In my work with puppies I often find that related issues pop up in waves.
We all know that dogs crave attention. In turn, we adore how they look at us lovingly when we give them attention. We love admiring how cute they are, how smart they are and we are amazed by the deep emotional impact all that cuteness has on us.
What we seem to overlook is that fawning and constant commenting are reinforcing the pup’s behavior in real time! The puppy more than the humans realizes that playing keep away gets them at least as much attention as coming when called.
“Oh honey…we have to go out now and come on come on we have to go now, let’s put on your harness…here…here…I will lure you with a treat…haha you are running away…look I have a treat…oh, don’t do that! “What are you doing over there? Oh, don’t eat the rug! What is it that you have in your mouth? Why don’t you play with your toy instead, oh don’t bark, don’t whine…why are you whining… What do you want?!”
In that constant stream of verbal attention, why should the puppy know what to ignore and when to pay attention?
How does he differentiate between running commentary and an actual cue?
Also keep in mind that dogs have to learn to understand specific words by associating them with physical behaviors first. If your dog does not really know what action to associate with a particular word under a variety of circumstances and with distractions then you cannot expect the dog to perform on cue.
Be aware of the fact that your puppy needs clear guidelines. That does not mean that you have to bark out commands in a military fashion. Just try really hard to show your puppy that behaviors that you do not want to repeat should not have a reinforcing effect on your puppy. Use your actions and words strategically.
Notice them when they are doing the “right” thing,. When your dog ignores you or “does not listen” consider if it’s actually your behavior that is confusing to your puppy.
Do not overwhelm them with constant commenting.