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.
Difficult to move, remove, or cure.
Synonyms include: obstinate, headstrong, willful.
"I’m not sure what’s wrong with my dog, he’s just stubborn."
"My dog won't walk by my side because she is stubborn."
"Fido knows he is not allowed to jump on people, he’s just stubborn."
Do those phrases sound familiar? If you’ve ever owned a dog then I am willing to bet good money that at one point you have referred to them as being stubborn. I am also willing to bet good money that I too, am often referred to as being stubborn. Just ask my Mother. When we refer to someone as being stubborn, often we are doing so because their behavior is not matching the will of our own. Meaning, we want someone to do something for any given reason, and they won't.
Let’s use humans as an example since we can all relate to and understand humans really well! I would love for Jake to pick up his dirty laundry more often. He knows he should do so and yet, there his laundry sits. On the floor, a nicely placed trip hazard for me to find in the morning. Now hang on. Jake doesn’t want to pick up his laundry, I want him to. Let’s say for arguments sake that I haven’t effectively communicated to him that I in fact, would like him to pick up his laundry. He doesn’t know that it bothers me or trips me or pushes my every button. Is he being stubborn? He should know better, right? He should pick up his laundry. I shouldn't have to ask him.
Now just hold on.
When our dogs do something we do not like, and we want them not to do so, they are NOT being stubborn. Now stay with me because I am going to tell you why! So dogs speak dog. They do not speak English nor can they understand our language. So when our goals are not effectively communicated to our dogs of course they are going to make undesired choices.
See how I said ‘undesired’ not ‘bad.’ To a dog, pulling on leash is so very normal, so it cannot be a bad behavior. Your dog is not a bad dog for making choices that do not align with your desires. They simply are making choices that we do not want them to make. Remember this!
So now that I’ve got you half way through this article I am here to tell you that dogs cannot, in fact, be stubborn. They just don’t think or behave the ways humans do. Anytime you feel like your dog is being stubborn I want you to do 3 things.
>What is my dog doing that is undesirable? Write it down.
>What would I like my dog to do instead? Write that down.
>How can I effectively communicate to my dog our new goals as a team? WRITE IT DOWN!
Try not to focus on what you do not want your dog to do and instead, focus on what you do want! This is where good planning and training comes in. Let me give you an example.
Dog jumps on people when they enter the home. Sometimes they will get off on cue, other times they shower their people with kisses and scratches of affection. Cute right?
Undesirable behavior: Jumping on people when entering home.
What do I want my dog to do instead? Not jump: Sure, but think bigger. Go lie down elsewhere? Be in a different room altogether? Good places to start! How can we effectively communicate these new goals?
Management: Preventing your dog from making decisions you don’t like will break that repetitive cycle. Try crating your dog when guests arrive or having your dog behind a baby gate away from the front door.
Teach your dog alternative behaviors when guests are not coming through the door. Place, Stay, and Touch are all great places to start! (Check out our YouTube channel for how-to videos on those behaviors.)
Put those pieces together when people come through the door. Start with your dog behind a gate so they cannot rush to say hello and jump. Then, ask your dog to do your alternative behaviors and reward them for doing so.
Now we’re getting somewhere! That communication is now going to be more clear than ever!
There is more to this than just effective training though. When we see our dog as the problem, “They’re just being stubborn!” It creates a mindset that is more than just unproductive. It points a finger toward your dog. It puts all the responsibility to our beloved pets and that is just not healthy for your relationship. I challenge you all to this. The next time you feel frustrated with your dog, you feel that they're being stubborn, I want you to reach them from a place of understanding. Evaluate the scenario. Make a plan on how you, as the teacher, are going to work to clear up your communication and improve your training. I promise, your relationship will grow, you’ll find clarity in your communication, and you’ll have more fun!
Did you know we have a free mini guide to optimize your training sessions with your dog? Grab your guide and start making the most of your training sessions and get clear on your goals!