How Do You Train a Dog Who Won’t Listen to You?

Some of the biggest complaints dog trainers hear from dog owners on a regular basis, are that their dog is stubborn, he won’t listen to them, they can’t get their dog to obey them. Dog trainers know the frustration owners feel when they can’t get their dog to do what they ask, especially when the dog seems to be extremely defiant and stubborn. If you can identify with these feelings and have a dog you consider to be stubborn and bullheaded, then you should keep reading because the following is important information. We’re going to answer the question, “How do you train a dog who won’t listen to you?”

When your dog is being stubborn and not listening, here’s what’s really happening

Whether you realize it or not, we really expect a lot out of our dogs. Even dog owners who are just bringing home a brand new puppy, they suddenly expect that the pup understands all of the house rules and knows the boundaries it should adhere to, even already understand that it does not pee inside the house, but out. This is a lot of information for a dog, especially a young pup. And they are not going to know or understand any of it, especially on the first day. Like humans, dogs need time to get acclimated to their new environment. That being said, if they are doing something they shouldn’t or you don’t want them to, it doesn’t mean the training has to wait, it simply means that you need to be patient with them while they learn their new home.

Here are some steps to follow:

Step 1: Have patience while training a new (and older dog) his new skills

The main concept behind training is patience. Dogs do not come into this world already knowing how to behave and what to do, just like a child does not. It’s the same principle, and patience is required while training, because that is all it is they need-is training.

Step 2: Use very clear communication with them

An example of this would be; your dog jumping on the furniture when you clearly do not want your dog on thee furniture. One of the pet parents needs to be consistent in giving a command when your dog is exhibiting this behavior. Say your command for getting off the furniture is “down,” then when you say the command and remove him from the furniture as you give him the command, then reward him for getting down on a consistent basis, he will soon stop that behavior because he realizes that he gets rewarded for positive behavior.

However, let’s say that the other pet parent is slack on the pup getting on the furniture. He even coaxes the dog to join him on the couch while watching TV and snuggling. This is a mixed message for the dog and he won’t understand which behavior he is supposed to adhere to. While some dogs will develop a sense of which parent allows what behaviors and can act accordingly to which parent is around, most cannot and will simply stay confused and break rules at any given time. It must be a joint effort with training and both adhere to the same rules and training methods to get results.

Step 3: Repetition, repetition, did I say….repetition?

When training new skills to a new dog, one thing that is important is to start training in a quiet, non-chaotic environment. This is compared to a child who is struggling to learn her math. It is difficult to learn when there is too much distraction going on around them. It’s hard to focus. Puppies feel the same way. They can concentrate better in a controlled environment without a lot of distracting activity going on; kids running and playing in the room, other pets bouncing around them trying to play and chase. Start training in a calm setting, and once you have him obeying your commands about 90% of the time, move to other areas around the home; the front or backyard, or other areas where he can start to practice what he’s learned with more things happening around him. One thing you will want to keep in mind is your dog’s strong sense of smell. If you work with your pup outside, you may want to try a little trick that helps keep him settled for training sessions. Before you begin, have your dog sit, then tell him, “Let’s go explore,” or “Let’s walk,” then walk him around the yard to let him get his sniffing out of his system before you start your training session.

Step 4: There are some things that will be harder for some dogs than other things

There are a couple of expectations many dog owners have for their dogs that they wish they could get them to do as easily as they can get them to “sit” or “stay,” and that is, to “come when hailed,” or react to the command, “leave it.” This is because dogs are headstrong by nature. They most often want to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. But both of these commands are ones that have the potential to be life-saving commands in certain situations. If your dog were to take off and about to get into trouble, to be able to give the command, “Come,” and have him return the instant he was ordered to, would be such a relief for all dog owners.

It’s their powerful noses that work against you in these instances, so rather than fighting it, try working with their nose’s drive to keep them from listening to you. Here’s a way to start teaching your pet to “leave it.” Use a boring piece of kibble on the ground, and give him a command to leave it as he takes his nose away from the food. The second he does, give him a big rewarding “Yes!” and hand him a much tastier snack as a reward. He will start to want the reward of leaving things when asked, for the better reward he knows.

You can even teach a stubborn dog to recall

Some quick pointers for teaching your dog to recall start with beginning the recall training in your home first before moving outdoors. Start by using your call word to call your dog for each mealtime. Use the cue word to call him for his walk time, and always reward him handsomely with a very tasty treat, like meat or cheese when he responds the way he should. Give him lots of praise for obeying the command. Other times to practice in your cue word is just randomly throughout the day. Call him between 5 and ten times a day in your home and each time, back up a bit as he’s coming running to you to encourage more engagement between the two of you.

You will want to praise him and treat him, over and over and each time. When he gets very excited, take the excitement outdoors to a fenced-in area to calm. Whatever you do, do not punish him if he is coming to you, no matter if it is a bit slow or hyper. This will discourage him. Simply just keep working with him.

Here is one more final thought on working with and training a stubborn dog. More times than not, if your dog still remains stubborn, you need to take a step back and examine your communication skills. More than likely it is your communication that is off, that is the reason your dog remains stubborn or ignores you. Trying to decipher what it is you can correct about yourself and the way you are training can be the trick to getting him on track.

If you still have a stubborn dog and need extra help, here’s what to do:

Consider these:

  • Are you using the right reinforces or rewards? While some dogs respond best to a tasty piece of meat, others would love to be rewarded with ta game of fetch. Learn your dog’s favorite rewards.
  • Is the skill you expect your dog to learn too new for the dog’s environment?
  • Did you move to fast in training him the new skill in a calm environment, first before moving him to a more distracting setting?
  • If your dog ignores your cue, you may need to back step and repeat that training session again to reinforce the training of that command. It’s not a bad thing to have to repeat certain training sessions.
  • Keep in mind that if you’re training an older dog, some older dogs begin to lose their hearing or sight, some, so that it can make training even more difficult. Have their hearing and vision checked by a doctor.

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