How to Break a Stubborn Dog: 5 Methods

I have had quite a few dogs in my life and have been around many dog owners. I have also been to my fair share of dog training classes. 

In all that time there are a few things I have observed about dogs and their owners as it relates to a stubborn pet. 

Just like people, different breeds and even individual dogs within a breed all have unique personalities.

While I have met a few dogs in my day that are stubborn I think this term is overused to describe the bad behavior of a dog and not enough to describe the lack of training on the part of the owner. 

Do not get me wrong, I have certainly come across some dogs that were deemed “lost causes” because they were so disobedient. But after a relatively short period with a professional trainer, most of those dogs came out the other side completely changed, for the better. 

The first thing that a person needs to realize is that having a dog and training it, is a huge commitment and responsibility. HUGE!

When I used to see well-behaved dogs in public, I thought it would be easy to have a dog just like that. Boy was I wrong!

When we see an obedient dog, we are only catching a glimpse of the interaction between them and the owner. We are completely absent from the vast amount of time that they spend together training and developing a relationship. 

In one sense, I do not think training ever really stops, it is an ongoing process that happens every single day, but more on that in just a bit. If you have a dog that is a little bull-headed, here are a few ways to get a stubborn dog and owner on the same page. 


5 Ways to Break a Stubborn Dog 

Put in the Time

I told you that I would be coming back to this. A common misconception, as well as a source of frustration, is thinking that once a dog has learned to do something, the owner is no longer obligated to maintain a training schedule. 

Think of this in terms of any skill or hobby that you may have. After learning it, if you took a long break, would you still be as good at it or even willing to do it when trying to pick it up again? Most likely not. 

The same principle applies to your dog. When they learn a command or trick you will need to keep that ability fresh in their mind and the only way to do is by training often. If too much time elapses between commands or they are not properly corrected after disobeying a dog can become stubborn about listening to the owner. 

Check Emotions at the Door 

Training a dog can be an incredibly frustrating task. At times they seem to completely ignore you and they will give their attention to everything else but you. 

Getting angry, yelling, and constantly scolding is only going to make the dog afraid of you and submissive out of fear. 

However, this does not mean you should not be firm. There is a difference between being firm with your tone and actions and losing your temper. 

Dogs are much more likely to do exactly what you want when they know there will be a positive result to their action. 

Train With and Without Distractions

Dogs have incredible senses, so they are naturally curious about everything that is going on around them. Most people begin training the dog in an area where there are zero distractions, like in the middle of a living room. And this type of environment is exactly where training should happen until the dog learns the commands.

However, after commands are learned, distractions should slowly be introduced to the training regimen. This way the dog learns to focus on commands no matter what is happening in their surroundings. 

All too often after a dog learns how to sit or stay in a calm environment, they are expected to do the same on a street corner when there are a million and one things to distract them. 

Do not feel bad if you have done, this as I made this mistake for quite a while early on before I realized the errors of my way.  

Just remember, to slowly introduce various distractions into your training sessions such as turning on the television, radio, or having a friend in the room.

Treats, Praise, and Toys

I have always had the best luck training a dog when I use a lot of positive reinforcement. I have also found that it is best to mix up the rewards rather than rely on only one.

For instance, only giving treats can cause the dog to become dependent on food as a reward. This may cause them to become less willing to obey a command if they think they will not get a treat. 

After a dog has been given a few treats for good behavior, reward them with verbal and physical praise or a brief break with one of their favorite toys. 

By keeping the reward system mixed up, the dog will not become dependent on one type nor will they become bored with it. 

Do Not Train Too Hard

Again, just like people, dogs can become bored or disinterested with repetitive tasks. Imagine if someone asked you to fold and refold the same blanket twenty times in a row perfectly without error of attitude! 

This was another mistake that I made early on with some of my hunting dogs. I would try to make the dog sit, fetch, and come as many times as possible and would get frustrated when they would stop after doing it ten times in a row. 

There is such a thing as over-training within a training session when the dog is doing what it is supposed to do. Pay attention to your dog’s attention span and learn when it is time to take a break and reward with something that they want to do, like playing with a toy. 

Wrap Up 

I truly believe in the old saying that a dog is a man’s best friend, but they do require a firm yet understanding hand in guiding them to that relationship’s potential. 

If after taking the above steps you are still having difficultly training a stubborn dog, do not give up. I highly encourage you to seek out as much help as you can by talking to other pet owners and participating in as many training courses as possible. 

Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors with his dog. His goal is to share his findings about dog care through articles he writes. Read more of Bryan's articles.