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Training a stubborn dog can be frustrating — I’ve worked with dozens of pet owners who feel like they’re on the losing end of a battle of wills with their canines, and I’ve had several difficult-to-train dogs of my own over the years. When bad habits refuse to budge, pet owners can wind up feeling frustrated, exhausted and defeated.
If you’re struggling to train your dog, don’t give up! There’s hope for even the most challenging dogs. The solution may be as simple as changing your approach to training.
When a dog doesn’t listen to or follow commands, it’s not typically because he is hardheaded or untrainable. The problem is often that normal dog behaviors simply don’t conform to human standards of good manners, and changing behavior that comes naturally to a dog can take time and effort.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a complete revision of your training program though. For some dogs, even the smallest shift in the training process can make a big difference in your success.
A few simple tweaks can make all the difference in your challenging dog’s behavior. Here are seven of my favorite strategies for stubborn dogs.
Go slowly. Start by working with your dog on favorite or familiar behaviors. Create a positive association with training by rewarding even minor successes. Once your dog understands that training is a good thing, take small steps: Change only one variable at a time. Once your dog has mastered sit, for example, add a slight distraction, like the television or another person in the room. Take your time though — if training becomes too hard, your dog is likely to give up (and so are you).
Control the environment. During training sessions, take precautions to help your dog stay focused. Choose a distraction-free area like your kitchen or living room. Put away toys or other items that he may be tempted to chew on or play with. If you are training outside, add an extra layer of safety by keeping your dog on a leash or longline or inside a fenced area. Even a well-trained dog can be tempted by a cat or squirrel or startled by a loud noise.
Be consistent. You or other members of your family may unintentionally be asking for the same behavior in different ways or rewarding different behaviors. As a result, your dog may seem stubborn when he’s really just confused. Having everyone who spends time with your dog use a consistent set of cues or commands and offer consistent rewards makes it more likely that your dog will do what he’s asked to do. So if you are trying to teach your dog to sit when greeting people, make sure your kids aren’t allowing or encouraging him to jump up on them when they come through the door.
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