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Is my dog being stubborn?

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

I often hear my clients describe their dog's as being stubborn or stupid when their dog is not doing something they ask. As soon as we put a label on an animal or a person it’s hard to see passed that. If you say your dog is stubborn and never listens, after a while that is all you expect from your dog. You give up training or investing time with your dog because you have unintentionally put a barrier up and don’t expect your dog to succeed. The same goes with people too. If you have been told by your Childs teacher that they are not good at maths and never will be good at maths, you tend to lower your expectations with your child’s grades when it comes to mathematics. When the reality might be that teaching maths a different way would help your child to understand maths better. You get the picture!

So let’s go back to your dog. You have asked your dog to sit when out on a road walk. Your dog does not sit every time when asked. Why is he not sitting on cue? You have taken him to training classes and he sits every time, he sits in the house, but not out on a walk! Instead of thinking that your dog is being stubborn or choosing to ignore you, try and think about what your dog might be thinking / feeling.

1) Does your dog fully understand the cue you are wanting?​​

Have you proofed your training? In order for your dog to fully understand a cue you need to proof that cue in lots of different situations. In training we like to use the 3 D’s (Duration, Distance and Distraction) Can your dog sit when asked, when you are at home and standing 5 feet away? With your back tuned to your dog? With people running around? Or with their toys being dropped by their feet? Does your dog sit and stay sitting while all these things are happening? If the answer is no, then best start proofing your sit cue! When your dog is outside there are so many distractions, cars, different smells, other dogs and people, squirrels and rabbits. If your dog can’t sit with distractions happening in the house, how can you expect them to be able to sit outside with all those new distractions? The same goes with sitting on different textures, from your dogs point of view sitting on carpet feels a lot different to sitting on cold concrete, train on different surfaces. To Sum up: proof your dogs cues. Train a solid sit in the house first, add duration, distance and most importantly distractions. By proofing your dogs cues you are setting your dog up to succeed.

2) Is your dog physically healthy?


You have asked your dog to sit, you have proofed your sits, but your dog now won’t sit when asked. Make sure your dog has not hurt themselves or they might not be feeling well. Our dogs can’t tell us when they are not feeling well or in pain. They show us in other ways, this could be one of them. Listen to your dog, make sure they are not in pain before you start thinking they are just being stubborn.

3) Is your dog feeling stressed or scared?

Lastly if your dog stressed or feeling fearful? Let’s say you have taken your dog out for a walk in the park and they have a faire on in the park. Loud scary noises, children screaming and running around. This could be very stressful and scary for your dog. Asking him to sit and stay still when he is scared is a very hard thing for a dog to do. I am terrified of spiders! If you put me in a room full of spiders and then ask me to sit on the chair and stay still, there is no way I’d do that. My mind would be focused on those spiders and not focused on what you are saying to me. Until the door to the room is open and I can run out, I will be far too stressed to concentrate on what you are asking me to do. The same goes for your dog. If your dog is feeling stressed or scarred they will find it very hard to concentrate on your cues as their whole focus will be on trigger that is causing them to panic.

Stress signals in dogs:

  • Lip licking​​

  • Constant Yawning

  • Avoiding eye contact / head turn

  • Tail tucked in

  • Ears back

  • Wide eyes

Don’t put a label on your dog, this is your dogs full potential. Instead ask how you can help your dog to succeed. What can YOU do to teach your dog, building a strong relationship and always make sure you are putting your dog’s needs first.

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