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Can a Dog Be Impossible to Train?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Countless dog owners have dealt with the frustration that comes with a dog that is seemingly impossible to train. Many professional dog trainers have dealt with this all too common problem, which dog owners often describe as a dog that is “impossible” to train. But can a dog really be impossible to train? Let’s take a further look at why some dogs appear impossible to train—and how, if possible, to solve this all too common problem.

Can a dog be impossible to trainEvery dog breed—and indeed, every dog—are built differently. Some breeds were bred for hunting, others for sport, others for companionship, and so on. Through the years, certain dog breeds have been bred to be highly trainable due to their involvement in police work, entertainment, field and farm work, disability services and similar uses. Easy to train breeds include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweiler’s, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Poodles. Some dog breeds, on the other hand, have not been bred to be trainable. These breeds tend to be stubborn and independent. Difficult to train breeds include Pekingese, Bloodhounds, and Beagles. More often than not, these “stubborn” breeds have traits that make them respond less readily to dog training than others.

However, it is not impossible to train a dog that is resistant or stubborn to dog training. It may be difficult, and require plenty of patience, but these dogs can be trained—if the owner knows what they are doing. To train a stubborn dog, it is important for the owner to take a step back from the situation and properly analyze it by asking the following questions:

Why might the dog not be responding to my training?

The first question that must be addressed is why the dog is not responding to training. To illustrate this, let’s look at an example from an actual example from dog trainer Suzanne Clothier, who often hosts dog training seminars. During one seminar, she was presented with a dog that, according to their owner, would not stop sniffing the ground during the “heeling” command, no matter how hard they tried. The dog in question was a Bloodhound, who has been bred specifically to exhibit such behavior. In this example, the dog was not responding to the training because the training was attempting to break decades of built-in behavior which was natural to the dog.

Why should the dog respond to my training?

Dog owners should imagine this question whenever they are training their animal: “Why?” When a dog is presented with a command, the question of “why?” should be answered. For example: “Why come when I am called?” The answer, after training, will be that they will receive rewards and praise. For many breeds, especially those notoriously difficult to train, the question of “why?” is often not addressed well enough by their owners. A Bloodhound, to use the previous example, must be given a very good answer if they are being told they should stop sniffing the ground, a behavior which is ingrained in them. When the owner can sufficiently “answer” their dog, they will find that the dog is much easier to train—although attempting to reverse natural dog behaviors, such as sniffing in Bloodhounds, is often a fruitless effort.