Posted by: Linda Trunell | September 23, 2013

Does Your Dog Really Know What You Want?

When you ask your dog to do something and they do not respond,  you should not assume they are ignoring you or being stubborn or ‘dominant’.  You should ask yourself if they really know what you want.  Have they really learned the behavior and generalized it?  Are you being consistent in your cue or body language?  If you are sure the dog really knows it and you are being clear, perhaps they are too stressed, distracted, or not feeling well.

“The cause of most behavioral problems is miscommunication and not dominance issues,” says Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., associate professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin and author of For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. Either dogs don’t know what their owners want, she says, or we inadvertently have taught them to do the wrong thing. “Most behavioral problems can be solved by owners learning how to teach a dog what it is they want, by using the science of how animals learn.”

I Love My Dog

Dr. Sophia Yin says, “You may see trainers or even TV personalities who demonstrate techniques as if a cursory demonstration is a substitute for teaching.”

“Some people may think that training is an intangible art. Although some art may be involved, training is actually more of a technical skill, like a sport. This sport requires that we reward the dog or puppy with something he wants within half a second of performing the good behavior and that we remove the reward for undesirable behavior before the behavior actually gets rewarded. For instance, let’s say we have a dog that loves to jump on us for attention and we would prefer he sits to be petted. If we stand up straight, remain silent (so it’s clear we’re ignoring him) when he comes to us for attention, and then reach to pet him immediately after he sits, he will understand that sitting is what earns him the petting. If he then starts to jump as soon as we start petting, we should remove our hands and even stand up straight so that our message is loud and clear —standing leads to removal of attention, sitting leads to petting. If we delay the posture that tells the dog that we are now removing attention, then the message for him will be muddy. This point about timing and the importance of using the right body posture to provide the correct message to the pooch is important regardless of the type of techniques used.”


Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



  1. Before we started training I was sitting in the living room and jokingly said “Ranger, get mommy a drink.” This poor dog ran around the house fetching everything he could think of, trying to figure out what it was that I wanted. He knew I wanted something, just not what it was.

    Just an example of how even if a dog is willing to please his human, he can’t unless the human teaches him what it is they want from certain commands or signals.


    • Perfect example! Thanks for sharing. Poor Ranger really didn’t know what you wanted but at least he tried 🙂


  2. Great and informative post Linda. I must say, Simba is like my hubby and sons. They only hear when they want to. LOL! Thanks for sharing. 😀 *hugs*


    • As a mother and grandmother, I can relate to that, Sonel. LOL I may try clicker training the grandkids! Thanks for stopping by and *hugs* to you, too. 😉


      • Whahahahaha! I must remember that when I get grandkids one day. At this stage my 2 boys refuse to have kids. Their reason: ‘Kids just waste your money.” LOL!
        You’ve welcome hon. Enjoy the rest of your day. 😀 *hugs*



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