If dog trainers could put a quarter in their piggy banks every time they heard the stubborn-dog story, they could probably make a decent living just based on their savings. While Scruffy's age, breed and temperament can have an impact of his overall level of bullheadedness, so can the type of owner he has and his level of training. So roll up your sleeves; behind a stubborn dog there's often poor training and an inconsistent owner.
Generally speaking, the type of dog breed you choose can play a role in how stubborn your pooch will turn out. Some dog breeds were selectively bred to work alone and be independent, a practice that instilled a stubborn streak into them. Sled dogs pulling sleds, terriers hunting vermin, hounds hunting in packs and livestock guardians spending weeks with a flock of sheep, are a few examples of dogs with a history of performing tasks independently with little teamwork with humans.
If you thought puppyhood was tough enough, wait until Scruffy hits doggie adolescence. It's not a coincidence that most dogs are surrendered to shelters during this phase. Expect testing behaviors such as selective hearing, refusal to obey to familiar commands and moments of deja vu as you see the resurgence of puppy-like behaviors. Expect your pooch hit this stage around the age of 6 months with the most challenging times being between 9 to 18 months.
Lack of Training
Many times, what looks like stubborn behavior is really a lack of training. If your dog listens to you in the home but he turns a deaf ear on walks or at the dog park, most likely you have been inconsistent in training him around distractions. Some dogs are willing to listen but you need to find a valuable incentive so they feel more motivated to happily cooperate. At times, stubborn behaviors take place because you have inadvertently reinforced them. Persistent pawing, barking and jumping can be fueled by any form of attention you give.
If your dog is a fur ball in perpetual motion, chances are he won't be able to listen to you. Many dogs are accused of being stubborn when in reality they simply have boundless energy and just cannot control themselves. In such a case, make sure you give quiet guidance and calm praise. Providing an outlet for pent-up energy and loads of mental stimulation may make your dog less overstimulated and better capable of listening; a tired dog is ultimately a good dog.
Anxiety & Discomfort
At times, what may seem like obstinate behavior is actually something else. If your dog is too anxious or fearful, he may not be capable of listening to you because he's in a state of adrenalin arousal. Try to solve a math problem when you are terrified of heights; most likely you won't be able to focus. Dogs who are suffering from pain may also be reluctant to sit or lie down. Consult with your vet if your dog is suddenly behaving in an unusual way before assuming he is stubborn.
By Adrienne Farricelli
All Dogs Gym & Inn: Temperament
Cleveland Animal Protective League: Adolescent Dogs [PDF]
Peninsula Humane Society: Surviving Your Puppy's Adolescence
Diamonds in the Ruff: The Overstimulated Hyper Dog
Quick and Dirty Tips: What to Do When Your Dog Doesn’t Listen
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.