Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
"Why Does My Dog Listen to My Husband and Not Me?"
One question often asked among female dog owners is, ‘’Why does my dog ignore me and only listen to my husband?’’
You can almost taste the bitterness these spouses feel. More often than not, they start questioning other aspects of their lives, from their leadership skills to wondering who truly wears the pants in the household.
Often it is difficult to evaluate what causes a dog to put on deaf ears when you approach and then turn into a saint with a shiny halo when hubby comes home and whispers a command. The house rules are always the same, you use the same command words, and you can even mimic a masculine voice, but it makes no difference. So what is going on?
Why Won't My Dog Obey Me?
The first thing to do is to be totally honest with yourself. Is there any chance you've been inconsistent or unclear with the dog? As children, dogs can be quite clever in determining who they can mess around with and who they cannot. Sometimes a child will behave, but when grandma steps in, the child gets pushy because he knows that grandma closes an eye or even two. If your hubby asks your dog to sit and does not allow your dog to do anything else until that rump touches the ground, your dog will be likely thinking, ‘’Okay, the rules are strictly in place with this guy, no fooling around.’’
If you ask a sit and your dog does not comply but instead goes to bark to the door, and you just shrug and think ‘’whatever,’’ your dog has just scored high against you. Your dog will know that when you ask a sit, you very likely do not mean it. It could also happen that you casually ask a sit and then the phone rings and Rover learns that your sits are just an option. This doesn't mean your dog is being dominant, just as a child isn't being dominant when grandma comes by. The more correct term is opportunistic. It also doesn't mean that you need to be harsher. You can still be a wonderfully positive trainer, as positive doesn't mean permissive!
But in some cases, both spouses are quite consistent with the dogs. These female dog owners have made a commitment with their spouse to be consistent and benevolent dog parents. They really care about their canine companion and work hard to ensure that the rules are the same and must be followed. If you belong to this category, and you can be totally honest about your consistency, read on, as there are other possible causes for your dog’s selective hearing.
It May Be More Than a Consistency Issue
One of the issues to evaluate is the use of overtones. Females typically have voices that are higher in pitch and have fewer overtones than men’s voices. Dogs are equipped with sensitive ears and are extraordinarily capable of detecting such tones. They perceive the female voice as less firm when compared to a man’s. As a result, some dogs are more likely to respond to a man. Perhaps not out of pleasure, but a bit out of intimidation.
As much as this may sound like bad news for women, there is ultimately a good side worth mentioning. According to Riverdog K9, a dog trainer, men generally do better with dogs who have not received any training whatsoever, whereas a trained dog or one in training will respond much better to the motivating voices of women.
But the very best news is that a well-trained dog ultimately responds well to both! Pam Young, a certified dog trainer, says that women have a better ''good dog'' tone of voice, whereas men do better with the ''bad dog" tone. She recommends watching the dog's reactions upon being reprimanded for doing something bad using both the good tone of voice and the bad. Very likely, the dog will react according to the tone.
As interesting as this may sound, there are considerations other than voice tones to keep in mind. Generally, men have a more direct approach with dogs: Men get into the dog's space more. Dogs sense this and respond better. Men, therefore, may do better with dogs who engage in testing behaviors such as doggie adolescents. We often see this as well with children, who are often more responsive to a father's request than a mother's. It's a common scenario: A mother asks a child do something, the child rebels, and then the man's voice says, "Do as mom says," and the child immediately gives in.
However, this means that dogs fear men somewhat more, and this explains why there are so many dogs fearful of men. The man's tone of voice, combined with a direct approach, can have a deleterious effect on certain fearful or excessively submissive dogs that will cower and even submissively urinate. In these cases, a woman will do much better.
So, if disobedient Rover pulls you on the leash but heels admirably with hubby, the first question to ask yourself is if you have slacked on training. If you can honestly say you have not, then consider that your dog’s response to your hubby is just natural. Keep up the training and do not give up.
As the dog learns the rules, there will be less testing, and your voice will work wonderfully in motivating and inspiring him. Just as with raising children, it is through cooperation that you will train a good dog that will ultimately respond to both of you. Just work together as a team, and the results will eventually show and shine.
Training Your Dog Not to Listen
As a dog trainer, I see this scenario often in couple's interactions with their dogs. Men may not do this on purpose of course, but it can have a deleterious effect on the dog's perception of the wife.
Here is a common scenario:
- Wife asks the dog to sit. The dog does not sit and actually pretends not to hear her. Hubby intervenes by saying ''sit'' in a firmer tone of voice.
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What did this just teach the dog? The dog has likely learned that the wife is not worth paying attention to and that hubby is the one that means business. It is imperative that the wife follows through if the dog does not obey the command the first time.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Cindy Ikerd on May 02, 2020:
My dog, Buddy, listens to me but not my husband. Buddy barks at my husband for no apparent reason and can last several minutes. I've tried to intervene and it only works some of the time. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Reginae on June 17, 2018:
Zoe' on March 22, 2018:
My dog obeys me but almost always refuses to listen to my mom. My dog also has aggression towards men and I don't know how to help her with that. She is a great Rottweiler mix she has a lot of energy but is most of the time calm. Is there anything I can do to help my dog?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 15, 2017:
Melissa, sounds like you have done a great job, consistency is very important!
Mellissa on October 14, 2017:
My dog obeys me much better than my husband. I use every opportunity to reinforce my rules and always use a lower commanding tone. My husband says he can't reinforce the rules everywhere all the time because he'd never get anywhere. I told that would only be for a short time until he realized you're serious then he wouldn't test as much. He says he doesn't want to. Oh well. Then he'll have to endure the misbehavior since he doesn't want to take the time to work on it. Took me 9 months to train our dog like I have but it'd probably take my husband a short time since now the dog knows the rules.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 23, 2016:
You must be doing things very consistently and if you are mostly around, your dogs have learned that you are the one that provides most guidance.
knowlta on May 17, 2016:
See for me and my boyfriend it is completely opposite. We have a 5 month old pit bull who will not listen to him or anyone else in my house. He only listens and behaves when I am present, and of course this frustrates my boyfriend and my household. He is like a little angel when I am around besides his normal puppy attitude, but he follows me everywhere and I can walk him without a leash no problem. I need help trying to get the dog to listen when I am not home. The funny thing is this is not the first time I have had a dog that only listened to me, I had a adult healer that literally was at my side everywhere I went may it be inside the house or outside. Why is it that my dogs always end up only listening to me and no one else?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 08, 2014:
Lol! Yes, it does have a lot to do with who is more consistent and who does more training. Training creates a bond and improves the dog/owner relationship.
Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on March 07, 2014:
I don't think it has to do with gender but who has the most authority in the family. I was in the Army and was a Sheriff deputy. I think I just naturally know how to give orders and the S.O. doesn't. He's usually great with animals, especially cats. Maybe he's just a cat person lol.
Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on March 07, 2014:
I actually found this article while looking for reasons why our dog barely listens to my husband. He was complaining today about how he has to argue with the dog about getting into the car every morning. I was confused. I said "Why are you arguing with a dog? Just tell her what to do." We both are very affectionate with her and feed her equally. I think what it might be because I am more involved with her training. That, and when I tell her to do something, I expect her to do it. My husbands just throws his hands in the air and says he doesn't have time for this.
AJRRT from Sheffield, AL on April 09, 2012:
Great hub!! A vote up & I will be sharing it as well. As stated in the hub, distracting a fearful dog really works but you must work diligently with the dog to be successful but sometimes fear issues are genetic or part of the dog's personality. My dog came from our local shelter, she immediately bonded with me, so we had to deal with separation anxiety. She clung to me like a toddler does to it's mother. For about 3 months after I brought her home she pretty much ignored my husband & daughter. After 6 years she no longer has separation anxiety and does not ignore my family, but still prefers her momma.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 06, 2012:
I am wondering if perhaps your tone inhibits him a bit? Some dogs when they feel a bit intimidated cannot function too well because fear clashes against their cognitive functions. Do you sound like you are ordering something with a very authoritarian voice? Is he giving you appeasement signals such as licking lips, turning the head away, yawning? Try to use a firm voice but not too deep and when he complies use your happy voice to praise. Whining is also out of submission and is a sign of appeasement. Try to put him for success. If need be start with food lures to make those sits faster and then reward only faster sits. Best wishes!
Flustrated Sharpei Owner on February 06, 2012:
I have an unusally deep voice for a woman and have raised three boys so I know all about tone. I insist that my mini pei do what I ask, however it takes too long and he doesn't listen as he should. He also whines whenever I walk by ( not my husband). I am pulling my hair out. I have gotten a trainer.
Eiddwen from Wales on September 22, 2011:
They are indeed beautiful and again your hub is brilliant.
A vote up and thank you for sharing.
fashion on July 31, 2011:
This is very interesting hub.I like it.well done.
Rajiv on July 31, 2011:
That's the fact and I have seen it more often. I feel that men are more compassionate towards dog, and dogs are quick to notice it.
hemorrhoidremedy on July 30, 2011:
The hubby always feeds the dogs.Hence, the reason why the response the man more than the woman
Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 26, 2011:
We train women in martial arts to lower the pitch of their voices for self defense. Just the huge loud yell helped me stop a pickpocket once in a large store. Two managers heard it, ran after him (I pointed while yelling) and tackled him.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 26, 2011:
How interesting! Perhaps my high voice is why dogs don't listen to me. Though it also might be because I just don't know how to behave around dogs @_@
twodawgs on July 24, 2011:
Good observations. I have also noticed, when I really want my dog(s) to pay attention, that lowering my voice gets better results. I think this is something any woman can learn, once they understand the influences that affect dog behavior. I think your article helps to explain that.