In the canine world, some dog breeds are well-known for being stubborn, or more difficult to train, than other types. Spitz-type dogs are independent and suspicious of strangers, herding dogs are wickedly clever and easily bored, hunting hounds can be impossible to call off an exciting target, and even deceptively docile dogs like English bulldogs can become difficult to train if given too little guidance. All Dogs Unleashed values training that is tailored to the individual pooch, but these ten tips are suitable for every dog owner. Boise & Meridian for Stubborn Breeds: class is in session!
- Understand Your Dog’s Genetic Drives
Each dog breed has been developed to fill a certain niche in the canine world. Before you choose your furry friend, research the breed you’re interested in. Try to find a dog whose energy levels, drives, and trainability are suitable for your personality and lifestyle.
If you have already begun a journey with your canine companion and have found yourself struggling to train a “stubborn” dog, it’s vital that you understand what genetic drives makes your dog tick. You can’t train a hunting dog the way you would train a Maltese, and likewise a Husky and a Great Dane require different approaches.
Although today’s tips are useful with stubborn breeds of all types, only by understanding how your dog thinks will you be able to bring out their full potential. Often a dog that has been labeled stubborn or difficult to train only needs a different mode of communication.
Remain open to the possibility that your dog is not really stubborn, just confused or unenthused about your current training methods. If your dog does turn out to be a case of true stubbornness, take heart: even the most stubborn dogs can be made manageable given consistent training over time.
- Rule Out Medical Issues
Sometimes a dog who won’t sit is really a dog with a painful knee, hip, or spine, and a dog who won’t listen to any command cannot hear at all. Before you begin addressing an odd behavioral issue, it’s important to get a clean bill of health from your dog’s veterinarian.
- Examine Your Unintended Reinforcers
Sometimes what we may think is discouraging a dog from a behavior may have the unfortunate effect of reinforcing that behavior instead. For example, a dog will never learn to stay off the counters if tasty tidbits are constantly left unsupervised; in this case, the available food would be too strong of a temptation for a dog-in-training to resist.
Paying too much attention to a misbehaving dog, petting an aggressive dog to “calm it down,” interacting with a dog with wild enthusiasm, and running after a dog who has taken off down the street are all common examples of ways owners are accidentally training their dogs to keep right on being fluffy terrors.
In order to reign in problem behaviors, you and your household will need to carefully examine your patterns of behavior through the lens of your dog’s genetic behavior blueprint. Everyone in your home must be on the same page when it comes to your house rules and training methods, which extends to unconsciously or unintentionally reinforcing unwanted patterns of behavior.
Prepare to make lasting changes to your habits and routine in order to help your dog be as well-mannered as possible.
- Avoid Punishments
Instead of giving your dog feedback about what you expect with regards to behavior, punishment serves to increase your dog’s anxiety and mistrust. An anxious dog will not be able to learn, and a dog who fears you will not be motivated to please you.
In place of punishment, it’s important to recapture your dog’s focus and reinforce the behaviors you would like to see repeated with treats, praise, and playtime.
- Capture Your “Stubborn” Dog’s Attention
Often when a dog owner says a dog is “stubborn” and “will not listen,” we find out that the owner has not first taught the dog to listen. A dog does not innately understand how to pay attention to you and receive visual and verbal cues. While some companion breeds are remarkably intuitive and pliant, any dog breed that has a reputation for being stubborn may be a dog that is having trouble paying attention.
Sometimes the issue is simply that the dog has entered the adolescent phase and is struggling with focus; this is something that all dogs experience normally, whether they will be stubborn as adults.
Whether you’re trying to capture your dog’s attention for the first time, or recapturing a dog’s wandering focus, make sure you understand what captures your dog’s attention. Then, remove your dog from stimulus that will out-compete you as a trainer. This will set the stage for you to use treats and praise to capture and hold your dog’s focus.
- Begin with High-Value Treats
Nothing holds a dog’s attention quite like a juicy, high-value treat. If you want to be sure your dog will pay attention to you, you first have to establish that you are the source of all good things.
Prepare a baggie of chicken, beef chunks, dried liver, or cubes of healthy mozzarella cheese. Peanut butter is a tried-and-true favorite, but it’s difficult to work with in a training setting. Stick to treats your dog loves, but will not have access to when you are not training. Bits of kibble or dry dog biscuit will not reliably hold your dog’s attention, so save those for routine meals and snacks.
- Expect to Progress Slowly
As soon as you can capture your dog’s attention, communicate a command, and have that command followed, it’s time to plateau for a while. Continue to work that command all day, every day.
Be sure you’re calm, use a light and upbeat tone, and brush off your dog’s inevitable mistakes. A confident dog trainer—which is your new role—will not react emotionally or cause a scene when the dog slips up.
Instead, just recapture your dog’s focus, reward every small step toward obedience, and continue to work your dog as often as you can.
- Begin to Add Distractions
Once your dog exhibits perfectly consistent obedience on a cue, it’s time to introduce distractions. For some dogs, even moving to a busier area in the home is enough to create a challenge.
As soon as your dog has to work with you to remain on command, you’ve found your next training plateau. Continue working with this level of distraction until your dog has once again demonstrated confident mastery, then introduce another type of distraction and begin again.
- Make Training a Habit for Your Dog’s Entire Life
The process of adding distractions and teaching your dog to work through them is infinitely repeatable. As your dog continues to learn new commands and encounter new situations, you will once again have a training target to shoot for.
Training is not a brief period of time intended to teach an impressionable puppy how to be a perfect dog; rather, it’s a way of interacting with a dog throughout its life that makes it happy to look to you for direction in all things.
- Work with Professional Dog Trainers Like Us
All Dogs Unleashed can send a trainer directly to your home. There, your trainer will be able to analyze your dynamic with your dog and show you how to communicate commands so that your dog understands you and is strongly motivated to obey.
In the long term, it’s vital that your training dynamic with your dog be cooperative, not adversarial or confrontational. If you are struggling with a stubborn breed, we recommend involving a professional trainer as soon as possible. Bad habits are easily learned and not as easily trained away, so contact us to schedule your in-home visit today.