The challenges of training a dog are many, but when your four-legged friend comes with an extra dose of stubbornness, the task becomes even more daunting. It can feel like a constant battle of wills, where every training session is a tug of war between you and your pet, and as a pet parent? That stressful!
They resist your commands, ignore their training cues, and at times, you wonder if they’re just testing how far they can push you, and it’s one of the things that pet owners complain about the most.
However, a stubborn dog isn’t necessarily a “bad” dog.
Oftentimes, this stubbornness is a sign of intelligence and strong will. With the correct approach and consistent methods, training your willful friend can become a rewarding endeavor. This guide is meant to equip you with the essential strategies, tips, and step-by-step instructions to overcome these challenges and establish a strong bond with your steadfast companion. Let’s dive into the world of training a stubborn dog.
I mean – Indie went through this phase as a teenager where he would flick at ear at me, which I read as “I hear you, but I’m still going to do this” and it was so infuriating!!
So trust me… I get your pain.
But you can learn to love your stubborn dog, and I’m going to show you the best ways to ease the training process with a ‘difficult dog’.
Dogs Who Are Typically Labelled Stubborn
Some dogs get labelled stubborn from the get go. Some of the typically stubborn dog breeds or might be labelled as a ‘hard-headed dog’ are;
- Huskies – Bred for sled pulling and working as a team ahead of a sled in all sorts of conditions, it pays to have a dog who can think for themselves.
- Akitas & Shibas – Bred to be naturally aloof, these dogs aren’t natural people pleasers and may need a little extra convincing.
- Daschunds – what if I asked you to go down a small hole… and fight a badger. How confident would you be? I wouldn’t be… but that’s what Doxie’s are bred for! It’s why they appear stubborn!
- Scenthounds (Bassetts, Beagles, Coonhounds, Bloodhounds etc) – These are bred to be over there, showing us what to do… why would they listen when the smell goes that way…
- Bulldogs – bred for tenacity! These guys are bred to bring down bulls… that outweigh them monumentally. These dogs are bred to be fighters, so they’re bred for willfullness.
- Terriers – Much like bulldogs, these dogs are bred to hunt and problem solve on the fly to ensure they take down that rat or fox or whatever they’re bred for.
Is your dog’s breed in there? A lot of this is because they’re bred to think for themselves unlike your labrador or german shepherd! Like my coonhounds, I had such a tough time figuring how to turn them into well-behaved dog – so much so that I was doubting everything I knew as a professional trainer! But I had to remember that they are bred to be 1-2 miles away from me and problem solve the best way to get the thing, and do it without my interference. And so… is it stubborn? Or is it independence?
A Stubborn dog is still a good dog, you just have to show them your way is the most lucrative way, and that may take a long time and a lot of reinforcement (for me this was really good treats), but the long way will result in a very well-trained dog.
The good news is that none of these dogs need a heavy hand, and we know, scientifically, that positive reinforcement is better than positive punishment or negative reinforcement! Positive reinforcement is always better int he long run!
Why Are Some Dogs More Stubborn Than Others?
Firstly, we need to recognise what stubborn is, in actuality.
Stubbornness is defined as “unreasonably or perversely unyielding”, and actually, when it comes to dogs? Stubborness is simply…
What your dog wants is more rewarding than what you want your dog to do.
Some dogs are more stubborn than others due to a variety of factors, including breed-specific characteristics, environmental influences, and individual temperaments. Certain dog breeds are predisposed to exhibit higher levels of stubbornness due to their breeding history and intended purpose. For example, the Siberian Husky is known to be a stubborn breed, as they were bred to be independent thinkers and problem-solvers, making them more self-reliant.
Improper training can also contribute to stubborn behavior in dogs. If a dog is not trained appropriately from a young age, they may develop aggressive or strong-willed behaviors. Additionally, environmental factors and the dog’s upbringing may play a role in shaping their stubbornness. Exposure to various situations and experiences can influence a dog’s willingness to comply with commands or exhibit certain behaviors.
Note: A lot of modern dog trainers hate the word stubborn because it’s often an excuse to use aversives with a dog, but we do have to recognise that not all dogs are naturally people pleasers, and typically? The antithesis of people pleasing is deemed stubborn…
Strategies for Training Stubborn Dogs
Training stubborn dogs can pose a unique set of challenges, from potty training to crate training, or loose leash to recall. Your aloof dog just kind of wants to do their own thing! but we can break bad habits and improve your dog’s behavior – though it may take a lot of work. However, utilizing the correct strategies can significantly improve the training process. Here are a few methods that could be beneficial:
- Positive Reinforcement: Don’t be tempted to think that punishment will make your dog respond – it won’t! Get your dog’s motivation right, and show your dog that their work? Is worth great pay. They’re just an employee who knows their worth!
- Consistency is Key: Providing consistent signals and responses can help your dog understand what is expected. This includes maintaining a consistent schedule for things like feeding and walking and consistent responses to behaviours.
- Find the Right Reward: Some dogs may be more motivated by certain rewards than others. For food-motivated dogs, high-quality treats may encourage them to respond more positively to training cues. Other dogs may love play! Play is a very powerful reward, so you may even want to try their favorite toy.
- Address External Stimuli: Dogs can be easily distracted or overstimulated by their environment. Minimizing distractions during training sessions, especially for puppies, can improve focus and responsiveness.
- Understand the Cause of Stubbornness: Instead of focusing on stubborn behavior, identify and understand the root cause. This can provide insight into how to train your dog most effectively.
And this doesn’t matter whether you have young puppies, an adult dog, older dogs, a big dog or a dog with signs of aggression. You can remedy any unwanted behavior (and you don’t need a shock collar!)
Tips For Training A Stubborn Dog
When training a stubborn dog, it’s crucial to approach the process with patience, persistence, and a variety of techniques suited to your dog’s unique needs. Transforming your training sessions into supportive and enjoyable experiences for both you and your dog can lead to a more satisfying outcome.
One of the key aspects of training a stubborn dog is to first understand their motivations. Dogs respond differently to various stimuli like food, play, or praise. Determining what your dog loves the most and using it as positive reinforcement can create stronger connections between desired actions and rewards. Or even understand when you’re going to need to up the ante! Strengthening these connections can make your dog more eager to learn and respond to your commands.
Use your tone. Independing/stubborn dogs may need a lot more encouragement than the average dog. And your tone of voice can be mega important when you’re learning and teaching new skills. One of the things I find with my hounds? Is that cheering them on while they recall is really powerful. And that means pure encouragement, my neighbours think I’m nuts… but who cares?
It’s also good to note that even when they’re showing bad behavior, we should moderate our tone of voice.
Maintaining a consistent routine is another essential factor in training stubborn dogs. Dogs thrive on stability and predictability, so establishing a consistent schedule for feeding, walking, and training helps in setting proper expectations. Adhering to this routine can minimize confusion and stubborn behaviors stemming from uncertainty. If you want help forming that routine, you may find this useful: Guide to creating your routine.
In addition, being consistent in using specific cues, commands, and body language throughout the training sessions will provide clarity for your dog. Inconsistent signals can bewilder your furry friend, making the training less effective.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in dog training. Rewarding your dog for their good behavior, rather than punishing them for undesirable actions, can improve their response to the training process. This approach encourages your dog to repeat desired behaviors, fostering a strong bond between you and your pet.
Choosing a focused and quiet environment when training your stubborn dog is also important. Limiting distractions allows your dog to concentrate more closely on your instructions. As a result, the likelihood of successful training sessions increases significantly. This is based on the principle of the 3D’s, Distance, Distraction & Duration.
Breaking complex commands into smaller steps is another useful technique. Instead of attempting to teach challenging commands all at once, you can simplify the process by introducing core concepts gradually. This step-by-step approach can make it easier for your dog to grasp and execute complex commands over time.
Training sessions should be kept short, engaging, and entertaining. Long, tedious sessions may cause your dog to lose interest, making it harder for them to absorb your instructions. This approach ensures that your dog associates training with fun, increasing the chances of successful learning.
Socialization is also an essential aspect of dog training. Introducing your pet to new people, other animals, and different environments can help reduce stubborn behaviors born from fear or anxiety. Proper socialization enables dogs to become more adaptable, making training sessions more productive.
Lastly, if you encounter persistent issues while training your stubborn dog, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional dog trainer or behavior consultant. Their expertise and personalized guidance can provide invaluable insights and strategies to help you and your dog achieve successful training outcomes.
Remember; It’s Never Too Late.
A lot of the time pet parents can feel like if they don’t have a new dog or a new puppy, changing their training method might not be a good idea, than an old puppy, or an adult dog won’t learn new things. And positive training is the right thing with stubborn puppies, and there’s no such thing as too late to make your first steps into positive training!
Stubborn Is Not A Bad Thing
Training a stubborn dog is a journey that requires plenty of patience, perseverance, and understanding. The right approach can turn into a rewarding experience, strengthening the bond between you and your furry friend.
You can overcome stubbornness and develop a well-mannered, responsive pet by tailoring training methods to your dog’s unique needs, maintaining consistency, and offering positive reinforcement. Remember, celebrating small victories along the way is crucial; in challenging times, consider seeking guidance from a professional. Each dog has its own pace of learning, and with persistence, even the most stubborn dog can be trained.
The goal is a happy, well-behaved pet, making the journey worth it.
And if you need help? Why not reach out and get professional help I love stubborn dogs and we can find the best way to turn your stubborn muffin into a wonderful family member!
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!