The doorbell rings, and your dog starts barking and charges the door. You somehow manage to get them out of the way, and put your hand on the door nob. Before you open the door, you turn to your dog: "Sit! Sparky, sit!" Sparky slowly moves his way into a sit...that is...until you open the door. You are frustrated, because you KNOW Sparky knows how to "sit." Nonetheless, you give up, not wanting to leave your guest waiting while you train your dog, and you resort to "plan B" -- apologizing to your guest for the jumping and barking, and encouraging them to come in anyways.
Many dog owners feel confused and frustrated because they think that their dog ignores basic commands that they know.
Here are two reasons why this might be happening:
1.) Your dog doesn't REALLY know exactly what the command means
Let's continue with the same behavior as above, "sit." You probably think, "sit" is SIMPLE, I know my dog knows what that means! I tell him/her to sit before I feed meals, and when I give treats. I even say "sit" before I throw them the ball. Sure, maybe your dog knows that "sit" means to put their butt on the ground. But, for how long? When can they get up from their sit? Do you let them get up and walk away after they take their treat, or after you ask for a high-five? Do you say "sit," chuck their ball, and let them go run and get it without releasing them? If so, there's a good chance that your dog thinks "sit" is a temporary position, and not something that they need to stay in until you tell them to.
2. Your dog hasn't generalized the command
What does generalization mean? Let me briefly explain generalization using an example that us humans can easily understand:
Let's say you are at school, and learning what 2+2 means. You see 2+2 on the whiteboard, the projector, and the book in front of you. When you go home, you take out your homework and see it on the paper your teacher gave you. You know that 2+2 on any surface and at any location is the same thing.
Well, a dog would have a difficult time with this. And not just because they aren't natural mathematicians. Dogs do NOT naturally understand that "sit" when you are holding their food bowl above their head is the same thing as "sit" when they are barking their heads off because FedEx is at your door. Your dog may "sit" perfectly in the house, and even stay in a sit at the house, but when you are outside of Pete's coffee and another dog walks buy, your dog doesn't even seem to HEAR you speaking to them. This is not "disobedience," and your dog is not "blowing you off." Your dog simply hasn't been trained to perform the same obedience commands in different, especially difficult or exciting situations!
So, before you scowl and yell at Sparky for blowing you off, remember there are multiple reasons why your dog may not listen to a command you give them, including the two common ones described above. Don't stay frustrated, simply get more training!