You love your dog, but sometimes they can drive you crazy. In the face of some of the most frustratingly stubborn pets, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. In reality, any pet can be trained if you can find a way to teach them. With these six tips, you’ll have a better chance of getting through to your dog to improve communication and foster a better relationship for you both.
The first step to training any dog, no matter how stubborn, is to get a grip on your mental state and expectations. Patience is the only way to have long-term success, so start by setting realistic and achievable goals. Mostly, you need to force yourself to remain calm and positive no matter how frustrated you feel. Anxious trainers lead to anxious dogs. Calm trainers promote an environment conducive to learning, so practice whatever self-control techniques you need to make a good environment for your dog.
Use Training Tools
Many older devices like choke and shock collars have been shown to be widely ineffective. Newer devices, like head halters, use similar principles of negative reinforcement and physical conditioning with much less force and fear. A head halter will enable you to demonstrate what you want the dog to do through gentle, harmless pressure, but it is still direct enough to get the dog’s attention. Using “sit” as an example, you should give the command, and then give the dog a chance to respond. If they don’t, you can apply pressure through the head halter that will guide them into a sit. Once there, release the pressure and praise them for sitting. With some repetition, they’ll quickly learn how to do what they’re supposed to do.
Every expert in the business says the same thing. Positive reinforcement is much more effective and important than negative reinforcement. Dogs learn behavior through reward systems. It’s obvious that food and treats are a starting place for rewards, but it’s unreasonable to have to carry bacon with you every time you want your dog to do something. Once you think they understand the premise of what you want, switch away from food. This part takes experimentation because dogs are as diverse as people. Some will respond to play while others prefer physical affection. Eventually, even a simple verbal praise should be enough, but the point is that you should rotate the reward structure to see what gets the best response.
Simplify the Training Environment
Let’s go ahead and define something. Beyond the Leash said, “There is a big difference between consistently reinforcing behavior and setting aside time to teach your dog something new.” This part refers to the latter. Stubborn dogs are often easily distracted, so when it is official training time, make it easier for them to stay focused. Keep the training to a designated space. It doesn’t need to feel constricted, but walls or fences can help the dog understand boundaries. Remove toys, other pets and distracting housemates or family from the situation. A clearly defined, one-on-one training session will help the dog identify that it is time to focus. Pick one specific behavior to train and stick to it. If you simplify the process, even the most distracted dogs will have more success.
Predetermine Negative Reinforcement
Part of training a dog means telling them “no.” It’s important that they have a chance to understand what is wrong, but when negative reinforcement crosses the line into punishment or even abuse, it undermines trust and actually counteracts training. Figure out how you want to convey “no” and practice. This will give you both the consistency needed to make the training clear to your dog.
Everything up to this point is useless without the final tip. You’ve heard this before, and that’s because it is far and away the most important part. Every single time your dog is rewarded for bad behavior their training is negated. Be consistent, and make sure family or roommates who share your living space are on board.