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Why your dog is not being stubborn

Published on 27th December 2016

COMMON MYTH: “my dog is stubborn!”

So if my dogs not stubborn then why WON’T he or she listen to me and HOW to HELP…

REALITY: Many dog owners call their dogs stubborn. In the human world this word is more commonly accepted, but dogs don’t think the same way as humans and there is always a reason behind their behaviour. They are not trying to manipulate, control or simply ignore you, just because they can.

Common reasons why your dog won’t listen to you and how to help

It’s confused – there’s a lack of clear and precise communication

Example: I’ve stood there waving my arms shouting out endless words “Juniper, come, Juniper here, Juniper now come on!”. All these words, all these commands, no wonder she’s so confused!

How to help: use short commands and try not to repeat over and over again. This will simply add to the confusion. Keep sessions short if your dog easily loses focus. And if your dog refuses to eat, then try this natural appetite stimulant for dogs.

It’s not motivated – your dog simply is not motivated to do the task you’ve requested

Example: why would Juniper in the photo move from the amazing pile of leaves for a little kibble? The kibble is not that exciting compared to the smells on offer, right beneath her feet!

How to help: experiment with lots of different rewards, remember what motivates one dog may not motivate another. I like to use the bronze, silver and gold system – rewarding the most amazing ‘paycheck’ for the task with more distance, distractions or duration.

Your dog is tired – your dog has just ran around the field five times, it’s simply tired

Example: Juniper has spent the last 45 minutes foraging, socialising and running in the water. She’s simply just taking a break.

How to help: ensure your dog has lots of breaks so he/she can focus for longer periods of times.

Your dog is not capable – this could be due to lack of experience, age, breed or a recent health issue

Example: Juniper has little experience retrieving a ball. I’ve just thrown a ball in the other direction of the leaves. She has no prior experience or knowledge of what to do. So stands there and waits. Improve your dog’s health by adding pumpkin supplement for dogs to their diet.

How to help: start each training task at its most basic. Ensure each task is suited to each individual dog. If your dog is a Havanese, check out this Havanese breed guide.

Your dog is fearful – your dog may be anxious in certain environments

Example: Juniper will not recall if she sees a cyclist. She will run in the opposite direction often seeking refuge near the leaves.

How to help: seek help from an accredited behaviourist to help rehabilitate your dog. Avoid exposing your dog to the trigger above it’s threshold (managing and controlling the behaviour). Taking your dog to a daycare can also provide them with a safe environment in which to meet other dogs. Your dog can learn canine communication skills and work on interacting properly with dogs they recognize as well as those they don’t. You can visit our highest ranked dog boarding facility, website.

Your dog dislikes the environment – your dog may dislike walking on hard surfaces

Example: Juniper doesn’t enjoy walking on the path so would prefer to forage in the leaves or walk on the grass.

How to help: never force your dog to do something it dislikes or if it is something that has to be done (ie vets visit) look at desensitising your dog to the environment or changing the way it feels to a more positive one.


So once you’ve found out the reason why your dog is not responding to you then you can begin addressing the training issue. Until then thinking your dog is being stubborn is not going to help the situation.

Thanks for listening
Helen Motteram, BSc (hons)

For more advice and support email: Helen@socialpawscheltenham.co.uk