How to Train a Stubborn Dog – 6 Essential Strategies
by Jessi Larson
Some dogs seem predisposed to want to please their owners, while others have more of a mind of their own. If your dog is in the latter category, you’re likely wondering how to train a stubborn dog.
That’s a great question, and we have the answers!
But first, if you’re struggling with training your four-legged companion, don’t worry. Many dogs are resistant at first and take a bit more effort than others.
With patience and persistence, you can most certainly learn how to train a stubborn dog. Here’s everything you need to know.
Your Dog’s “Defiance” May Not Be That Exactly
Even though you’re undoubtedly frustrated by multiple failed attempts to get through to your dog, the fact of the matter is your pup’s rebelliousness may actually be something else entirely.
For starters, many behaviors that dog owners find undesirable are actually basic canine behaviors, which can be notoriously difficult – though not impossible – to control.
The other issue that could be leading to your dog ignoring your wishes is a matter of miscommunication.
After all, we’re dealing with another species that doesn’t speak our language, so it’s only natural that some level of misunderstanding occurs.
This doesn’t mean that we’re bound to continue this frustrating trend. It just means we need to change our approach and perhaps use our dog’s natural instincts to our advantage.
Strategies for How to Train a Stubborn Dog
Whether you’re starting out with an untrained puppy or teaching an adult dog, your approach to overcoming stubborn behavior should essentially be the same.
Some older dogs may take longer to unlearn a long-term behavior, but with continued training, it’s still very much possible.
Here are the strategies you should use when figuring out how to train a stubborn dog.
1. Pick the Right Reward
Let’s be honest, some quality bribery can get you a long way when it comes to training your dog.
But in order for it to be effective, your reward has to be worth your dog’s effort. Is your pup food motivated? Then grab some high-quality treats.
We love Zuke’s Mini Naturals as a training treat. They’re healthy and small in size, so you can give them to your dog over and over again as you work on new skills.
If your dog is ambivalent toward food, then go for a favorite toy instead or offer an extra game of catch.
The point is to figure out whatever it takes to motivate your dog and use it to reward desired behavior.
2. Choose the Right Place
You want to set your dog up for maximum success, which means creating the right atmosphere for your training sessions.
Just like you wouldn’t teach a child to read in an attraction park, you shouldn’t ask your dog to listen at their favorite dog park.
To start, pick a calm, quiet indoor space without any unnecessary distractions.
As your dog makes progress in your training, you can start incrementally adding distractions with time.
3. Take Things Slow
Nobody said progress has to happen overnight, so don’t put too much pressure on the situation, yourself or your dog, otherwise you’ll end up in a rut.
Instead, take things step-by-step and reward even the slightest bit of progress.
Hint: This is where those super tasty treats come in handy! For some dogs, that small bit of initial progress can quickly translate into large gains.
4. Do Not Punish Your Pup or Use Negative Reinforcement
It’s long been established that using negative reinforcement and punishment actually results in worsened behavior and wellbeing of the dog.
Although your pup may be testing your patience, it’s important to refrain from using punishment. Remember that they just need better understanding of our enforced rules.
Instead, when your dog is unable to follow instructions, simply take it back a few steps in the training process where you had success and reward that behavior.
By taking a few steps back, you can go forward with reinforced confidence and understanding.
5. Be Consistent in Your Training
To train any dog, you need plenty of consistent training, but this is especially important when dealing with a stubborn pup.
In some cases, different members of the family may be reinforcing contrasting behaviors, which actually makes your dog rightfully confused and not stubborn. So make sure everyone is on the same page with training and commands.
The other level of consistency you’ll have to exercise is in the amount of training.
Teaching your dog once and expecting it to master the behavior is unreasonable, so offer many, consistent repetitions of the same training if you want to achieve any real progress.
This means incorporating the practice into your daily activities and rewarding it appropriately.
6. When to Seek Professional Help
While many seemingly stubborn dogs can be taught after some time and repetition, this may not be pragmatic in certain cases.
It’s important to know the difference between stubbornness and aggression, especially when it comes to training an adult dog.
If your dog is showing signs of aggression or excessive fear, you should contact a professional dog trainer to help guide you through this delicate process and offer any necessary behavioral training.
Final Thoughts on How to Train a Stubborn Dog
We hope these tips help show you how to train a stubborn dog. Remember, clear communication and a hearty dose of patience will go a long way.
And don’t forget, to set yourself up for success always pick the right reward and space to practice, then engage in plenty of repetition to reinforce the wanted behavior.
It’s important to stay patient and refrain from using any punishment when teaching your dog. And if your dog becomes aggressive at any point during the process, seek the help of a professional trainer right away.
Watch a Training Video
As you learn how to train a stubborn dog, it often helps to see the process enacted. That’s why training videos are a great resource.
We are big fans of dog trainer Zak George. His enthusiastic, positive and informative style has earned him millions of followers and countless fans.
Fortunately for us, he’s put together a video that shows you how to train a stubborn dog. Check it out and discover even more tips and tricks to help with the process.
Bonus Training Tip
As you focus on figuring out how to train a stubborn dog, you might find yourself getting frustrated or impatient at times. Don’t worry, this is totally normal when training a dog – especially when your dog is more resistant.
Everyone gets a bit stressed when working on training. How you react to this frustration, however, is what’s important.
Training a stubborn dog does require a great deal of patience and persistence. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, either take a break entirely and start the training again at a later time or give yourself a quick timeout.
Giving yourself a brief timeout does wonders. Just pause, breathe deep and count to 10. This will recenter you.
Dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process even more successful.
Top Dog Training Books
When you get a dog, it’s important that you take the time to train them thoroughly. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but if you put in the time now, the following years will be so much easier.
And if your dog is more strong-willed than others, discovering how to train a stubborn dog early on is especially important.
There are many different ways to train a dog, including obedience classes, working with a trainer, learning online and so forth.
Another great training method to add to your arsenal: Dog training books!
The following books are tried-and-true favorites recommended by thousands of dog owners. They’ll help you train your dog effectively and provide a solid foundation for how they should act and behave.
When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training, including reading as many books as we could. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.
The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.
George, the creator of the training video above, is a well-known dog trainer with thousands of fans. If you’ve ever watched his YouTube channel, you’ll know why.
To provide a complete picture of what it takes to train a dog, George has published a book called Dog Training Revolution.
It covers everything you need to know when you get a new pup. And even if you’ve had your dog for a while, you’ll learn new things and pick up tips and tricks you didn’t know before.
We read this book when we first got Toby and highly recommend it. There’s a reason it’s a classic!
The authors bring a calm, cool, confident approach to dog training that results in obedient, well-behaved pups.
Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be to housebreak a dog.
Without a doubt, housebreaking a dog is one of the most challenging parts of owning a pup.
If you need help with this process, the book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you how to master it in no time.
We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.
This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical exercises for Toby and bond with him in the process.
From time to time, we still reference this book and find a fun new trick for him to learn.
Do you have kids in your home? If so, Puppy Training for Kids is a great resource for getting the whole family on board with dog training.
With this book, kids will get a better understanding of all the work involved with training and raising a puppy and become more responsible dog owners in the process.
We hope you found our guide to how to train a stubborn dog helpful. Training a dog with a strong personality is always more challenging, but not impossible if you employ patience and repetition.