skdt blog

Let's Rethink "Stubborn"!

"Stubborn" is a word that's used a lot in social media and I hear it a lot from my clients:

  • To describe particular breeds

  • To explain particular behaviors

  • To justify certain training methods

And so on! It's a label that's frequently used, but I often encourage my clients to think of it another way....


Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of "stubborn" and below is what I found:


Having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.


It's a little ironic that the definition includes "dogged" (I always love me a pun), but I zeroed in on the part where it says "in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so." Referring to a dog as stubborn implies that we have had an intelligent discourse with our dog; they've weighed the pros and cons of your argument and point of view; and have decided that, even though your course of action may be better for them, they don't want to. Now, I can't crawl into a dog brain to find out exactly what is going on, but I'm thinking that's way more advanced reasoning and deduction than a dog brain is equipped to handle.


So, if not stubborn, what are we looking at?


Well, first, let's try to look at your dog's behavior as information: what your dog does or doesn't do in response to a cue or request can give us a lot of information about how they're doing, where their head may be at, what is going well with our training or what needs work, etc. All of this can help us adjust our expectations, training, management, etc. going forward and work with our dogs to get what we're looking for!


Second, armed with the info above, a deeper reason (than simply being stubborn) for your dog's behavior or lack of behavior is likely to come to light; it's up to us to think critically about what may be going on or going wrong! Slapping a stubborn label on the dog doesn't help us, our dogs, or our training - even if it is a lot easier to do that!


Below are just a few of the reasons you may not be getting what you're looking for at home, in the yard, the dog park, on a walk, etc.:

  • Your dog isn't comfortable in the environment; maybe they're worried, stressed, or possibly even scared of something in the environment.

  • You're asking your dog to do something that they haven't practiced enough - in general or in that environment.

  • Your dog doesn't know what you're asking and they're confused.

  • There are too many distractions and your dog can't focus on you.

  • Your dog is bored with the training or exercises you're working on.

  • The reward isn't worth it for your dog (praise doesn't stack up against a dead squirrel, for instance).

And the list could go on and on and on!


It's so very easy and so tempting to just blame the dog, the dog's personality, the dog's breed, etc.; but, I encourage you to rethink the stubborn label, turn things around, and look at what you're doing, your training plan, and the environment! Chances are really, really good that your dog is not intentionally trying to be a booger!

SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI