Working With Your “Stubborn” Dog – Training Environment

When we think of dogs, they are usually lumped together in different kinds of groups – sporting dogs, herding dogs, terriers, etc.  These groups of dogs are generally seen as the same or similar in their intelligence, working ability, or what they were originally bred to do.

But there are some dog breeds that can be taken out of these other groups into another group all their own. These are what I call the “purpose-bred” dogs.

Purpose-Bred Dogs

A purpose bred dog is a breed that was specifically bred to do ONE important task – pull a sled, hunt raccoons or rabbits, guard livestock. These dogs have a built in focus through their genetics, or a specialty in intelligence so to speak. It is this built in focus that makes them seem “less intelligent” or “stubborn” when being trained. This perceived stubbornness is simply the genetically programmed obsession a particular breed has with it’s job. Nothing more.

For example the Beagle always seems to have his nose to the ground. Well, obviously. This is what these dogs were specifically bred for. To sniff out rabbits. That’s really it to be honest. This focus AWAY from humans annoys us. When this happens, we say we can’t get a dog’s attention or the dog won’t “listen” (my particular favourite excuse many people use).

However, ALL breeds of dog can be taught anything pretty much. The exceptions are with particular dogs from my experience, and not because of the breed. Obviously some breeds will be better than others at their bred-for purpose. But we are not talking about that. We are talking about the behaviours that you need a dog to do daily that all dogs need to know. Things like sit and come, walk on leash and stay. Basic behaviours that all dogs need to know but often don’t learn because it is thought that they are stupid or stubborn or even “untrainable”.


The Training Method

There is are certain important training points when working with these breeds that can help accomplish what you want. If you don’t know about these things, it makes it harder to train your purpose bred dog. Sure, all dogs will benefit from these techniques and will be better trained because of them, but more human focused breeds will be easier to train WITHOUT doing these things. The purpose bred dog WILL NOT.

The first technique for training the purpose bred dog is :

Start training in a sterile environment.

You must begin training your purpose bred dog in an environment with absolutely no distractions. This is especially important with scent hounds. You need the dog to focus on as little in the environment as possible, and pay attention to the food in your hand in order to learn a particular behaviour. This means starting at the beginning, at the most basic and easiest level for the dog. Teaching a dog around no distractions helps him focus and helps the dog develop the habit of that behaviour. There is no sense in working in a place a dog can’t concentrate.

In working in an environment of NO distractions you are teaching your dog the BASICS of the behaviour you want. In other words, your dog needs to learn the behaviour WELL before you can do anything else like go outside or around people or especially other dogs.

Remember that if your dog is having trouble concentrating on food in your hand you may be experiencing one of several things:

  • your food is not interesting enough to the dog.
  • your dog is not feeling well, or tired.
  • you are asking too much of your dog to begin with in training.
  • your dog may be nervous for some reason based on past reinforcement history (training)

If there is one thing that you want to really concentrate on, it is to start training in an area of NO distractions.

Start here with training. I will be posting 7 more important training points for purpose bred dogs in future blog posts.

Remember when training your dog, repetition and consistency are your best friends.

Happy Training!


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