What is Ignoring?

Recalling your dog to your location or just getting him to acknowledge your presence can be frustrating and disheartening when your dog is ignoring you.  The reasons your dog may not be listening might be medical in nature, but most often, if your dog will not come to you or ignores you completely, it is because of a training or a behavioral issue.  Once you feel you have ruled out potential illness, training and conditioning your dog will improve his recall ability.  

While training issues are the general reason, if your dog is ignoring you will want to discuss any changes in behavior and additional symptoms with your veterinarian.  Some of the medical and behavioral reasons your dog may be ignoring you include:

  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Depression
  • Lack of proper training
  • Inappropriate punishment

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Why Ignoring Occurs in Dogs

Your dog may be ignoring you for a number of reasons, so identifying the cause will depend on accompanying symptoms and situations.  Though usually associated with a behavioral issue or a failing conditioned response, your dog may be ignoring you for a medical reason.  

Ruptured Eardrum

If your dog suddenly starts ignoring you, appears off-balance, and seems to startle easy, he may be suffering from a ruptured eardrum.  The eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the middle ear from the inner ear, and a perforation of this membrane may result in hearing loss.  If this is the case, your dog is not ignoring; he cannot hear you. Typically, your dog will display other symptoms, such as tilting his head, rubbing at his ears, may have discharge coming from his ear, and appears in pain.  Middle ear infections, trauma to the head or ears, foreign objects in the ears, changes in atmospheric pressure, or extremely loud noises can cause a ruptured eardrum.  

Depression

Several factors can lead your dog to become depressed; some medical and others situational.  Your dog may ignore you and not want to participate in daily routines or play time.  He may also sleep more, eat less, and hide from you.  It is important to identify the potential reasons for depression in your dog, especially if no new situational changes have occurred, such as moving to a new house or changes to the family.  Some serious illnesses may cause your dog to appear depressed and lead him to ignore you.  Diseases that may affect your dog’s mental state include cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure.  Other signs and symptoms will accompany your dog’s lack of enthusiasm towards you, such as fever, inappropriate elimination, or vomiting.  

Lack of Proper Training

If you’ve ruled out a medical reason for your dog ignoring you, your dog may need proper training.  Early training and how you train your dog will determine the likelihood of command-based obedience and go a long way in making sure your dog doesn’t ignore you.  For example, treat training requires you to give a treat within three seconds of your dog successfully carrying out his command.  This helps your dog build the proper association.

Inappropriate Punishment

Dogs are not always on their best behavior, and your dog may get into the trash or escape out the back door and run wild.  There are several ways your dog may misbehave, and it is important that he does not associate a recall command with punishment or negative consequences.  Your dog is most likely to ignore your recall command if you’ve conditioned him to associate the command with being yelled at or punished in any way.

What to do if your Dog is Ignoring

The first thing you should do when you notice your dog ignoring you is consider the environment and other symptoms accompanying the event, which will help you identify the behavior as a medical or situational condition.  If your dog is excited because he saw a squirrel and managed to slip his lead, he might not recall, but if he seems confused or is startled by the sight of you, your dog might be experiencing a loss of hearing and medical attention is required immediately.  

As a dog owner, you are sensitive to your dog’s behaviors and can tell the difference between a medical and situation event.  If you suspect your pet is ill, you should seek medical attention.  Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination and ask you when you first noticed your dog’s symptoms.  He will also ask for your dog’s full medical history including any accompanying symptoms.  Depending on your vet’s initial examination, he will order diagnostic testing to define potential illness further. 

If you believe your dog is ignoring you based on conditioning, such as inappropriate punishments or inadequate training you will have to correct the behavior with positive training.  Introducing a new word for a command is easier than correcting a negatively associated word and always give praise and positive energy while engaging in training to help your dog associate your commands with happiness and positivity.

Prevention of Ignoring

A safe, clean home can help prevent many medically related illnesses that may cause your dog to ignore you.  Dust and other allergens inside and outside your home can cause allergies that can lead to ear infections.  Be mindful of your dog’s potential allergies and watch for any signs of infection.  Your dog may also have a difficult time cleaning his ears.  You can help prevent potential ear infections that could lead to a ruptured eardrum by helping your dog clean his ears.  Always use a cleaning agent designed specifically for your pet’s ears and consult with your vet or groomer for suggestions and tips.  

As your dog ages, he may develop diseases, such as diabetes, which may lead him to ignore you or become depressed.  While some diseases affecting your aging dog are not preventable, you can help increase the quality of your dog’s life by making sure he always has access to clean water, eats a regular diet, and gets plenty of exercise.  Regular visits to the veterinarian’s office will also help you stay on top of our dog’s health and may help prevent illness by catching early warning signs and adjusting his lifestyle.  Illness of any kind can lead your dog to become aloof or ignore you.  

Proper training and ensuring your dog does not associate any negativity with a recall command will help develop command-based obedience.  Never use negative association when your dog breaks a rule or when you need him at your side.  Many times, the act you wish to punish your dog over happened in the past – longer than three seconds in the past to be exact – and your dog will not benefit from the negative association.

Cost of Ignoring

While love and positive reinforcement are priceless for situational ignoring, the cost of treating a dog who’s ignoring you for medical reasons will vary depending on the underlying cause.  For example, it costs around $450 to treat a ruptured eardrum due to an ear infection but can cost around $3,000 to treat diabetes and the depression possibly associated with it.