As a dog trainer, I hear the phrase "my dog is so stubborn" on a regular basis. But the truth is, dogs aren't stubborn. They don't intentionally ignore us or refuse to do what we ask of them. Instead, they may not understand what we're asking or they may not be motivated to do it.
One common reason for this is a lack of thorough training. Many owners assume that if their dog can perform a behavior in one context, they can do it in any context. But this is not the case. Dogs need to be taught a behavior in a variety of contexts and with increasing levels of difficulty in order to fully understand and generalize it.
This is where the three D's of dog training come in: duration, distance, and distraction. These are the three factors that need to be gradually added to your dogs behaviors during training to ensure that a behavior is truly understood and reliable. For example, if your dog can sit for 5 seconds in your living room, you need to gradually increase the duration to 10 seconds, 30 seconds, and so on. You also need to gradually increase the distance between you and your dog when asking for behaviors as well as add distractions to the environment.
Generalization is also a key component of dog training. This means teaching a behavior in a variety of contexts and environments, so that your dog understands that the behavior is expected of them regardless of the situation. For example, if your dog knows how to sit at home, they should also be able to sit at the park, on a walk, or at the vet's office.
It's not enough to simply teach a behavior in different contexts. It's also important to proof the behavior, which means testing it under different conditions to ensure that your dog truly understands it. For example, if your dog knows how to sit when you're standing in front of them, you need to proof the behavior by asking them to sit when you're sitting, with your back turned or when you're walking around the room. This helps ensure that your dog understands the behavior and can perform it reliably in any situation.
However, it's important to remember that there are other factors that can affect a dog's behavior as well. Stress, overstimulation, and inconsistency on our part can all lead to our dogs not doing behaviors asked of them. For example, if your dog is stressed or overstimulated, they may not be able to focus on what you're asking them to do. And if you're inconsistent with your expectations or rewards, your dog may not understand what is expected of them.
In conclusion, it's not fair to label our dogs as "stubborn" or intentionally disobedient as dogs lack the cognitive ability to do so. More often than not, they simply don't understand what we're asking or are not motivated to do it. By thoroughly training our dogs with the three D's, generalizing behaviors, and proofing them, we can set them up for success in any situation. And by being aware of other factors that can affect their behavior, we can ensure that we're setting them up for success rather than setting them up to fail.
If you're struggling with training your dog or need help with behavior modification, consider working with a professional dog trainer. At Best Buddy Dog Trainer, we offer a range of training services to help dogs and their owners live happy, healthy lives together. From basic obedience to advanced skills, we use positive reinforcement techniques to help dogs learn and thrive. Click below to sign up and take the first step towards a better-behaved dog!