As a Dog Trainer, I often get asked by dog owners why their dog doesn't listen-or is "selectively deaf" especially off leash! It's a difficult question, with an easy answer! Your dog may place a higher value on stimuli around him! If you take a puppy to the dog park, let them off leash, and yell come, chances are your puppy will be halfway across the park happily ignoring you-because there are lots of dogs and people to meet, and tons of new smells, whereas you are almost always around, and therefore less exciting!
So let's fix that!
When teaching reliable obedience, subscribe to the ladder theory- your dog has to have a firm grip on basic manners and your expectations (the first step) before you can expect him to climb the next step and always respect you and your wishes-no matter where you are. I begin puppy training as a game - we start with a focus command, in a quiet area after the puppy has had time to run around and expend that puppy energy. Then we work on adding the focus command with more and more distractions. I expect owners to be consistent with their dogs- short, fun training sessions, a couple of rules that the owner decides on-whether the pup is allowed on the couch or not, puppy should sit and wait patiently for meals and to go outside, basic structure in your puppy's life with a few simple choices that you decide on. It's not an over night process but by teaching your dog the quickest way to earn affection, a game of fetch, or a treat is to listen to you,you'll set them up for success! As training progresses we work in different locations with more distractions around-this is called "proofing" a behavior. Proofing enables your dog to obey a command no matter the circumstance. If you only expect your dog to sit at home and never have them sit at the pet store, don't be surprised when they take longer to sit or ignore you completely! Starting your dog or puppy off with structure at home to begin with before trying new commands in public will set you up for success and have your dog be the best behaved pooch anywhere you go!
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