By Courtney Emken
co-written by Bart Emken, CPDT-KA, Jen Larson, KPA-CTP, and Amanda Ott
We often hear people claim that their dog is “stubborn,” and simply won’t cooperate with them on walks or listen to them during training. Luckily, we have good news. What may seem like hesitancy from your dog is likely due to something other than their personality. Let’s find out what!
Discovering The True Source Of Your Dog’s “Stubbornness”
Before you try to “fix” your dog’s stubbornness, you should evaluate the full situation. There’s a host of factors that could possibly cause your dog to be distracted or hesitant during training, such as:
- Environmental distractions
- Frightening stimuli
- Misunderstood cues
If you’re training in the hustle and bustle of the park, your cues can get lost among the sea of exciting things which your dog wants to chase or sniff. Similarly, if the TV is blaring during exercises, your dog may be too uncomfortable to really listen to you.
Dogs can get easily confused by certain cues, especially if they’re new to training. Make sure they fully understand what you’re asking of them before blaming stubbornness. Most dogs just want to please their owners, so you can help them out by being as clear as you can with instructions.
Look at their history of training and check for inconsistencies. If you’re adopting a dog, they may already know several cues like sit or stay. However, many rescue and shelter dogs were never properly trained and will need additional training sessions from you or a professional dog trainer.
It’s also possible that you’re not using a high-value enough reward to hold your dog’s attention. In order for positive reinforcement training to be effective, you have to discover what drives your dog, and use it to reinforce behaviors and cues that you want repeated.
Another common problem we see with home-trained dogs is hasty training. Just because your dog has mastered off leash walking or recall at home does not mean that they’re ready to visit the dog park. Move slowly, gradually introduce your dog to different stimuli before you expect them to be 100% cooperative in a more distracting environment.
Moving Past “Stubbornness”: How To Set Expectations And Develop A Relationship
We once had someone come in with a newly adopted Vizsla and expect to be able to bike together at an off leash dog park… after just a week of owning the dog. Our answer was an immediate NO! They barely knew each other. The first thing the dog would’ve done was run away.
People often see dogs running alongside their owners on trails and expect that kind of relationship immediately after they adopt a dog. What they don’t see is the months of work and trust building that it took before that was ever possible.
If your dog is being “stubborn,” it’s possible that you just haven’t developed your relationship enough yet. They may not know you all that well, or just don’t feel completely comfortable around you yet. A healthy dog-owner relationship is a prerequisite for successful training.
It’s also wise to give dogs a two week “grace” period before you start suspecting “stubbornness.” Typically, after those first two weeks pass, a shy or anxious dog begins to open up and their personality does a complete turnaround. Have patience and wait for them to get comfy with you.
If you’re having particular trouble with a “stubborn” dog, hiring a professional trainer may be the best thing to move forward. Training classes can bring you and your dog together in ways you may never have imagined.
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