We have all been in conversation with someone and just zoned out or possibly been watching television and had someone ask a question only to hear them shouting at us a minute later saying the same thing. Now, does this behavior sound familiar when you are walking your dog or asking for them to sit or stay? I am sure it does because even I forget once in a while to get my dogs attention before I ask for something from them. In almost all my training encounters I experience frustration from dog owners who can’t get their dog to listen to them even though at some times the dog performs the asked behaviors with no problem. In the majority of those meetings I immediately notice the owner talking to the dog either like a person or without the dog looking in their eyes or even general direction. I have many training requests to help with walking, staying, coming when called, and solving problem behaviors that I can help with but with owners who want to immediately delve into said problems and not a base concern of lack of attention and focus. Why do you think I teach this on the first meeting of all my puppy classes? So they have the foundation for everything else you will ever need. It shocks me that you can go to 6 weeks of Petco/Petsmart training and spend 10 minutes or less on this, then skip onto walking and other work where the dog is supposed to listen to you in order to perform the desired task.
There are lots of ways to achieve focus and attention and if you’re having problems with your dog listening when out and about, then bring it back home with no distractions and start from scratch. You can do puppy training with a 5 year old dog too.
I suggest if your dog is treat driven to use a clicker to mark with a click every time you notice your dog look in your eyes. Move treats away keeping your dogs eyes glued to them and wait patiently for even a glimpse into your eye. Click immediately and offer a treat.
Move out of your dogs view by taking a few steps around them and wait for them to find you and your eyes. Click and treat again. Tie your dog to your belt with your leash and toss a toy or treat away from you and wait for them to give up and find your eyes in frustration. Click and treat again. Before you walk out your door on a walk or you offer food to your dog, make sure they look in your eyes. Then give them the go ahead to proceed. You can accomplish this in with just 2 ( 5 min.) training sessions a day.
So the next time you ask your dog to do ANYTHING, make sure they are looking at you, in your eyes, even for 1 second. You will notice they listen much more when they know you are talking to them and good things come from it. My dogs don’t get fed or get to play with a ball or even go outside without focused attention.
Lastly, regardless of your dogs attention, stop saying sit, down, stay, leave it and especially “come” 5-10 times. Say it once, wait for two second, if no response get attention and firmly ask again with eye contact and enunciate your command. Keep it to ONE word if possible.
With this basic work and understanding you will be on your way to easier communication and obedience.