The Power of Ignoring

“Pay attention to me”

Some behaviors are cute and some behaviors can be quite annoying. Some of the most common issues trainers see are nuisance behaviors such as jumping, barking, scratching, and nipping. Because of this, I thought I’d address a way to change that behavior to a more polite behavior.

One piece of advice I’d love to give all dog owners is to IGNORE your dog when it does something annoying to try to get your attention.  This is a relatively simple piece of advice, but the follow through for most people is very difficult when it is their own dog. Ignoring takes patience and consistency to work. Here is the proper strategy for efficient ignoring:

  • Stand up
  • Cross your arms (especially if there is jumping and biting involved)
  • Look straight ahead (NO eye contact)
  • Don’t say ANYTHING – not a peep!

If you do this, your dog will soon learn that that behavior is not going to get them what they want.

Many people tell their dog “No” and push their dog down when it is jumping and there are people who give their dog what it wants to get it to stop barking, but then they complain about how annoying that behavior is. In both cases, the dog is getting what it wants (i.e. either attention or a treat or toy) so I’m not sure why the owner would think this behavior would stop on its own. Dogs are not really particular on the kind of attention they get from you, whether it is negative (like saying “No!”) or positive, they will be rewarded either way because you are addressing them.

It’s pretty simple, ignore the bad behavior and reward the good! Once you start ignoring a dog that has a bad habit, they will begin to try other tricks in their book. If they have been taught to sit, lay down or to back away, then they will resort to those behaviors that will get them what they want. This is another important part of getting better behavior – teach your dog what you DO want them to do so they can tap into that resource once the annoying behavior is ignored. 

The strategy works with dogs of ALL ages – from tiny puppies to adults. However, the longer a dog has been allowed to practice that annoying behavior (just like a bad habit), the harder it will be to change it. So, again, consistency and patience are key!