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Home Training and BehaviorBasic Training Mastering Stubborn Dogs: Professional Training & Positive Reinforcement Tips

Mastering Stubborn Dogs: Professional Training & Positive Reinforcement Tips

by Dan Turner

Dealing with a stubborn dog during training can feel like you’re trying to push a boulder uphill with your nose. I’ve been there, trust me. It’s that moment when your furry friend decides that “sit” is just a suggestion and “come” is for other dogs.

But here’s the thing: it’s not about a battle of wills. It’s about understanding and communication. I’ve learned some tricks along the way that have turned those frustrating training sessions into successful bonding moments. Let’s jump into how you can do the same with your stubborn pup.

Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior

In the journey of training a stubborn dog, it’s crucial to start by getting to the heart of why they act the way they do. At first glance, your furry friend’s refusal to obey might seem like a test of patience. But, it’s often a sign of something deeper. I’ve learned this through a combination of research, talking to experts, and a whole lot of trial and error with my own stubborn pup.

First off, it’s important to realize that “stubborn” isn’t a one-size-fits-all label. In dog speak, what we might interpret as stubbornness could actually be:

  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Lack of motivation
  • Incomplete understanding of the command

Each of these underlying issues requires a different approach, but they all start with the same foundation: building trust and mutual understanding.

In my adventures (or should I say misadventures?) with my dog, I’ve discovered a couple of incredibly effective strategies:

  • Patience Is Key: Rushing leads to frustration on both ends. I’ve learned to take it slow, repeating commands calmly and clearly.
  • Rewards Work Wonders: Finding what truly motivates my dog (cheese, in our case) made a world of difference. Not all rewards are food-related, though. Playtime, affection, or a favorite toy can also do the trick.
  • Consistency Is Crucial: Dogs thrive on routine. By being consistent with commands and expectations, I’ve made steady progress.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Celebrating the small victories encourages more cooperation. A cheerful tone and enthusiastic praise have gone a long way.

One fascinating thing I’ve learned is that dogs have their own personalities and learning styles, much like us. What works for one dog might not work for another, which means adaptability is your best friend in this process.

Recognizing signals of discomfort or disinterest from your dog is also vital. These can include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Yawning
  • Licking lips
  • Lowering their body

Once I started paying attention to these signs, training sessions became less about pushing through and more about listening and adjusting.

Establishing Clear Communication

Training a stubborn dog often feels like trying to talk in two different languages simultaneously. I’ve learned the key isn’t just about speaking more loudly or with more gestures; it’s about finding common ground where we both understand each other perfectly. This section dives into how I’ve managed to bridge that communication gap, ensuring my dog and I are on the same page.

Firstly, I realized the importance of my body language. Dogs are incredibly perceptive to our non-verbal cues, often more than the words we use. Here’s what I started doing differently:

  • Maintained consistent eye contact.
  • Used distinct hand signals for commands.
  • Kept my posture relaxed to convey calmness.

Second, the clarity and simplicity of the commands themselves made a huge difference. Dogs aren’t equipped to understand complex sentences. Initially, I was using phrases like “Can you please sit down now?” My breakthrough came when I simplified everything:

  • “Sit”
  • “Stay”
  • “Come”

That’s it. No extra words, just clear, one-word commands.

Rewards played a colossal role in enhancing our communication. But, I had to figure out what truly motivated my dog. Not all dogs are food-driven, and mine certainly wasn’t as motivated by treats as I’d hoped. Trial and error led me to discover his love for toys and praise. I started using his favorite squeaky toy and enthusiastic verbal praise as rewards, which motivated him much more effectively than any treat ever could.

Understanding my dog’s “no” signals was another critical aspect. Just like us, dogs have bad days and limits. Recognizing signs of disinterest or discomfort and respecting those signals was crucial. If he turned his head away, yawned, or lay down, it was my cue to pause and reassess our training approach.

All these steps slowly but surely helped us find a common language. I’ve noticed fewer signs of frustration from both sides, and our training sessions have become more productive and fun. Remembering that each dog is an individual, with unique likes, dislikes, and learning speeds, has made all the difference. Adapting my approach to fit his needs and recognizing when we needed to take a break has strengthened our bond immeasurably.

Implementing Positive Reinforcement Techniques

When tackling training with a stubborn dog, I quickly learned that yelling or showing frustration only got us so far – which, honestly, wasn’t very far at all. That’s when I stumbled upon the game-changing strategy of positive reinforcement. It’s straightforward, yet incredibly effective. Here’s how I’ve been putting it into action.

Positive reinforcement is all about rewarding the behaviors you want to see more of. It sounds simple, but the trick is in the consistency and finding the right kind of rewards that get your dog’s tail wagging. For my stubborn companion, food treats are like hitting the jackpot, but other dogs might be more motivated by toys, praise, or even a good belly rub. Identifying what makes your dog’s heart sing is crucial.

  • Reward immediately: The moment my dog nails a command, I’m there with a treat or a heartfelt “good boy!” This instant feedback helps him connect the dots between the command and the reward.
  • Mix it up: I keep a variety of rewards on hand to keep things interesting. Sometimes it’s a treat, other times it’s a throw of his favorite ball. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
  • Be clear and consistent: I use the same simple commands every time. Dogs aren’t great with nuance, so keeping it simple is key.
Before Positive Reinforcement After Positive Reinforcement
Ignoring commands Eagerly anticipating commands
Lack of interest in training Active engagement in sessions
Frustration for both of us Enjoyable, productive training

Integrating positive reinforcement wasn’t just about making training sessions more enjoyable. It was about understanding and respecting what motivates my dog and using that knowledge to communicate better. Even though his stubborn streak, the positive shift in his attitude was undeniable. He started looking forward to our training sessions, his eyes wide with anticipation, ready to learn. It was a clear signal that not only were we becoming a stronger team, but that training could actually be fun.

Being Consistent and Patient

When it comes to training stubborn dogs, I’ve learned that consistency and patience aren’t just nice-to-have; they’re absolutely vital. You see, every dog has its own pace of learning, and understanding this from the get-go changed everything for me.

The Power of Consistency

I found that sticking to a regular training schedule created a sense of routine for my dog. It wasn’t just about doing training sessions whenever I felt like it; it was about:

  • Setting specific times for training
  • Keeping commands simple and unchanged
  • Using the same rewards to reinforce behavior

This consistency in our routine helped my dog know what to expect and when. It removed the guesswork and, believe it or not, reduced the frustration levels for both of us.

Patience is Key

I won’t sugarcoat it; there were moments when I thought my dog would never get the hang of “sit” or “stay”. That’s where patience truly became my best friend. Instead of getting frustrated or raising my voice, which honestly just set us back, I learned to take a deep breath and:

  • Offer calm and gentle guidance
  • Celebrate even the smallest progress
  • Recognize that setbacks were part of the learning process

It turns out, my attitude directly influenced my dog’s willingness to learn. 

Progress, Not Perfection

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to focus on progress, not perfection. Every dog will have good days and not-so-good days. Learning to celebrate every step forward, no matter how small, made training more enjoyable and far less stressful. We began to celebrate:

  • The first time a command was followed
  • Each successive quicker response
  • Every session that ended on a high note

Emphasizing progress helped keep my expectations in check and reminded me that training is a journey, not a race.

Remember, when dealing with stubborn dogs, the magic really does lie in being both consistent and patient. These qualities not only foster a positive learning environment but also strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. Plus, the journey of training becomes as rewarding as the results themselves.

Seeking Professional Help When Needed

Recognizing when you’re out of your depth is not a defeat; it’s a smart strategy to ensure your furry friend gets the best possible training.

Professional dog trainers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, strategies that I might not have even considered. They’ve been in the trenches and have worked with all types of canine personalities. Their insights can be invaluable, especially when dealing with stubborn breeds. Here’s what they offer:

  • Tailored Training Plans: Just like humans, every dog learns differently. A professional can create a training regimen that plays to your dog’s strengths.
  • Problem-Solving Tips: Sometimes, it’s a small detail you’re missing. Trainers can pinpoint these and offer simple fixes.
  • Advanced Techniques: For tougher cases, they’ve got a toolbox full of advanced strategies to get through to even the most willful pups.

But, choosing the right trainer is key. Not all trainers are created equal, and it’s crucial to find someone who uses positive reinforcement methods. Punishment-based techniques can do more harm than good, eroding trust and potentially worsening the problem. So, I always do my assignments, checking reviews and asking for referrals from fellow dog owners.

Integrating professional training doesn’t mean I’m off the hook; it’s quite the opposite. I need to be involved, learning alongside my dog. It’s about picking up tactics and understanding the reasoning behind them so that I can continue the training at home. After all, consistency is king.

Here’s the deal: Sometimes admitting you need help is the most responsible thing you can do for your dog. There’s no shame in it. In fact, it demonstrates a deep commitment to ensuring your dog’s happiness and well-being. It also relieves some of the pressure on you, turning what could be a frustrating stand-off into a productive and even enjoyable experience. My bond with my dog has only strengthened through this collaborative process, emphasizing once again that it’s not just about training them to listen to us—it’s about listening to them as well.


Tackling the challenges of training a stubborn dog can be a journey filled with ups and downs. But remember, it’s okay to seek help. By choosing to work with a professional trainer, you’re not just getting an expert’s guidance—you’re also learning how to better communicate and bond with your furry friend. Trust me, the effort you put in will pay off, making every moment of your training journey worthwhile. Let’s not forget, it’s through understanding and addressing our dog’s needs that we truly deepen our connection with them. So here’s to the stubborn dogs out there, and the dedicated owners who love them.


Dan Turner

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