Do you have a stubborn dog? The reason I ask is because so many people tell me they have a stubborn dog. I also hear about dogs who are lazy, not toy driven or not interested in food, aggressive, protective, hate the crate or are just not very smart. And there is almost always one very good reason why you are having this issue with your dog.
You taught the dog to be that way. Or in the case of a rescue dog, someone else taught the dog to be that way. You can teach the dog to behave differently. Your behaviors can help or hurt the dog as he tries to adapt to your environment.
If you want a well-behaved, well-trained dog, your very first mission is to understand your dog. People assign dogs all sorts of emotions and motives that belong entirely in the human world and really have nothing to do with dogs. Stubbornness is not a dog thing. Unfortunately, stubbornness is a human thing (I can hear some of you stubbornly arguing with me right now!). Laziness is also a human thing. If you tried to explain the concept of stubbornness or laziness to a dog, they would look at you like you are insane. Because that is human thinking, not dog thought. Dogs don’t look at some dog laying there in the dust and think, that dog should get a job. They don’t resist doing what you want because they are stupid or stubborn, but I hate to tell ya, they don’t do what you want because you haven’t conditioned them to perform the behavior you need!
It might not be your fault entirely that your dog is behaving the way they are (or aren’t). Maybe you don’t know yet how to teach an animal this new behavior. Maybe you adopted a dog with learning challenges. Dogs aren’t naturally adapted to many modern human habitats, and maybe part of your behavior problems is that you haven’t created the right habitat for the dog. Most of my beginning students arrive with this notion, that they have a stubborn dog but your dog is not stubborn. Your dog is not stupid.
Dogs do what works.
If barking, clawing or destroying something means you will open a door, that’s largely why the dog is barking, clawing, or destroying something. If ignoring you leads to this wild fun off-leash adventure through the neighborhood, hey, that’s smart thinking on the dog’s part. If your dog runs around barking out windows, why aren’t you gating the dogs away from the windows?
Dogs are partly big jokers. The other part is, they are big partiers. They also like to sleep. Everything is pretty fun and funny to mentally healthy dogs. Dogs play a lot. Life is mostly a game, although for some dogs, sometimes life is an awesome horror movie and they are like kids screaming on roller coaster, it’s scary, but also they choose to get on the ride again and again! Wheeee!!!Life is sniffing around and finding stuff, and with some boring owners, sniffing around the owner is not very worthwhile so they focus their attention and interests and place the focus of their behaviors elsewhere. But sometimes it is kinda entertaining and fun to play a joke on the owner. Owners make lots of loud noises and wave their arms and scream, that’s kinda funny to watch.
You are your dog’s Guru. Your dog WANTS, and often desperately wants, to make you laugh and play. But you can be incredibly difficult to train. It seems like you can be stubborn and not that smart. You always changing your mind and sending out confusing and conflicting signals. You not only don’t send clear signals, but miss clear messages your dog is trying to give you! I first posted this with a video here that I put up in response to a woman who said her dog “loves” his shock collar. Yeah, ahuh, just like we all “love” getting shots at the doctor’s office. Maybe there is a kinky dog out there that actually does “love” getting shocked, but pain is pain. Dogs don’t love it. Don’t be stupid and stubborn about that. But I’m taking that one down and replacing it with a video example of a dog who really could come across to human beings as “stubborn.” He was a rescued Houdini who had been rehomed multiple times with severe weather and noise anxiety and an ability to bust out of anywhere. You can see how he was learning to accept confinement with the help of a stubborn human.
We often misunderstand dogs. We can use what our dogs want to strengthen (reinforce) behaviors in our dogs. Punishment is tricky, it can sometimes happen accidentally and can unfortunately weaken desirable behaviors in our dogs. And humans can have stubborn beliefs regarding reinforcement (ie: “Do I have to use food?”) and punishment (“I have to tell him he is a bad dog.”) If you are stubbornly doing the right thing and avoiding the wrong thing, stubbornness can work to your advantage.
So the first commandment of dog training: Know Thy Own Dog! To be continued….