Disinterested Dog - How Do I Get His Attention On Me?

by Jenn

We just got an 8 month old Collie/Siberian Husky mix. It does not seem to want to pay any attention to people, at least not as much as it pays attention to things.

This dog would rather sniff at the ground, or stare at something in the distance than interact with us. I stood right beside our dog while it was watching traffic and said its name a few times. Response? It barely flicked an ear in my direction.

How am I supposed to train it to come, when it doesn't even interact with me?

Hi Jenn,

Thanks for participating in our Q & A! And that's a great question you've asked. It can be very frustrating when you're trying to work with a dog, and just can't seem to even make a connection with them.

My own dog, Justice (who is a Beagle/Shepherd mix), would rather do the same as your dog than be petted by us. It's her personality - some dogs are huge people fans, other dogs are more apt to stay to themselves.

Here's the difference though. While Justice would rather be sniffing the ground or watching the trees, she respects me and will therefore pay attention when I give her a command. She also knows that I'm fun, and I've got any treats that she may get.

True, this doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of work, practice and patience. The first thing you can work on is making yourself more interesting to your dog. How?

Some dogs are very food motivated (my dog), so experiment with different kinds of treats and see if you can find one that really drives the dog wild. Try: liver treats (regular or freeze-dried), dried minnows (or other fish), bits of chicken weiner, bits of cheese, bits of cooked steak... anything out of the ordinary.

Other dogs are more toy motivated. If you can find a toy that your dog is crazy about, that's perfect! There's a ton of them in the pet stores to try, or toss him an empty water bottle or stick. Sometimes a tug toy works, other times it's a squeaky toy or ball that does the trick.

For both types of motivation, once you find the one that works best, the key is to keep it a novelty... pull it out only when you're training, or for the toy, only for short play sessions where you are in charge of when the toy comes out and when it goes away. Don't leave it lying around for him to chew on!

What the dog will start to understand is that where you are, that's where the fun is, where the treats are, where the toys are. That's half the problem.

The other half sounds like its a respect problem. He doesn't respect you as the leader, so he's not giving you the time of day.

A few things to work on: you should control when he eats (after you, and don't let him "graze"), how he eats (make him wait while you put it down, not rush you), when you play together, where he sleeps (it should be in a crate at night and when you're out)... basically, he needs to realize that you are in charge.

As far as teaching come goes (or any other command), you always start by having the dog on a leash when you give the command. This way, there will never be a time that you give a command, and he gets away with not coming to you. You do not take the leash or long line off for recalls until you're 150% sure that he will come to you right away, each and every time he's called.

Consider enrolling in a Novice Level (basic) group class in your area to learn how to work with your dog and build a bond. Obedience training always reinforces the fact that you are the leader, and is practical and fun for everyone!

Hope this is helpful!

Shannon Pennings

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