Why Does My Dog Ignore Me?

Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA

Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA

Published Jul. 1, 2024
elderly beagle dog sleeping with his head propped on a couch arm

Solovyova/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

One of the myths about our furry best friends is that they hang on our every word, but the reality is that sometimes they tune us out completely. This lack of connection can be a bummer and may make you ask, “Why is my dog ignoring me?”

As it turns out, there are a variety of reasons why your pup might not listen, including everything from an incomplete education to physical challenges.

But there is hope for pups who hear static every time you open your mouth. Sometimes all it takes is a few tweaks in your approach.

Why Is My Dog Ignoring Me?

Even though dogs crave attention from their family and like to be physically close to them, there are a number of reasons why a dog might blow off his favorite folks.

1. Your Dog Is in a New Spot

Dogs can be quick to pick up new skills but slow to transfer them to new scenarios—meaning they don’t always generalize their lessons well.

After polishing your recall skills in the controlled environment of a training facility, it’s easy to assume your dog knows how to come when called, no matter what. But the fact is that your pup should brush up on his skills every time you visit a new spot.

So if your dog isn’t listening to you, it’s not always a matter of your dog ignoring the cue—it’s probably because he hasn’t had a chance to practice in the new (and likely very distracting) place.

2. There Are Too Many Distractions

Picture this: Your friend invites you and your pup to a dog-friendly backyard BBQ, and once you get there your dog acts as if you no longer exist.

Between the pristine grass to mark, new four-legged friends, and the smells from the grill, there are plenty of competing interests that are likely much more enticing in the moment than you. These distractions can lead to your dog acting like you’re invisible.

3. Messages Are Inconsistent

While you might think you’re being perfectly clear when you ask your dog to do something, the message can get lost in translation. “Sit” and “sit-sit-sit-SIT,” are different cues, as are “get down,” “get off,” and “lie down.” 

4. They’re Nervous or Scared

A new-to-you pooch, whether a pup or an adult dog, will go through a transition period as he adjusts to his new environment. Some dogs sail through it, while others shut down as they try to figure out their new life and friends.

This might result in a dog who seems unwilling to engage, or even one who seems to prefer being alone.

5. There Are Relationship Issues

Unfortunately, in some scenarios dogs ignore their people because they’ve learned that interacting can be unpredictable or scary. Whether from past abuse, neglect, or because a dog is naturally more introverted, some pups have decided that it’s best to keep to themselves.

6. Your Dog Is Aging

Physical decline can happen gradually as dogs age, so it’s not always easy to recognize when a senior dog is slowing down.

Senior dogs can experience everything from diminished vision and hearing to cognitive declines, which can then impact their willingness—and ability—to connect with their people.

What To Do When Your Dog Ignores You

Your ego can take a hit when your best friend blows you off. But, depending on the cause, there are methods you can turn to that can help.

1. Revisit the Basics

First, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your training skills. Whether you head back to a training facility for remedial training or check out videos online for pointers, going back to the basics can help cement your bond and allow you to get a stronger response from your dog.

2. Adjust to the Environment

Recognize when your dog is out of his element and adjust accordingly.

Expect that you’ll be at the bottom of the to-do list when you’re in an exciting new environment. Bring extra special treats to reward your dog when he does what’s asked of him, and don’t ask for miracles if you haven’t put in the time helping your dog learn how to perform them.

3. Pay Attention to Your Dog

You might think you know everything about your dog, but take a step back and recognize that you might be misunderstanding what your pooch is actually saying to you.

Your dog “ignoring” you might seem like insubordination when it’s actually because the dog is shy, or scared, or unsure. Learning to read and understand dog body language is the first step to ensuring better responsiveness.

4. Keep Cues Clear

Make sure that you’re clear with what you ask of your dog. Keep your cues consistent and easy for your dog to understand—for instance, always say “sit” if you want your dog to sit down. Using different verbal cues interchangeably (such as “lie down” and “get down”) can confuse your dog.

5. Use Positive Reinforcement

Letting your dog “win” can help improve responsiveness as well, so reward your pup frequently during the training process.

But don’t put the treats away once you finish your six-week training class! Training is a lifelong journey, and your dog should continue to get frequent rewards for a job well done.

6. Ask Your Veterinarian

Schedule a trip to your veterinarian if your formerly attentive dog starts ignoring you.

Canine discomfort can manifest in a bunch of different ways, so it’s smart to determine if there’s a physical reason for your dog’s behavior. It might be that your dog simply can’t hear you calling, not because he’s choosing to ignore the cue.

It’s a bummer when your dog acts like you don’t exist, but getting to the root cause and working together to get past it will make the bond between you that much stronger.

Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA


Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA

Animal Trainer

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health