Is It Cruel To Ignore A Dog?

Ignoring a dog’s needs and behaviors can have profound effects on their well-being and the bond between them and their owner. While strategic ignoring may have its place in training, prolonged neglect can be detrimental. Here’s why ignoring a dog can be considered cruel and when it might be acceptable, along with alternatives to ensure their emotional and behavioral health.

Photo Credit: Alison Pang

Why Ignoring Can Be Cruel:

  • Dogs Need Attention: Dogs are social animals that thrive on companionship and interaction. Consistent ignoring can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety.
  • Misinterprets Your Intent: Dogs may not comprehend why they’re being ignored, potentially interpreting it as rejection or punishment. This can erode trust and damage the relationship between dog and owner.
  • Ignores Underlying Needs: Ignoring undesirable behavior fails to address the root cause. Unwanted behaviors such as excessive barking or destructive chewing often stem from unmet needs or underlying issues that require attention and resolution.

When Ignoring Might Be Acceptable (in short bursts):

  • Training Specific Behaviors: Ignoring attention-seeking behaviors during training, such as barking for treats, can serve as a method to reinforce desired behaviors. Rewarding quiet behavior with attention or treats reinforces the desired response.
  • Giving Them Time to Calm Down: In situations where a dog is over-excited or exhibiting undesirable behavior due to frustration, providing space for them to self-soothe can be beneficial. However, it’s crucial not to leave them alone for extended periods, ensuring they feel supported.

Alternatives to Ignoring:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Rewarding desirable behaviors with treats, praise, or affection is an effective way to encourage good behavior and strengthen the bond between dog and owner.
  • Redirection: When a dog engages in unwanted behavior, redirecting their attention to a more appropriate activity or command can effectively modify their behavior.
  • Addressing Underlying Needs: Ensuring that a dog’s basic needs for food, water, shelter, exercise, and mental stimulation are met is essential. Boredom or frustration often underlie unwanted behaviors, highlighting the importance of providing adequate outlets for their energy and emotions.


Building a strong and healthy bond with a dog requires attention, understanding, and positive interaction. While ignoring undesirable behaviors may seem like a quick fix, it can have long-term consequences on a dog’s emotional well-being and the relationship with its owner. Prioritizing positive reinforcement, addressing underlying needs, and seeking guidance from certified dog trainers can foster a harmonious and fulfilling relationship between owner and pet.

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