Recently something happened that was a bit odd. Both of my dogs, Frain (Border Collie) and Freyja (Doberman) were outside when the neighbor dogs came to the fence. Usually, they'll hang out and sniff noses through a gap in the fence but this time, Fain and the neighbor dog decided to have a much louder meeting. When I heard all the barking, I decided that was my cue to end their little session so I called them both to the back door. Freyja in her long lanky strides made it to the door in about 2 seconds flat. But what shocked me was that Fain completely ignored me, which is extremely rare for my 3-year-old expert in training drills. He continued to bark with the neighbor dog. Fret not, I fixed this issue real quick.
With Freyja now at the door I praised her very loudly and obviously. Fain, of course, came running at the sound. He showed up at the door just in time to see Freyja get a treat for coming when called. Fain looked at me expectantly with a big smile on his face, even sat down and offered his best behavior looking for his reward, no doubt! I praised Freyja once more and walked away. Fain got a heaping dose of nothing. He should have come when I called. I don't give "participation trophies." The lesson here for him? "come means come, right away or you might miss something good!" There was no screaming or yelling or any kind of escalated behavior involved. Getting no reward and no praise was"punishment" enough.
(Side Note: If I had screamed or yelled at him, how likely do you think he would be to come when I called him next time? What would I have taught him in that case?)
This is something I've heard from dog parents time and time again. "Our one dog is amazing but the other just blows us off." Easy fix, be less generous with treats, and/or rewards like praise and toys. Your rewards should also come in levels. It's just like going to school, crap effort? Crap grades, you get it? Even if your "good dog" is beyond needing treats for compliance, use them anyway every now and again if it will entice your "bad dog" to come and investigate.
Let's say you call your dogs to come to you. Your expectations are that they should stop what they're doing and run right over to you and sit right in front of you. One of your dogs gets there in the blink of any eye. The other is pretty lazy about it or doesn't even try. Fine, give all your love and praise to the dog that did comply. When the other dog comes over to get in on some love, continue to ignore them. Once you're done praising the "good dog" try the exercise again. Call them both to come over and just repeat everything. Praise the "good dog" ignore the "bad dog" but if they make a better effort this time, praise them at the level in which they are working. Do they get a C grade? a B? How much effort are they putting in? Offer more and more praise and more rewards as their performance improve.
Practice this routine and you'll have compliance like you've never dreamed you'd have! But remember, it has to be fun! So try not to get frustrated or upset with your dog. Just go through the exercise as best you can and whatever happens, just roll with it and give the appropriate praise where it's due.
If both your dogs are ignoring you or you only have one dog and they're not interested in training with you, you need to work on becoming an interesting person. Your dog is just not that into you, sorry. Another game-changer is to quit feeding your dog out of a bowl. Of course your dog is "not food motivated." Why should they work with you for food when in a few hours you'll be putting a bowl of free food on the floor for them? No more free food! Feed small meals out of food dispensing chew toys like Kongs and use the rest for your training exercises throughout the day. You'll find that all of a sudden your dog is very food motivated. They will have learned the only way to get food is to earn it. Plus your dog will have much more enriching meal times if they're having to hunt the food out of a toy. The benefits of not feeding form a bowl will speak for themselves, just try it!