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Puppy Not Listening to You? Here’s Why and What to Do!


“I love it when my pet doesn’t listen to me,” said no one ever.

So what happens when your calls fall on deaf ears (when your dog isn’t actually deaf)? What else might be going on if you feel your puppy isn’t listening or responding to you? 

There are many reasons why your pet is failing to respond to you. We’re going to get into it here, and help you with tried and tested strategies that will help your pet listen to you.

Why is My Puppy Not Listening to Me?

Puppies can find it hard to focus, here are some reasons why:

Environmental distractionsThe world is a distracting place, and everything is so new to a puppy! Puppies are easily distracted by their environment…ooh a leaf blowing, a cat running past, a strange smell …you get the idea!

cartoon of puppy surrounded by question marks
Play games that your puppy likes and make it fun! ©Zigzag

PainIf puppies are teething, or experiencing growing pains, they can find it hard to focus or listen to you as they’re just feeling quite sore! 

Other illness If your puppy is vomiting, has diarrhea, is lethargic or just generally feeling under the weather, then it can be hard for them to listen to you. 

Using ‘cheap‘ treatsUsing low value treats like your dog’s kibble can often make your puppy not that interested in paying attention. Training – building a bond and a reinforcement history – takes time and practice, and it’s best to use treats your puppy really likes.

You’re boring Sorry! But puppies like exciting people, and if your energy is low, you’re the one feeling lethargic, or you’re just not making listening to you much fun, then your puppy isn’t going to be very interested!

Not enough practiceTraining your puppy to listen to you takes time, patience, and perseverance. It takes puppies a long time to learn the most basic of obedience cues like their name, so it’s worth being patient.

How to Get Your Puppy to Listen to You 

Practice more. Practice really does make perfect! Try training your puppy for a minute at a time, 10 times a day, and you’ll see a difference in no time!

Train in quiet locations. Always train your puppy in your home at first, so they get to practice without the stress of external distractions. Puppies learn best in low stress environments, so let’s get the wins there first.

Use high value treats. Most of us prefer chocolates to vegetables, and dogs aren’t much different. (No chocolate for them though please – yes, it is toxic.It will differ between dogs, but here’s a good guide of what treats your dog might like:

  • High value treats – These tend to be cooked meats or cheese, liver paste and jerky.
  • Medium value treats – Commercial dog treats or dog cookies.
  • Low value – Your dog’s regular food/kibble.

Get silly and play more. Puppies love it when we’re silly! Play more games that your puppy likes and make it fun! Play creates positive emotional activation in the brain, and will make your puppy listen to you, so get silly and play!

Check your puppy’s teeth. If your puppy is teething, they’ll appreciate some cooling chews, or even pet-safe teething gel to soothe their sore gums. 

Seek veterinary help. If your puppy suddenly doesn’t listen to you or seems otherwise unwell, we do recommend you have them checked by your veterinarian for pain or other illness.

Give it time. Patience, practice and persistence are the cornerstones of training and getting a dog to listen and focus on you.

Using the tips above, we’re sure you’re going to get some ‘can’t take my eyes off of you’ focus and a puppy who listens to you soon enough!

About the Author

Petrina Firth is a Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behaviorist of over 10 years who now mainly specializes in Separation Anxiety (CSAT) and also creates content, lessons and articles for the Zigzag puppy training app and website. Petrina is a member of the Pet Professional Guild, the head of marketing and board member for the APDT UK, and a member of the CAPBT committee. She is also a tech and gadget enthusiast who enjoys city living with her rescue French Bulldog and partner.

The Zigzag logoZigzag is a puppy training app with a difference, rather than focusing solely on obedience we take puppy guardians on a journey through Life Skills and important developmental stages, to hopefully give them happy, confident and well-behaved puppies, with an understanding that puppies and dogs aren’t robots, they have big feelings, and that’s ok!

Zigzag is a Pet Professional Guild Corporate Partner.

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