door. And ringing the bell.
#9: You have a weak bond
This is a very disappointing realization – I know. But it’s fixable.
And before I talk about how to fix it, let’s see why a weak bond occurs.
If you don’t pay enough attention to your dog, they might not feel that special connection with you.
So whenever you want something of them, they will not care. Simply because they’re not that invested in the communication between you two.
This usually happens when a dog parent spends too much time on social media, watching TV, or with friends out and about. Basically doing time-consuming activities that don’t involve their dogs.
Another reason could be a change in routine. For you, it might not be that big of a deal but for your dog, it’s a different story…
According to the AKC, consistency and a routine help your dog know what you expect of them. It will also make it easier for your dog to fit in the family. And bond with you.
Because with the change of routine, your relationship can also change. Especially if there’s no new established routine.
And another family member who could be paying more attention to your pooch.
From personal experience with my previous dog
The first family dog-Ejy was my initiative. When he just entered the family, I was the main caretaker.
In the beginning, I was the one taking him on walks, and playing with him. My Mum was the one giving food. And my Dad would give cuddles.
At some point, I went to work and live abroad for a short period of time.
When I came back, I couldn’t help noticing that Ejy had become quite fond of my Mom. If I’d go to give her a kiss, he’d even start growling. He used to do the same with me if somebody tried to show me affection.
And that’s not all.
When I’d attempt to call him for cuddles, he’d just look me in the eye and do nothing. Then, if my Mom would leave the room, he’d follow.
So you see, there’s always a reason for your dog’s behavior. Whether they’re ignoring you suddenly after vacation. Or they’re just being distant.
BONUS: Your dog is uncomfortable or in pain
If your dog is suddenly ignoring you, it might be because they’re unwell.
Apart from this contrasting behavior, check for changes in posture. Be it sitting or lying down.
In case your dog is hesitant to rest in a usual position, there might be an orthopedic issue at hand.
Now you have an idea of what you could be doing that’s making your dog ignore you.
But in order to have the full picture, you’ll need some more insights. Particularly how to handle the situation once your dog is already ignoring you.
This leads us to the next question:
What should I do when my dog ignores me?
When your dog ignores you, don’t be too quick at making assumptions on why it happens. Also, remain calm. After your dog finally pays attention to what you’re telling them, do not scold them. Plus, do not overwhelm them with words. Instead, get their attention by providing a high-value treat.
So far so good.
But let’s delve into each tip to really understand what they’re all about.
Buckle up, here come the…
5 tips on what to do when your dog ignores you
#1: Don’t bombard your dog with words
It could be that you’re showing affection to your dog. Or that you just are so excited or sad that you want to talk to someone right away.
But don’t forget:
Dogs are not verbal creatures.
Sure, they have the cognitive ability to understand words. But that’s not their way of communication.
If you’re talking to your dog too much, at some point they’ll tune you out. And for a good reason.
So would you if you could hear yourself. Or if you were listening to someone talking over and over again.
Even if you have the best of intentions to learn and pay attention, at some point your brain will shut down. It’s understandable. You can’t focus for unlimited periods of time.
And what’s more, what good will it be if you focus but understand nothing?
If you want your dog to listen, you must talk to them meaningfully. And choose which words to emphasize. So your dog learns them through repetition.
Take it one step at a time.
Teach your dog a word. Be consistent with using this word for a particular action. And don’t throw other words at them if you’re not sure they know this one yet.
#2: Teach your dog when to pay attention to you
Okay, I know I’ve just told you to not talk to your dog about this and that.
But we’re humans. Our primary method of communication is verbal. So we just can’t help it sometimes.
Well, what if you could make your dog listen to you in important situations?
You can. By teaching just a few skills.
- Name recognition
- The “come” when called command
- Sitting, standing, and lying down on request
These are the basics that can save you a lot of hassle. And ensure your dog is safe and sound not only at home.
You might be thinking “Okay, I know what I should teach. But how do I do it?”
I’m glad you asked because we’re getting to the next important step. Which is…
#3: Have treats that are worth working for
Keep it exciting!
Imagine you have an anniversary with your loved one. And, instead of doing something new and fun, you just spend it like any other day.
Meaning, eating the same meals, wearing the same clothes. Going to the same places you go on weekends.
Then, is it worth calling it an “anniversary” even?
The point of B-Days, anniversaries, and other similar events is to have fun. Make it memorable. Celebrate it!
Although dogs don’t know about human holidays or memorable events, dogs do seek fun.
They do want stimulation. They want something to work for.
Like you’d work to make your anniversary unforgettable. Or your next B-Day. Or whatever you feel like celebrating really.
So take a high-value treat. It should be something your dog can’t get on another occasion. Boiled chicken is a good example.
Then show the treat to your dog. And ask them to perform a certain action.
Remember to use short, specific words. And to repeat.
Once your dog does the wanted action, reward accordingly. And do it every time they do this one thing you ask of them.
#4: Avoid cramming commands
If you see that your dog does one thing right, don’t be too quick to give them a new task.
And don’t attempt to cram one command after the other, and so on. Especially without rewarding each individual action.
Later on, when your dog has learned to do things on queue, you can try that. But for now, keep it simple. And encourage your dog for the baby steps they take and the progress they make.
#5: Avoid making this common mistake
Did you know that a lot of dog parents assume their dog is ignoring them out of spite?
This behavior could be valid for humans. But it couldn’t be further away from the truth when it comes to dogs.
Dogs are incapable of reacting vindictive. They simply do what gets rewarded. Hence, if an action of their equals a positive outcome, they will repeat it again. That’s how positive reinforcement works.
So instead of worrying whether your dog is trying to get back at you, work on getting their attention. And teach them they will get a good reward for it!
Also, don’t think that your dog is trying to dominate you. Instead, try to look for the reason in:
- Your behavior
- The dog’s health
- Your dog’s environment
BONUS: Rule out a medical issue
Last but not least, don’t underestimate the evaluation of your vet. They can give you a good understanding of your dog’s overall health condition.
When in doubt, just speak to your vet. And don’t forget to add some context.
The questions you can ask yourself prior to visiting the vet are:
- When did this begin?
- Has something happened before your dog started acting this way?
- If your dog avoids you at times, what’s different when they don’t?