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How do you make a stubborn dog mind?

How to Train A Stubborn Dog

Have you ever described your dog as strong-willed, independent or let’s face it… just plain stubborn? Or maybe this is how your friends and neighbors characterize your pet? I can tell you that as a dog trainer, I hear this description of “stubborn” on a weekly basis, but I can honestly say that I have never, in over 25 years of training animals, encountered a truly stubborn dog. How is this possible, you ask? Well the key is actually in the understanding that what we might view as being stubborn, is more likely another scenario such as the dog is suffering from a lack of training, it can not handle the level of distraction difficulty, is of high intelligence and is getting bored with the skills set before him, or the dog has an independent personality that might require a different approach to your dog reinforcement.

Once this information has been established, then you will be able to not only find out what motivates your dog to learn with you, but also to develop a game plan to help your dog succeed at the tasks given to him and be a willing partner in the learning process. I’m here to help you break down some easy steps that you can take with any dog to make your so-called stubborn dog a star pupil!

Exercise Patience and Have Clear Communication Skills

First and foremost, it is important that our communication skills of what we want from our dog are crystal clear. If we ourselves are not consistent in how we are teaching a new behavior, how can we ever expect our dogs to be consistent in their effort to perform them.

This owner is teaching his dog how to walk a balance beam for the first time. He is luring the dog forward with very clear communication and is breaking things down by rewarding his dog for each step he takes in the beginning.

Break things down into small steps.

Don’t always aim for that end result you have planned out in your mind. Break harder skills down into smaller, easier steps. This lets your dog know early that he is heading in the right direction and can keep your dog from getting frustrated, as well as keeping training sessions light and fun. Teaching through Shaping is a great way to do this.

Focus on visual signals.

Dogs learn skills quicker by watching your visual cues more so than listening to your verbal ones, so put more emphasis on these things and limit the amount of time you verbally ask for a behavior. An intelligent dog might actually start waiting until you say a cue a certain number of times before performing it because this is how he is being taught daily. Hand signals should be given with big, fluid motions, that are easy for your dog to comprehend in a busy environment.

This student has given her dog the visual signal for Sit and has delayed dropping her hand signal out too quickly so her dog had time to internalize the request and respond.

Give your dog time to respond.

Remember, it takes a certain amount of time for your dog to respond once you have given a cue. From the time your dog sees or hears your cue, connects in his brain the behavior he has been taught to do and actually executes it can be a matter of seconds with some dogs. This is even in a quiet environment with virtually no distractions. These seconds might not seem like much, but many times we move too quickly and lose connection with our dog, causing them to get confused in what is requested of them and ultimately not execute the behavior. If your dog is watching you, delay dropping out your visual signal and give him that time to respond, before restarting him again.

Be Consistent in Your Practices.

Consistency is so important in every aspect of training. You know the old saying “Practice makes perfect”? Well, practicing often and being consistent in your practices can make all the difference in the world in how well your dog responds to you.

This dog knows that he must Sit first before his owner puts his leash on to go out. It took a lot of practice, but now he offers the behavior even before his owner has to ask.

Know what you are doing before applying it to your dog.

Know what words you want to use, visual signals, markers and secondary reinforcers you plan on using beforehand. Practice so it is on autopilot for you, before trying it with the dog. For instance, many people practice their hand signals in front of a mirror, without the dog present first, to make sure they are giving the same cue. If you aren’t giving consistent signals, your dog is not going to consistently respond to you.

Have a training game plan.

Come up with a daily ritual that works training into your everyday routine. Three to five minute practice sessions set up a few times a day, everyday, can make a huge difference in your dog’s accuracy in performing. Repetition of any new skill is one of the things that will make the difference between the dog that executes a skill some of the time when asked or all of the time and at a higher difficulty/distraction level.

Know What is Rewarding to Your Dog

If you don’t know what is truly rewarding to your dog, then the so-called stubborn and simply intelligent and independent dog, is not going to see why working for you is beneficial to them.

Make a list of motivators.

I suggest making a list of all the things that motivate your dog and putting them on a scale from 1 to 10. Think of it like you getting paid. A #1 might be like someone handing you a dollar bill. A #10 might be like someone handing you $100. What would you be more motivated to work for?

Here’s a chart for ranking your dog’s motivators.

Test more than just food.

While stinky meats and treats almost always have a place somewhere high on your motivator list, it is important to rank all the other things that might be even better motivators in certain situations. Toys, a game of tug or fetch, touch and praise are all just a few examples of alternatives for food. So let’s say your dog is hyper-focused on his frisbee everytime you grab it. This might be of higher value to him, even over your super, high value treat. If that is the case, Then use playing with the frisbee with you, for those new distraction situations, when working on fine-tuning some skills or whenever you need better attention from your dog.

By knowing what motivates your dog you now have the capability to know what items you can move up to on your list if you are having any issues getting your dog into the game of working with you.

Make Training Sessions Your Dog’s Idea

This is a huge deal around our house! Simply put, a lot of dog’s thought processes (and humans for that matter) are “If we aren’t having fun, it’s not worth doing.”

This Siberian Husky was taught loose leash walking skills by his owner using only positive reinforcement training methods. As a result, he is actively engaged in his owner, choosing to maintain connection whether they are walking or jogging!

Avoid Punishment, Train Positively

An independent-minded, so-called stubborn dog, does not respond well to punishment or being forced into situations they don’t want to engage in. This type of training will only cause a strain on your relationship and cause your dog to resist engaging in training with you. Practice positive reinforcement training techniques and put more focus on rewarding positive behaviors your dog does, instead of disciplining the bad ones.

Incorporate games into your daily training sessions.

Mix up harder or less desirable skills with tricks your dog really enjoys doing. If your dog is having fun with you during practices, they are not only going to work easier for you, but they will even start offering behaviors to you because they WANT to engage with you more. Stubborn dog… no more!

Here’s a fun game I like to play with my own dogs. I can strengthen several cues during the same practice session and my dog has a blast doing it!

The Biggie…Proofing Cues Around Distractions

This is probably the most important thing to consider when working with a dog you consider to be stubborn. Many times, it has nothing to do at all with the fact that your dog just doesn’t want to work with you. In most cases, it is simply the fact that your dog is not prepared enough to work in the environment that you have put them in. Proofing of cues and distraction training is a timely process, but a necessary one if you want your dog to work well for you in ANY area.

This pup is practicing strengthening his Down Stays at a local store. We started in a quiet isle like this and then upgraded to a busier isle when we were ready.

Identify what is distracting to your dog.

Remember, that a dog’s sensory perceptions far outweigh what we will ever be able to understand. Take this fact into consideration when adding distractions to your training. A variety of sounds, smells, movements and more, can all add distraction to your dog’s environment. In fact, many times, the triggers for the big distractions, such as people or other dogs, are actually based on what the person or dog are doing. For instance, you are trying to practice a loose leash walk while another owner is working their dog down the street. Which is harder, the dog that is doing a Sit Stay, not paying any attention to your dog, or the same dog that is jogging with his owner? If the second seems much harder, then movement is one of the things that might be a factor in why your dog is not performing the same way.

Start easy and upgrade.

I always say, distractions are kind of the name of the game, when it comes to training. Let’s say we want our dog to Sit in our living room with no heavy distractions around. This could easily be achieved in one practice session. Now ask for that same Sit in front of your dog’s hardest distraction, such as in front of a person that wants to pet them, or a squirrel! That same position could take you weeks to achieve. There are of course, many levels in between and it is our job to gradually prepare them for working in that tough environment. Start in that easy area and make sure your dog can consistently perform the task you give them at least 80% of the time. Once that has been achieved, gradually start adding harder distractions to the environment or taking your dog to new locations. Be sure to achieve consistency from your dog at least 80% of the time with the new distractions, before upgrading to a harder level again.

Don’t be afraid to take a step back.

Distraction training, especially with young dogs that are new to the world, takes a lot of time and patience. If you are practicing around a certain level of distraction and your dog is consistently failing at performing whatever skill you are asking of them, then your dog is not learning. It is time to take a step back, go to a less distracting area and build them up again. It is our job to set our dogs up to succeed. Sometimes you will have to regress a little bit in the process and that’s ok. Consider these times as a learning process for both you and your dog. You are seeing what distractions are actually more difficult for your dog and your dog will be happy to earn rewards again because he is able to achieve the goal.

Enlist the Help of a Professional

If you really are at your wits ends trying to get through to your dog, then the logical decision is to get help from a professional. A great dog trainer can help you not only with all the aspects of training skills, but also teach you how to build the bond with your dog and give you creative ways to make the learning process more enjoyable for both you and your dog. Check out great organizations that promote positive reinforcement techniques such as the Pet Professional Guild or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, to find a certified trainer in your area.

Of course, a trainer that can be hands-on with your dog is going to be the most beneficial, but if you cannot find a trainer close to you, there are some fantastic resources online these days. Check out this book to get some fun ideas on tricks and games you can teach your dog to keep them engaged.

Hyper Dog 101


Remember, there are many factors that can cause your dog to not be as engaged with you as you might want them to be. Take the time to truly understand where your dog is coming from and you are sure to strengthen the communication between the two of you.

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How To Train A Stubborn Dog (12 Easy Tips)

training a stubborn dog

Training a stubborn dog can be a daunting and challenging task.

Is your dog proving to be hard-headed?

Training a stubborn dog can be really frustrating. It requires a lot of patience and perseverance. You need to sacrifice a number of things including your time to put in more effort in training your stubborn puppy.

However, do not despair because all hope is not lost, fortunately all dogs are people pleasers. They will do almost anything just to please their master.

Training a stubborn dog will not be a smooth sail but you will eventually manage to transform him into an obedient and polite pooch.

Here are easy steps to train a stubborn dog.

Table of Contents

1. Timing is everything

You need to begin training your dog immediately you bring him home.

As the old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure” it is better to “prevent” your dog from being stubborn other than to have to “cure” his stubbornness.

Immediately you begin to see signs of stubbornness in your dog, you need to train him using better and effective methods. Make sure to teach your dog all the basic commands right from the time you adopt him as a puppy.

RELATED: Teach your dog the basic commands COME, SIT, DROP IT

2. Exercise some patience

Patience is a key ingredient when you are training a stubborn dog. This is even more crucial when you are trying to teach your stubborn puppy new skills.

Remember that all dogs require training. When you bring your puppy home, he has no clue whatsoever of any of your house rules.

Never shout at your dog however stubborn you think he is. This will only make matters even worse. Be patient during your training sessions and your dog will slowly begin to start listening and following your instructions.

3. Establish yourself as the Alpha

Being his leader, you need to act like so. This should reflect in your actions. For instance, you should always lead your dog when you have taken him outdoors for a walk.

Many dog owners let their dog walk in front while tagging them by the leash. This should not be position you should take as his alpha.

Once you allow your dog to always have his way, he will develop a stubborn attitude. If he respects you as his alpha he will definitely obey your instructions.

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4. Be clear in your communication

Sometimes you can never really blame your dog 100% for being stubborn.

The double standards set by people in your household could be the reason why your dog acts in a way that may seem stubborn to you.

For instance if you command your furry friend to sit and not jump on people or furniture and your spouse comes home from work and entertains the fact that your dog will jump all over him. This will confuse your dog on whether or not to jump on the furniture or even people?

You need to be clear on the kind of rules that you set in your house and make sure that everyone adheres to those rules including your canine friend.

how to be the pack leader of your dog

5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repetition is for emphasis. When you are training a stubborn dog, you need to conduct your training in a serene and quiet environment.

Your home could be a good place to start if you can just get a room where it will just be the two of you. Set up your training sessions in a quiet place where it will be easy for your dog to concentrate and pay attention.

You will be forced to repeat the training sessions every day for at least thirty minutes to one hour for almost a week before your puppy can grasp what you teach him.

Obedience training is a vital aspect of managing a stubborn dog and it should be done repeatedly to transform his behavior.

indoor summer dog games

6. Know your dog’s abilities

Every pet owner ought to know that all dogs have different capabilities just like we humans. Your dog will only do what works for him.

Therefore, you need to find out what your dog’s abilities are and know how best to reinforce them.

For instance, your dog will use his powerful sense of smell to go after a piece of meat in the kitchen and may not respond to your call. Such kind of behavior may seem rude and make you conclude that your dog is outright stubborn.

However you can resist fighting his powerful nose and choose to let that fact work for you. Offer him a better piece of reward that will definitely make him to always want to come to you.

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7. Use positive reinforcement

Dogs, just like kids like to be pampered and applauded for everything they get right.

Avoid scolding your dog or even shouting at your dog. Dogs do not understand 90% of the words that we speak especially when we are angry. To them it sounds just as gibberish and they cannot make head or tail out of it.

However, positive reinforcement has been known to be very effective in training any dog including one that is stubborn.

Give your dog his favorite treat when he does your bidding. This will motivate your dog to even do better next time knowing that there is a treat in the offing.

Pat your dog gently on the back and give him a shower of praise, he will definitely want to impress you even more next time.


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8. Understand that your dog is NOT stubborn

I know what you are probably saying by now, “You just haven’t met my stubborn dog!” Well, you have to actually know the rules before you can be accused of breaking them.

The reason why your dog might be acting “stubborn” could be because you haven’t probably done enough training on him.

Having unrealistic expectations of your dog will make you believe that your dog is just being hard headed.

Remember, just because your dog follows through with a command once or twice it does not mean that he has understood and truly knows the command. Train your dog thoroughly and teach him all the basic commands.

silver labrador retriever

9. Say his name before each command

Training a stubborn dog doesn’t have to be a hard task. Does your dog know his name? If not, you need to make him learn how to respond to his own name.

When you bring your canine friend home, you need to pick a name for him. Choose a name that is easy and unique. In order for your dog to easily identify himself with that name, the name chosen should not sound similar to other words.

Once you teach your dog his name, you then need to say his name before each command. This will make him give you his undivided attention.

10. Train on a leash

Is your dog so stubborn that he would just not stay still to the end of your training session?

Dogs are easily distracted and this could be the reason why he is acting stubborn. Put your dog on a leash so that you can easily control his movements.

Avoid a choking collar as this is likely to irritate him even more. Be firm with him and let him follow you as his alpha.

Give him his favorite treat if he stops tugging the leash and follows what you want him to do. This will make him feel even more motivated to stay calm to the end of the training session.

Golden retriever puppy

11. Keep Practicing

Make training a habit. This will help your dog to continuously learn how to behave.

As already mentioned before, your dog might not be stubborn it might just be lack of proper and consistent training.

Keep practicing and teaching him the various basic commands and he will eventually transform into an obedient dog.

12. Seek professional help

If your dog persists on being “stubborn” you better seek professional help. There are professional dog trainers that can help you train a stubborn dog.

Check online for good dog trainers or you can even ask friends or family for recommendation. Consult your local veterinary when you see that your dog is showing signs of aggression or excessive fear.

Your dog’s stubbornness may be caused by other factors beyond your control like genes. Your vet will help you find out some of these things and may even be able to recommend a professional dog trainer to help you train your stubborn dog.


In a nutshell, dog training is an enjoyable activity that every dog owner ought to delight in. This is the time you get to bond with your puppy and even get to discover more about each other.

Learning how to train a stubborn dog can be quite challenging but it is very possible to transform his behavior. Remember to invest in your dog’s favorite treats and toys.

Dogs like to be rewarded and praised and your stubborn dog is no exception.

Give him a treat when he behaves well and this will motivate him to always do good to impress you. Positive reinforcement has always been an effective way to train your dog.

How to Train Your Dog to Wait

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