How to Tell Whether Your Dog Doesn’t Understand or is Just Choosing not to Listen

Training a dog may seem trivial, but it is quite difficult for even the smartest dogs to understand basic vocal commands. With that being said, it may seem that your dog is ignoring you because tasks like “sit,” “stay,” or “come” are simple to us, but that is not the case. Here are some signs to look for if you are worried your dog is not respecting your authority.

Practice Makes Perfect

It takes a lot of practice for a dog to understand vocal commands. Dogs are not accustomed to voice communication, as they primarily communicate with their expressions and body language. So, it’s important to understand that your dog is not ignoring you if he or she hasn’t practiced that command. It may take weeks, and patience is key, but all dogs are smart enough to understand commands if you use the correct training methods. Reward them for completing tasks, and they will repeat those tasks once they notice the pattern. Be supportive and don’t get frustrated at them, that will discourage them and make it even more difficult.


It’s easy for your dog to listen and respond to you when there is nothing going on around you. He or she will be happy to sit, stay, or come if there are no distractions, but keep in mind that a dog’s attention span is quickly disrupted by other voices, animals, or noises around it. For example, a dog is not likely to obey you as the mailman rings the doorbell unless you have trained him or her extremely well, and that takes a lot of practice as mentioned before. If you haven’t put the time in to properly train your dog, don’t expect too much when the doorbell rings and the smell of pizza enters the house.

When they are Ignoring you

Even if your dog knows “come”, he may not listen to you if he associates a command with a punishment. For example, if you use “come” when you’re angry at him and you yell when he responds, the next time your dog is playing in the yard he’s not going to obey you if he thinks he’s gonna get yelled at. Following up commands with praise is the best way to prevent a dog from ignoring you. Moreover, make it worth his while. If your dog is playing with his friend, he’ll only come to you if you make it as fun as playing with his friend. So, follow commands up with treats or by playing with him and your dog will soon catch on that he should listen to you rather than ignore you.

For the most part, dogs do not ignore their humans. They either simply don’t understand, or have not been trained well enough to stay when they see the mailman approaching the door. If a dog is ignoring you, it’s your fault. This means that you have been too negative with your dog or simply haven’t put the time in to educate them. Utilizing operant conditioning by rewarding responses will surely give you the best trained dog in the neighborhood, who listens to every word.